Too much burning, and too many missed appointments.
There is a legend that if you step on the JMU seal, you will not graduate on time.
In 2011, I thought it would be funny to step on it.
I was wrong.
The current date is the 13th of January, 2017. To-date, I have completed 6.5 years of university education. I have earned 194 credit hours.
I will not see my diploma until May 12, 2018.
I have no more words on this matter.
I have maintained a 3.5–4.0 GPA the entirety of my college career, and I have been a student at four separate institutions. I have learned about the Enlightenment exactly 4,982 times. I have had the term “opiate of the masses” defined to me in academic scrawl on five different blackboards. I have taken six, I tell you, SIX, separately-titled, separately-accredited courses which feature Walt Whitman and Mark Twain for over 70% of their entire course content.
I am on Sallie Mae’s “Most Frequently Dialed” callback list. She sent me a goddamn Christmas card.
I currently work four part-time jobs, all in the writing field, and could easily make a more-than-sufficient living with my current skill set simply doing what I’m doing now.
That is an option.
But that would be too easy.
I can’t have spent almost seven years in college, and still not have an actual degree to show for it. I have worked too hard. I have worked WAY too hard. I have worked just, TOO, hard, like, at this thing that’s supposed to be easy, especially cause I’m really good at school.
I was not ready to go to college at 19.
I did, though.
I discovered Marxism, conspiracies, and the tantalizing wonderworld of imagination that entry-level liberal arts education supplies.
I was ignited with an overwhelming, all-consuming passion- for, at, and against- well, everything.
Sweatshops. The one percent. The government. College itself. The bourgeoise. Pick your poison.
My mind was turned on in a psychedelic sense, and the landscape of career paths and the bureaucratic dullness of long-term plans seemed ludicrously unimportant, and, at the time, vastly irrelevant to my self-development and world-changing quota for the day. So I did a lot of crazy things. And then I learned more, and realized I was wrong. And then I did crazier things, and then I learned more, and realized I was wrong. The cycle continued.
I never lost admiration for the luster of academia’s elegant sophistry, but to me, it was a toy or a tool, and not an end in and of itself. Everything I learned transformed me and inspired me. I am not a fixed point in space and time. I am a line without definite coordinates. It is a holographic universe, and whatever angle you see me from, I look entirely different.
So I changed plans, a lot.
I didn’t lust for the security of a house, a cubicle, and a husband- which is the peripheral mold for most people. I did not care about outperforming my peers with a yuppie life or any brand of white-collar success. I knew I could. School has always been easy for me, and I excel at every job I actually enjoy. That was a given. Being “successful,” for me, had nothing to do with accomplishing the things that I already knew I could do in my sleep. I wanted to live an interesting life.
I saw my immediate human experience as the primary lens of learning. I saw a multifaceted, exponentially dimensional and paradoxical world. It required more attention and inspired more awe than the doldrum spreadsheet of calculating credit hours and choosing a career path.
I thought I was crazy, and I was right. I knew I would die one day, and I knew it could be any day, and I was too intoxicated with the world to miss it- to miss any single second of anything.
So I flirted with different elements of normalcy like a secretly queer boy flirts with makeup, trying to decide if they like it or not, unsure as to whether or not they should, equally unsure as to whether or not they do.
I lived more than 7 lives, I had adventures; I worked bizarre, interesting, and difficult jobs; I met strange people, and liked them; I learned what it was like to not have any money; I learned what it was like to work an 18 hour day; I learned what it was like to save a child’s life; I learned what it was like to plan your entire day around the bus schedule; I learned what it was like to Not Be the bourgeois, well-off, ordinary white woman that the factory would have churned me out to be.
And I am not sorry, because I lived.
Success for most people, we are told, is working at a 9-to-5 job, five days a week, for many years. That’s being a productive member of society. That’s how you Do The Thing.
But the truth is, that that’s not what success looks like for everyone. That’s certainly not what success looks like for me. I have a rapid-cycling, intellectually voracious personality, and doing the same thing every day sounds, to me, like a death sentence. My ideal success is as erratic and multifaceted as my talents are. My skill set is not linear. It is dynamic. And so, for me, must be my life. My ideal success is working three flexible jobs that keep me on the edge of my seat, investigating, writing, learning all the time. The kind of work that always changes, throws you in a new situation, and never gets dull. The kind of work that requires a neurotic tedium propelled by an eternally relentless internal drive that is only possessed by the very few, and most of them are insane.
Whether or not I am among that number is besides the point.
The point is that I was not satisfied with the standard-issue life that was handed to me (“handed” to me- a ridiculous privilege possessed by the very few), and so I utterly destroyed it. And I made my own.
And I like it.
So if you don’t like your “standard-issue” life? Don’t live it.
Make a different life.
After all, it is yours. And you only get one.
And for following your passion, even if your passion has an appetite larger than its stomach, you should never, ever apologize for being an active citizen in this eternally fascinating world.
Whatever it is you think you are supposed to do, you are not failing.
You are doing it.
And this tale was going to have a better ending, and even potentially turn into my memoirs, but I have a meeting to get to at six. So my story ends. But if I can conjure magic in fragments, bits and pieces of ecstasy here and there, so be it. If you do it all at once, you’ll set the world on fire. And you sure as hell won’t get your degree.
That’s the reason I don’t have it yet. Too much burning, and too many missed appointments.
Till next time.