Back Again at ‘Gate, and More Confused Than Ever

Nicole Halper

Four semesters later and the only thing I’ve learned is that I haven’t figured out a single thing.

Last year my advisor Professor Tim Byrnes coached my FSEM to craft a paper. “Always write an outline,” he’d say as he leant back in his chair; though, a second later, his restless arms would be perched atop the desk so he could come forward to inform us that “What you’re writing isn’t a research paper.” 

His hands would be shooing us away as he told us, “It’s more of an assignment where I let you go off into the forest to discover something so that,” he shrugged his shoulders, “you might come back with some idea of how the world is.”

It turns out that I believed Byrnes’s lesson, but not enough to immediately take his advice. The research papers I wrote were drivel; they were basically notes to myself on how to make a perfectly good thesis into a life raft among thoughts. I wrote papers that I never wanted to read again. As I saved them to the “This_Class” folder, I’d quietly fantasize about the day I’d actually go back to revise them. I figured that eventually I’d get tired of flicking stuff down on paper in futility and write something worthwhile. I have now realized that my hope that my future will be better is my greatest curse and worthiest asset.

My professors’ responses reflected my quixotic attitude. When they handed me back papers I’d hide them in my folders in shame. A few moments after I fatefully glanced at my score, I’d put it out of my mind in misery. I didn’t visit office hours. I didn’t tell my parents I struggled. Poor Byrnes wondered what he ought to do with my sinking grades. I think I must have hit my head in an accident once, because every day, this familiar theme resonates in my brain:

I am in disgust.  It encapsulates my ability to drag myself out of the hole and find a solution. When I depart HRC in the morning, I always feel as though I’ve been robbed.

Being at ‘Gate is a fight. It’s just too bad that New Jersey public schools failed to prepare for me any lessons in bringing it on.

Jeez, I still can’t believe how our teachers lead us like sheep to the slaughter: we trust them with our minds, and they almost never want to hold us accountable to ideal standards of living. I bet I would benefit from a professor’s outlined lecture, her unabashed enthusiasm about her subject, her invitation to answer a question incorrectly in class.

What I want to have is fair education; my volition; the quarter that had fallen out of my pocket. Instead, the day is spent searching high and low for them. I don’t think the pot is helping.When I walk around here, I wish all the campus walls would

talk (@DreaFinley).

They’d say stuff like #Colgateproblems: walking past someone who refuses to smile at you. Fuming after class about some jankity girl who raised her hand and changed your mind. Losing one of your gloves to the devil-rearing he-monster called the snow. Although, if these walls could talk, they’d probably just keep their lips shut.

Things would be very different around here if we weren’t so often scared of what we think about ourselves. I’m not sure what could possibly frighten us to make the decisions that we make, but we’ve been slipping our authority across palms like twenties that disappear into bottlenecks to the great beyond. Flat out, let’s break down an old adage to its proper state: Do not do what is right, but what is easy.

It’d be too hard to imagine what could be easier than doing what I want. A’s, I’ve always told myself. Friends. Infinite happiness. Well, now that I’ve come up with that; it’s time to define standards every minute of every day. If I’m not happy about the ideal I’m forced to live by, I must examine the force that’s bringing me down. 

My lesson to you, Colgate: ask yourself why you want to be here like you do. Tell me exactly your reason when you look me in the eye next time we pass each other by, return that poor girl’s jacket lost to the Jug, give metal spoons back to Frank. We really need to huddle together for warmth, my friends, or it’ll definitely be a long, hard winter.