Now that summer moves closer to fall, students are scurrying back to school. If you’re one of those people and picking up this magazine for the first time, I’d like to say hello. It’s nice to meet you.
If you’re not one of those people, I don’t know what to tell you. You’re getting old, bro. Drink a glass of warm milk and try to get to bed early. I’m sure you have a busy day of work or with the kids or whatever. Maybe you read “college” and you chuckle through your evening single malt scotch. Maybe you think of all those wild parties and promiscuous encounters. I bet you look back on your college years and think, “Gosh, those were the days.” I mean, I don’t, but whatever.
I attended college for a long time. I went to two different schools—the College of Staten Island, a part of the City University of New York, and Wagner College, a small private school also on Staten Island—and plodded through six years before I got my bachelor’s degree”¦in English.
The winter before my final semester at Wagner (Go Seahawks!), I went to my grade advisor to make my schedule for the spring session. She looked over the transcripts and gleefully exclaimed, “You only need six more credits for graduation!” Her enthusiasm was matched only by my anxiety over the chilling revelation that I was completely unprepared for life outside academia. I managed to bark out an empty, “That’s great!” as I fought back the urge to vomit. I mean, really, the nerve of them. Here I was throwing almost $20k a year in federal loan money at them, and they were just going to kick me out?
I was shaken up, but as G-day approached, I became more and more optimistic. My whole life was ahead of me, after all, and I was going to have a degree”¦in English. Afterward, I took a year off and traveled America. I took a car, bus and train across the country, and it was an amazing experience. In Flagstaff, some dude I’d traveled on the bus with explained to me the particulars of crystal meth; on the train, somewhere around Chicago, I partied all night in the club car with drunken teenagers from Pueblo, Colo.; a guy who just got out of prison; a one-legged woman with pretty blue eyes and the bartender who wanted to fuck her. I returned to Staten Island worldly, driven, and things were fine until the student loan officers started lurking in the bushes.
In an attempt to stave them off, I went back to school. It turned out to be a big mistake. I realized after the first semester that I really never liked school all that much, and since I never wanted to be a teacher, having a master’s degree just felt like putting on airs. It did get me to move out to California though, which, luckily for you, is why you’re reading this right now.
If you’re looking for words of wisdom, I’m afraid I don’t have any. I’m not going to tell you that these are “the best years of your life,” because if they are, sucks to be you. Seriously, with modern medicine, life expectancies are ridiculously long and will probably only get longer. You don’t want to blow your wad in your early 20s. My best hope for all of you is that you peak sometime in your 50s. At least then you’ll have something to look forward to. The one thing I will suggest is stay in college as long as your parents will support you. This isn’t because college is so great. It’s not. It’s expensive, ultimately not that important and one day, you’re going to have to pay all that free money back. No, you should stay in as long as possible, because college, at the very least, has a definitive goal. You’re working for that diploma. The real world isn’t as black and white. I’m 31 and all I’ve got to look forward to is retirement, and that’s like 40 years away. Maybe more. After that, only the grim hand of Death remains. But I wanted this to be positive. Good luck.