Some Thoughts on Attaining My Degree

This article marks the end of my short-lived career as an opinion columnist. I can almost hear a few cheers (certainly I will read them in the comment section of the Guardian Web site), but I hope that there will be one or two readers who will be sad to see me go.

I suppose that I am expected to reflect upon my five years at UCSD and to find something positive to take with me as I move forward in my life. In doing so, I shall make you, gentle reader, reflect upon your own years at UCSD, be they one or five or seven.

Well, actually, I won’t. There will be no pats on the back distributed in this column. We’ll all get at least five hours of those at the various commencement ceremonies we will endure on Sunday, June 17. There’s a reason why this column is called “”Jaded and Faded,”” and here it is: I’m not so proud of myself.

Sure, I studied somewhat hard to earn this degree. But I’m a literature major — for God’s sake, how hard can it be? I’ve never slaved away in a bioengineering lab for eight hours at a time. I worked my way through college, but they were mindless jobs: cashier, photocopying, data entry, writing for the Guardian. I’ve yet to earn more than $10 an hour.

Meanwhile, my younger, engineering major brother makes $20 an hour at Jet Propulsion Laboratories doing something my feeble mind couldn’t possibly comprehend. But all is not lost. I did manage to get my sorry ass into law school, so my parents haven’t completely lost face.

But those are not the reasons why I’m not so proud of myself. When I entered UCSD in the fall of 1996, I knew that in four or five years I would walk out with a degree. There was never a doubt in my mind. But along with that degree, I had hoped for the attainment of the equivalent number of years’ worth of personal development.

After all, the educational degree is only half of the reason we come to college. The other half is to grow up. And grow up I did, but was it to the extent that I had hoped for?

I am inclined to think that the answer is no. Here I am, 22 years old and writing catty articles about how female friends are bitchy. Haven’t I gotten over that yet? Come on, it’s been five years — so what if my best friend in high school screwed me over? Not all girls are like her, yet I still have trouble trusting other women.

How about passing judgment on others before really getting to know them? This is a lesson I’ve learned more than once, but still I find myself thinking that I’ve got a person all figured out without ever even talking to her. College is supposed to broaden the mind, but sometimes I find myself feeling a bit shrunken and shriveled.

And the one that gets to me the most is being almost 23 years old and still single. No, I’m not talking about marriage. But lately, I’ve found myself surrounded by coupled friends. I have several friends who have been with the same girl or guy for three, four, six, even seven years! They’re single, but not really. Not that I lament my time and opportunity to play the field a little bit more than they have, but I have yet to pass the one-year mark. At almost 23, that’s a little too much time and opportunity to play the field, in my opinion.

But who would want to date a shrew like me, anyway? Correction: Who would want to date a shrew like me for more than a year? All the people I meet nowadays tell me they’re afraid of pissing me off for fear I will write about them in my column. At first I scoffed at this, but then I considered it. Maybe I am a vindictive bitch.

I think most of us here take for granted that we will earn our bachelor’s degrees. All of our lives, we have been bred to choose a goal and work for it, and it naturally follows that we will achieve it if we work hard enough. But the same cannot be said for personal development.

I’ve always had some foggy idea of the person who I want to be, but choosing a path to reach that goal has not been so easy. There are no counselors, no catalogs of courses. We have friends and family who will flunk us if we do something wrong, but not always in a manner constructive enough to help us learn the correct lesson. Not to say that this is their fault — they are all muddling through their own personal development educations.

In the end, we are our own issuers of the personal development degree. I do not feel that in the last five years I’ve earned my bachelor’s degree. Perhaps that’s a good sign. Perhaps if I did feel that I had earned it, it would indicate my ignorance of just how much I still have yet to learn. That’s the optimist’s way; the new-age, spiritual, self-help guru way of looking at it. And of course, I’m jaded, and I think new-age, spiritual, self-help gurus are full of shit.

But that will be the topic of another article.

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