More and more lately, my dreams have begun to blend into memories and imaginations of another time in my life. For fear I might be pining, I try not to often think about it, but it struck me vividly today, as I woke from nearly three hours of sleep, and thought about how normal that used to be for me and how much I hate it now. Back when I lived amongst many in a complex that was more shallow and wavering than an apartment complex, and when the people I lived with were all nearly the same ages, I remember staying up late into each night either because of coffee or my own insomnia. I remember the bustle of sheets next to me, as my roommate tried to sleep through my inability to sleep. I remember texts that beckoned me out of bed at 2 a.m. to join someone for a trip through the town by foot. I remember when I knew that town backwards-and-forwards, by foot, in the middle of the night–we tread across every part of the town possible, because we could and for no other reason. I didn’t have a reason for doing anything back then; I did as I pleased. It was a different time, for sure.

Days and nights drug on, back then, and I didn’t sleep at all because a paper was due soon and I still needed to finish. The campus was always vibrant and busy. And when it wasn’t, it was peaceful and welcoming–I felt freer when it was quieter. I went through my phases of cynicism, several times over, only to discover that was no way to survive. I existentially examined my life, for the sake of a writing assignment. I found that psychoanalysis was only intriguing on paper. More than once, I broke down because the weight of it all. In many ways, it’s a dreary way to spend your early-20s, academia. You fall into this constant need to please others–professors, bosses, coworkers, peers–all the while finding out you never found yourself until now. You wax on and off about literary minds and figures, that unless subjected to, you would rather flip the middle finger to and keep walking. Still, academia expands your mind.

The world feels so large until you learn about it. But I’ve often found that that is what expands your mind even more. I remember the day I learned the Hindu believe in the existence of a third gender. I always regretted not minoring in anthropology. Gender, sex, race, class all seemed so superficial in that moment. While I didn’t need that course to feel that way, it was that reinforcement that stopped me in my tracks, during that deciding time in my life, and made me realize just how ignorant so many people are–including myself at times. If the Hindu can recognize a third gender, why can’t our free world accept homosexual marriages or transgender people? We’re fed stories of other cultures being strict and punishing, and yet it’s those same cultures who seem to have a better grasp on humanity than we do, somehow (at least, in theory). Eventually, the more you learn, the more your world’s problems seem petty. And that thing called the “human condition” becomes nothing more than a scapegoat for why people should or shouldn’t feel the way they do. In the end, you just have to stop analyzing why you are the way you are and just be. It’s the only way to live.

7 thoughts on “Academia

  1. This is a beautifully written post, Jennifer. I don't miss my undergraduate years, but I will admit learned so much then. I also fell in love with world cultures and ended up with an anthropology minor because I couldn't stop taking the classes. Now I'm getting a master's degree for my job, and while I feel like I'm learning a lot, I can't wait to be finished with it so I can have enough free time to study things on my own like history and literature. I miss having time to read any book I want!

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I do miss my college days because I made some great friends and I had some great times, but I definitely don't miss the pandering or the homework.

  3. I just finished my first year of ungergrad, so all these things are still my reality. I've never been a fan of school really, I love learning but the entire institution of education has always stressed me out. I loved this post.

    x leah symonne x

  4. I think, in general, I absolutely adored every year of college–best years of my life–but I definitely lamented these thoughts in my final semester of college. Good luck to you! 🙂

  5. Jennifer, this is amazing. I think that's basically the perfect explanation of what college is–tiny, not so real world. It's weird.

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