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Is It Wicked To Care?
by Solomon Philbrick
Yesterday was a milestone. I turned in the last paper of my first year in grad school, meaning that I am now no longer a first-year student. All that I need to do now is sit around and wait to see if I am an academic failure. I have been doing this every term since I went back to school and started taking it seriously, and I must say that the expectation of dismal failure almost always yields positive results. If you think you’re going to fail, that A- just doesn’t look so bad. This is, of course, no way to plan out important goals like performing a surgery or invading a foreign country, but I am blessed with being utterly unimportant in the grand scheme of things. If, for example, I’m wrong about something Hemingway or Spenser wrote, no one is going to die. I’ll just look kind of dumb, and while that sucks it carries no dire consequences. So, as usual, I’m crossing my fingers and expecting the worst. That being said, I’m still pretty relieved.
After I dropped the paper off yesterday, I picked up the student newspaper for some reading material while I waited for the bus. (I sure as hell am not going to dive into Clarissa just yet, though that’s part of the plan this summer.) The student paper is one of my favorite sources for news, since the writing usually falls into two quite entertaining categories: snarky sarcasm about campus affairs or ill-informed rants about politics and other big important stuff. It’s always good to have something to either laugh with or laugh at, and the paper rarely fails to satisfy.
Yesterday’s edition, though, was something completely different and had I been paying any attention to the world around me for the last two months it would have been obvious. It’s graduation time, and the issue was dedicated to the happy young graduates, featuring embarrassing baby pictures and nice dedications from parents and faculty. As usual, I was paging through the paper from the back to the front (because the goofy editorials and even goofier letters are on the last few pages,) but all was disappointment. This issue of the paper was all about the grads, and I suppose I can’t really hold it against anyone at the paper for saving one issue out of the year to dedicate to something nice.
Anyway, as I was flipping the pages, I ran across a full-page ad from some local corporate bank congratulating the graduates who were going on to become full-time employees or interns there. The ad ran the name of every fresh-faced (as I imagine them) new worker bee with a big hearty welcome. I thought that was nice, and for some reason I read every name listed, even though I didn’t know any of the people and knew I wouldn’t since I rarely leave the confines of the English Department. I thought about these people, most of whom are probably six or seven years my junior, and how they were probably about to enter into lifelong and lucrative careers, and I couldn’t help but…well…I know that envy is an ugly word in our “I’m okay, you’re okay” society, but yes, that was about the closest feeling I had.
I know that corporate banking isn’t some high-minded and idealistic occupation; in fact, it can probably be soul-crushing. What’s a crushed soul, though, when compared with a well-paying job and a set career? This isn’t a pity party. I’m happy with where I am in life, except when I’m not, and there is no way to get those years back and not flunk out of junior college three times and not waste five years of my life doing nothing. I just wonder sometimes what it’s like to have taken the realistic road in life and to have lived up to all expectations: going to college at eighteen, joining a fraternity, living in a cramped apartment full of assholes, and getting a good job at a bank through Dad, the department or the frat. I guess people like that are usually considered boring among romantics, and for the most part I am surrounded by folks in the English Department who are out to save the world and would probably share that romantic sentiment. I just wonder sometimes if a steady income beats following your dreams. Oh well. Life is good and the first year is now over. Che sera sera, and congratulations to the class of ’07.