On the John
Originally published in the Indiana Daily Student on April 8, 2004
As a college senior four months away from graduation, I’m finally starting to really consider my future. With grad school and job searches coming up, and marriage, family and other adult responsibilities somewhere in the distant horizon, it’s amazing to think just how different my life will be in the next five or so years.
And yet, my life is already substantially different than it was five years ago.
For those of you around my age, think about how far away high school is. Good lord, that was a long time ago. In case you’ve forgotten, we used to go to school every damn day at 8 a.m. Even Fridays. By the time we were 14, most of the kids in my school district already had anywhere between two and nine favorite types of coffee. Why do you think Starbucks has so many choices? They’ve got to keep it interesting. A survey conducted by the National Starbucks Association of Excessive Coffee Variety found the typical Starbucks customer has tasted approximately 68 different types of coffee by the time he or she can drive.
But massive coffee consumption isn’t the biggest difference between 8 a.m. high school students and 8 a.m. college students. We drink our share of coffee too, but we often have the advantage of being able to go home and get some more sleep shortly after an early class. Back in high school, if you recall, classes went all the way from eight in the morning until about three in the afternoon. This does not take into account extra-curricular activities which invariably sucked up another 20 to 25 hours per day, so that during your average 24-hour day, a high-school student who was “involved” spent about 32 hours at school.
With everyone herded into one building rather than spread out on a giant campus, the people were different too — gossipy pressure-packed caffeine addicts passing each other a zillion times an hour in the same classrooms and hallways and stairwells. And just in case that wasn’t enough to drive you crazy, my high school had the added bonus of nearly every kid believing only the top 2 percent of students would get into a good college while everyone else would be left pumping gas only to die at the age of 26, usually from overdoses of foam.
Of course, the ultra-competitive high schoolers were wrong. Basically everyone from my high school went to college, and some of my favorite retrospective moments over the past four years have involved going home and running into high school classmates at bars and foam funerals and realizing not one of us remembers an eighth of the stupid crap we argued about while growing up. We talk to each other about what we’re doing now and what we plan on doing, and all of those immature social hierarchies seem farther away than the days we wore Velcro shoes.
So now here I am, preparing for life after graduation when I will more or less enter the proverbial “real world,” and some days it seems as if my degree won’t even qualify me to work at Starbucks, much less afford their coffee. But chances are graduation won’t be the enormous milestone it’s been cracked up to be, just as high school graduation wasn’t and eighth grade graduation wasn’t.
In fact, every major life development since kindergarten has been billed as entirely bizarre and frightening, until of course I spend hour one in the new situation and find it’s not much different than the previous one. As is always the case, every change is not nearly as big as it seems because when you get there you are ready to be there.
ADVICE FROM THE JOHN: Vote.
Copyright 2004, jm silverstein