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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

A dream deferred is a dream revised

Are you ready?

This is the beginning of the End, and I’m feeling all sorts of confu-stalgia. So let’s hit play on that end-of-summer-camp-photo-montage-PowerPoint and cue up some Vitamin C on the boom-box. Ch’yeahhhh. Also, if you don’t understand that reference, I probably hate you.

My classmates and I will all be presumably graduating in something like less than twenty days or so. No, if you’re asking, I do not have a job yet, and no I am not planning on trying to get rejected from grad school. As my vigilance for this impeding emotional catastrophe, a.k.a Commencement, has been telling Chewbacca to kick on the hyper-drive, I’ve been doing a whole lot of thinking. That thinking, namely, has been about what it is that I can take with me so that I can keep “living the dream” even as I set sail on a “Deadliest Catch” without Mike Rowe to guide me ashore.
In a search for some answers about what’s been of use over the years, I recently decided to go back and read some of the angsty things which I wrote to myself as a precocious young dream-liver. You know, notes on post-its, Myspace rants, the usual. Back in the wonder years of first-semester, I had an experience which some might find unsurprising for someone so self-aware of their need for affirmation and attention. I was concerned with why people couldn’t just like me NOW, and why I couldn’t just feel like all my relationships were perfectly centered from the moment they started. “Well duh, first-year-Tim, no sh*t you found it hard. You can’t just show up to a joint and have it all fall into place, especially not when everyone older than you is on Red-Alert for overtly extroverted first-years.”

I tried going to therapy. You’d think you’d feel special when you’re paying them to listen, but apparently becoming a doctor of something doesn’t always mean that you’re the kind who knows how to help people. My sleep got worse. I felt anxious all day, especially right before bed. Next came the multi-month debate about what I’d be compromising if I tried anti-depressants, more formally referred to as SSRIs, the mind-numbing devices given out by Big Brother. Zing.

Three years, one month, fifteen days, and six prescriptions later, I can tell you exactly what it is that I’ve compromised. I’ve compromised my faith in the monolithic narrative of The Progress of Science for a provisional acceptance of the short-story that “sometimes, some methods work out for some people”. I’ve compromised my libido, my heart, and my memory, for a semi-functioning social life and the ability to get out of bed in the morning. I’ve compromised time, money, and a transcendentalist conception of the “independence of man” for the fairly consistent capacity to choose to want to stay alive. I wouldn’t say I’ve compromised everything, but it’s definitely been enough for me to take notice.

Getting older has helped, with the exception of that moment at the dessert island when you fear for a few seconds that you’re really all alone. What it really has taken mostly is just a f*ck ton of patience. That with a little courage in the mix, frequently adjusting the proportions in order to blend the perfect “self-esteem” cocktail. Patience to slow down and get to know people and not rush myself to have unrealistically meaningful relationships, but courage to make myself vulnerable to somebody if that’s what’s on my radar. Patience to remind myself that I’m not my papers, tests, or my grades, but courage to try to make the sacrifices necessary if I want to work harder next time. Patience to know that being at Grinnell is not supposed to be any sort of experience other then the one I envision for it, but courage to do the work necessary in getting there.

I defer to a corny, unsophisticated message which I wrote a poster that hung on the wall of my dorm room. I used the poster as a place to put this constant reminder. I wrote, in red sharpie: “Get up, Tim, and get out of bed. The drugs won’t do it for you.” Now I’m not suggesting all Grinnellians everywhere get themselves a good pocket mantra, but I am asking that they at least take a moment to do whatever is necessary to remind themselves to have just a little more patience, a little more courage, or a little more whatever.

Basically, the unfortunate moral of this story is that I’ve learned that you can’t always rely on other people and that sometimes you have to do the heavy lifting yourself. Don’t just wait for your SA or your parents or your professors or Student Affairs to show up and make it all better. They might. They should. But that doesn’t always mean they will. Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other. Do whatever is necessary for you to feel capable, and then pay it forward. That’s the only way we’re going to make it through this thing in one piece.

Or you could say the hell with my advice, the hell with this crap about care, and the hell with this whole damn column. Who am I to tell you what to do with your life, right? Well, you’re right Duder-otomy, I’m not really anyone in particular. But I like your moxie for calling me out on it, and that’s why I challenge you to make it that easy. What a cool breeze of awesome it would be if life were that simple and if cherries and rainbows just fell into our laps as a magical unicorn galloped through the gates of Valhalla. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. However until then, I’ve got no intention of giving up on any of you, or any last bit of myself for that matter. At least I’m hopeful that when that day comes, maybe then we’ll be “living the dream”.

Not satisfied?

Your turn.

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