Ambitions Narrow With Age

Marin Cohn

I Used to Be but Now I AmBy Ted Berrigan

I used to be inexorable,But now I am elusive.I used to be the future of America,But now I am America.I used to be part of the problem,But now I am the problem.I used to be part of the solution, if not all of it,But now I am not that person.I used to be intense, & useful,But now I am heavy, & boring.I used to be sentimental about myself, & therefore ruthless,But now I am, I think, a sympathetic person, althougheasily amused.I used to be a believer,But now, alas, I believe.

Lately, I’ve been contemplating my life quite a bit — thinking about what I want to do when I graduate and the necessary steps to get there, trying to merge my idealism with reality and wondering if I really will be able to change the world or be able to do something that I love. I remember first coming to college, wanting to learn as much as I could, to find my passion and expand my mind — which I think, more or less, I have. Suddenly, however, as I progress though my junior year, the dark looming word “career” somehow seems to have seeped into my pleasant world of knowledge and learning as ends in and of themselves.

Nietzsche laments that education has become an institution that promotes knowledge not for the sake of knowledge itself, but for ulterior goals, and a liberal arts education in many ways seeks to combat this. At the end of our four years, however, when we are forced into the brutal world where knowledge and art and beauty ends just simply doesn’t cut it — we become forced to fall in along with the rest of the tide; we are required to think about a career and money and sustaining a life for ourselves and a family.

Thus, while most of us start out with a raw and pure (and often na’ve) idealistic picture of higher learning, at the end of the day we are all forced to look ahead and somehow formulate a direction — to somehow combine our passions with a feasible reality. Of course, this is life and the nature of growing up. However, I cannot help but wonder whether this necessitates a bit of our tenacity, passion and idealism to die. Suddenly, when life becomes an issue — when practicality and the question of money take the forefront and the reigns, are we forced to compromise parts of ourselves? Is this inevitable?

I came across the poem above, by Ted Berrigan, the other day and it made me really wonder: is idealism composed of just that — ideas that by definition can never figment into reality? Or is idealism an attainable goal, those who don’t reach out and grab it only too lazy or disillusioned? Berrigan posits the idea that we cannot help but essentially fall into being disillusioned. I, on the other hand, as I continue on the ever-long trek towards “growing up” myself, cannot help but hope that our dreams and fervor do not only become part of a nostalgic past. In conclusion, I hope that we can all take Berrigan’s words not as the melancholy acceptance of reality, but as inspiration for going against the wind — of harnessing reality and directing, rather than following, it toward our own ends.