So I’m about to become a college graduate. It leaves me with feelings I can’t quite explain. I feel old, but young at the same time. I feel educated, but have more questions. I’m excited, but also a bit nervous. Emotionally, I’m waffling; trying to figure out if I’m a pancake or a piece of toast but finding that I’m something in between.
After all, I’m faced with big changes: leaving college, entering the world, trying not to die early, working, eating healthy, exercising, avoiding clowns, sharks and United Airlines, building new relationships, all these new post-college considerations are daunting!
It’s the same feeling you get when you’re faced with a half-eaten, day-old, soggy Taco Bell burrito in the trash can; you aren’t really sure about it but you feel obligated to dive in anyway.
I must say the college education exchange rate was horrible. I turned in like, hundreds of papers and documents for just one diploma that fits on a measly 8.5’’x11’’ piece of cardstock. Really, Goshen?
I give you thousands of little green rectangles for one off-white rectangle printed in the basement of your AD building? I don’t need a degree in geometry to know that I’ve been conned… Or a degree in candy making to know that I’ve been suckered… or a degree in East Asian Elevator Horticulture to know that I’ve been hosed, shafted and bamboo-zled. Heh. I’ll stop.
All I’m saying is that it would be nice if my college education deal at least included a cool bumper sticker that my mom and dad could use to publicly brag, unsolicited and unashamedly, to the world that they’re “proud parents of a college graduate.”
But seriously, a college education has got to be worth more than a paper diploma, right?
Tuesday evening, I was out on the town, long boarding with my good friend David Bontrager. Carving back and forth along 8th street, we looked so “college:” David brought the long hair, young scruff and chiseled good looks, and I had on a cool looking sweatshirt.
We came across two dudes in an alley who complimented us on our boards, and we started talking to them. One guy – who I’ll refer to as Character 1 – was smoking a cigarette and plastered out of his mind, swaying back and forth.
Only 18-years-old, Character 1 was super friendly and was really interested in us: asking our names, where we were from, what we were studying. I answered the questions with rehearsed precision, but one of his questions made me stumble: “Why?” He abruptly asked. “Why what?” I asked back. “Why are you in school?”
I was caught off guard by the existential profundity that had suddenly appeared in our conversation that hitherto consisted of words like ‘dudee,’ ‘broo!’ and ‘sickkk.’ He explained that he went to 6 different high schools before his sophomore year and eventually dropped out. School wasn’t for him.
“I like learning,” I replied, which he didn’t seem to understand. Granted it was a pretty terrible answer. It’s as if I was asked, “Why?” “Why what?” “Why are you eating that half-eaten, day-old soggy Taco Bell burrito from the trash can?” and I reply, “I was hungry.”
Obviously I was hungry, the question was really asking about my inner motivations. It was asking me to reflect on the reasons, inspirations and explanations for my behavior. What causes me to do the things that I do? Why I am here?
Why am I here? In school at Goshen College, that is. I suppose I’m here because I’m a winner in the lottery of birth, one of 7 percent in the world lucky enough to receive a college education. (For comparison, it’s estimated that 7 percent of United flyers are roughed up by clowns and thrown into a pool of sharks for refusing to miss a flight.)
No, the real reason I’m here is because I love Goshen College. It’s a salad bowl of liberal and conservative ideologues, a unique cultural microcosm in the heart of the U.S. It’s a furnace of clashing ideas, agendas, religions and experiences that burns ever so passionately.
At Goshen College you’re forced to synthesize and deconstruct your experience over and over again and then write a Moodle response on how it felt. You’re asked to critique, challenge and question yourself, others and everything around you. Academia is hot and intense – if you can’t handle the heat, then Higher Ed may not be for you either.
As for me, I’ve loved it. More than anything else in college, I learned to ask, “Why?” in a thousand different ways, even though the answers aren’t always there.
And for that, I’m thankful for my little off-white rectangle, because it doesn’t say that my college education has given a bunch of well-rehearsed answers; it says I now know how to ask the right questions. Questions like, “Why am I here?” and “Why does this half-eaten, day-old soggy burrito taste so good?”