You can't help but go among mad people. We're all mad here. I'm mad, you're mad. You must be mad, or you wouldn't have come here.
~Cheshire Cat

17 September 2012

"I can't explain myself"

So, I'm 25 years old. I will be 26 next month. I know many other 26-year-olds. The majority of them, from the outside, seem to be living contently with their fancy college degrees, their spouses, and in some instances, their children.
I started college in 2005. I'm still working toward getting my BA. It's 2012. My graduation date is set for January 31st, 2013. Let's see... 2005 - 2013 = 8 years.
Well, 7.
If it hasn't been made obvious by now, it should only take 4.
So, why has it taken me this long to finally start getting things in order?

"Still working toward."
That statement frustrates me; it's as if there is an ending that is not within my reach. But, maybe I don't want to reach it. Maybe I'm content in my purgatory.
But I know there is an ending; I've seen it. I've seen others reach it; some easily, others less so.
As far as degrees go, I've been lapped by many of my peers (that would no longer qualify them as "peers," then, would it?) and even my younger brother (whom I am very proud of! He's 23 and well on his way to becoming a PhD in Neuroscience!). My brother even had to take an extra year because he switched majors in the middle of his sophomore year from Pharmacology to Neuroscience. So, really, he would have started grad school a year before he did.
We all started in the same place, but some people are forced to wade through tar while others seem to be aerodynamic, speeding through with nothing holding them down.

"Some people just need to work at their own pace."
"There's no shame in taking your time."
"You just learn with a different stride."
"You'll get there eventually. There's no rush."
"For some people, it's just harder."

Two words.
Get. Bent.

I know it's not a race; it's not supposed to be a race. For most people it's not a race. For those of us who have been dealt some unfortunate cards, it is a race. It is a race to prove my worth. The sooner I am done, the better off I will be, and then maybe I won't be in last place.
Even for those who started in the same place and dropped out, it's not a race. Those I've kept in touch with have moved on. They have full-time jobs. They have families. Some even got their degrees from other, less expensive schools.
I feel like a fool (nay, I feel like a complete idiot - shame and all) for staying at Hamline. Had I gone somewhere else I'd be DONE by now. I'd have a degree.

`What I was going to say,' said the Dodo in an offended tone, `was, that the best thing to get us dry would be a Caucus-race.' 
`What IS a Caucus-race?' said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that SOMEBODY ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to say anything. 
`Why,' said the Dodo, `the best way to explain it is to do it.' (And, as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.) 
First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (`the exact shape doesn't matter,' it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no `One, two, three, and away,' but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out `The race is over!' and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, `But who has won?' 
This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, `EVERYBODY has won, and all must have prizes.' 
`But who is to give the prizes?' quite a chorus of voices asked. 
`Why, SHE, of course,' said the Dodo, pointing to Alice with one finger; and the whole party at once crowded round her, calling out in a confused way, `Prizes! Prizes!' 
Alice had no idea what to do, and in despair she put her hand in her pocket, and pulled out a box of comfits, (luckily the salt water had not got into it), and handed them round as prizes. There was exactly one a-piece all round. 
`But she must have a prize herself, you know,' said the Mouse. 
`Of course,' the Dodo replied very gravely. `What else have you got in your pocket?' he went on, turning to Alice. 
`Only a thimble,' said Alice sadly. 
`Hand it over here,' said the Dodo. 
Then they all crowded round her once more, while the Dodo solemnly presented the thimble, saying `We beg your acceptance of this elegant thimble'; and, when it had finished this short speech, they all cheered.

But so what?
What difference does it make if I got my degree at Metro State (which I was seriously considering) or if I stick around and cross my fingers that I'll get one from Hamline?
A lot.
This is how I know: my dad told me.
Okay, now, I know I haven't really explained much about my relationship with my father and this is why: my dad - who is very charismatic, personable, social, and delightful - is very proud. Because of this (if you're reading this, Dad, sorry!), he feels frustrated and embarrassed when I mention him without his knowledge of what I'm saying. Talking about him when he's not around is something that he can't stand. He keeps pretty cool about it if it's anyone else, but not me. Why? I tell the truth. I tell what people don't see. I tell about how his "awesomeness" can completely derail me sometimes.
Back to my dad and his infinite wisdom:
I've never gotten a "when I was your age" speech from my dad, but last week that changed.
Regarding a Facebook status update, wherein I praised scientific advancements and The Enlightenment, and subsequently followed with something like, "if it weren't for religious ignorance, we never would have needed an Enlightenment; we would have already been enlightened."
My dad's response (face-to-face, in the kitchen) surprised me. He and I had had talks before about what "god" really is and what "religion" means to him. If he weren't so proud and adamant that he is always right, he'd be an atheist. But he's too stubborn to admit that what he has accepted in his life might have had a negative impact historically.
"What's with all this 'proud to be an atheist' stuff?"
I didn't know what he was talking about. I hadn't said anything recently about being an atheist, not to mention being a "proud" one. My raised eyebrows were my answer.
His reaction: "I dunno. To me it just seems like atheists are lazy."
By this time my brother, was also in the kitchen (yes, my brother who is in GRAD SCHOOL and who will have a Ph-fucking-D in the next 2 or so years lives at HOME with his parents),seemed to come to my defense when I decided to just shut up.
"Well, you're outnumbered in this room," my brother said as he laughed.
We then demanded that our dad explain to us how atheists are lazy, and how, by his logic, non-atheists are not lazy. Now, when I say "demanded," we actually were demanding that he explain himself, but we had to say it in a playful, conversational manner so that our queries wouldn't seem like doubt or protest (remember: this is a very proud man).
Instead of answering our question, he went on to say that by the time he was 25 (my age), he had a house of his own, a full-time job, and that he had moved out of his parents' house when he was 18.
"Right, but that's when college was only 500 bucks for 4 whole years," I responded.
"For me, it was free!" His excitement and giddiness were so obvious that my brother and I looked at each other, wide-eyed, not talking, but knowing that we were both thinking, "is he fucking kidding me?"
Not to go into all the details of our "conversation" (as it was quite long), but in the end, his conclusion was NOT that atheists are lazy, but that I, in particular, am lazy. I have made wrong choices in my life and I am going in a completely backwards direction. In other words, "I should have done what my dad did!"
Sorry, but not only would I not even be physically able to join the military (as he had done), but the Armed Forces would NEVER just hand me a check for double the cost of college tuition like they did back in...whenever he was in the Air Force (in Kansas. Behind a desk. The dude never even got in a plane).
Now, the tuition is billed right to the Armed Forces, to keep veterans from doing what my dad did: take the money and run.
So not only did my dad not finish college, he didn't even essentially earn the money he made! Yes, he was in the United States Air Force for 4 years, is considered an "injured vet" (motorcycle accident on base), and earned his dues through that. However, the $600/month check he was given to go to school was instead used to buy that house he was bragging about so much.
But because I go to a university that costs $42K/year, I live at home with my parents, I no longer participate in Catholicism, and I don't have a guaranteed job after graduation, I'm lazy. I'm not only lazy, I'm depending on hand-outs from the government (student loans. Wait, what about those $600/mo checks from the government? INTERESTING POINT,STEVIE. You're welcome, Stevie.), expecting that my parents will let me free-load off them until I'm 40 (at least), never get a "real" job (and not that silly public-service archaeology job, for which there is a high demand after the 2009 mandates on state- or federally-funded construction projects, but a job where you go to an office everyday, have a boss, do work, and come home to your family), and never feel the satisfaction of "hard work."
His work ethic is astounding; he's willing to work whenever, wherever, and however. He's not a "yes man," he IS the man. During this same conversation, he asked me, "why do you think people these days eat Tofu and still get heart disease, but our parents and grandparents smoked and drank every day and lived to be 90?"
"Uh, stress?"
"NO! They worked hard! They worked and they worked, every day, until the boss said stop!"
"And that made them...happy?"
"Well they were 90, weren't they?"
"But were they 90 and happy? Or were they 90 and miserable?"
Before I let him answer, I came back with, "Sounds like ants." My tone was less-than-enthusiastic. My dad didn't hear it.
"Exactly!" He sounded excited, as if I had just had a major epiphany and he was the bestower of the wisdom that led me there.
"You know what book you should read?" I asked, knowing full well that my dad hasn't read a book in his life, "Anthem, by Ayn Rand. I bet you'd love it. But only read the beginning."
He sensed my sarcasm.
"You know what else?" I continued, "you'd absolutely love Plato's Republic. You seem like a Platonist, to me. I'll go get the book!" at which point my dad gave up.

I see his point.
AM I falling so far behind because I've chosen an illogical, unrealistic path?
I mean, there's no going back now, but I know my dad is thinking to himself, "I can't wait to tell you I told you so."

And even if at the end of it all, just like in The Caucus Race where everybody wins, I DO finish? I'll only get a thimble.

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