A Fond Look Back at College
Like all smart little suburban prep-school girls in 1988, straight after high school I enrolled in a good little preppy private school filled with more of the same rich kids I was used to dealing with in high school, just so the transition from juvenile delinquent to adult delinquent wouldn’t be too frightening for me.
When I first started at…oh, lets call it Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, I went there wanting to be an English major. Ironically enough, even though I’d done all that AP bullshit in high school and had been writing as long as I could remember, no one in the English department thought I could write.
I briefly considered a history major, but luckily, I got really stoned one night and came to my senses. And although I’d done a lot of acting in high school and enjoyed it, I had no intentions of having my parents pay a buttload of money for a fine private school education only to have me to turn to them after graduation and say, “Mom, Dad? I wanna struggle in New York. Can you rent me an apartment?”
Eventually, I settled on a theater major. Out of the seven professors in the department, six didn’t think I had shit for talent, and made sure I never got cast. This is absolutely true. If it weren’t for one black sheep professor who always made sure to put me in his shows — even bit parts — I would have been the only performance theater major ever to get a college degree in performance theater without ever acting in a staged production.
So drastic was the department’s opinion of my non-acting ability that the head of the department said to me (in my tuition-paying mother’s presence, to boot) that I didn’t have a future in performance or directing; that I should, exact quote here, “look into management.” Of course, the next year, I directed a student production to complete my major and got glowing reviews all over town, and even won a few interdepartmental awards. Six years later, I’ve acted in plays, directed short films, written and published all kinds of shit, and even scored the occasional infommercial gig.
If I had nothing better to do than rub my meager performance history in their face, I would. Of course, these days I’m too busy trying to parlay that meager performance history into bigger and badder things while holding down another couple of jobs in order to pay off the loans…
Of course, college didn’t give me shit. The three things I’m thankful I went to college for are as follows: 1) I met the man who is my writing partner, and one of the dearest people I know, 2) I got to run a radio station, 3) I lost my virginity and, well, 4) I lived in the official campus freak house and loved every oversexed, vodka-laden, bong-hitting moment of it.
Otherwise, my college experience was four years of cheap, bad beer, cheap, bad sex, and cheap, bad food. If I had undergrad to do over again, I’d be a complete prick to everyone. Thing is, I don’t. I was ready to be an asshole in 1991.
Because I lacked the one thing that college never taught me. Not only does no one look out for your ass, everyone else is out to one-up, show-off, and demoralize you to the breaking point where you may never recover. After Rollins, I hated theater so much, I never wanted to set foot on stage again. I still really don’t. I find it sad that I entered college wanting to learn about something I loved and got no help, no encouragement, no useful information, and no breaks.
After that undergrad experience, I didn’t know what the fuck I wanted to do. After considering law school (before, again, smoking weed), I ended up back at another specialized artistic type-graduate program. I dropped out because grad school wasn’t getting me anywhere careerwise or teaching me anything that I couldn’t probably do or learn myself. I was also flat broke, chronically ill, and had two jobs I hated.
College convinces you that you need its “valuable learning experiences” to get through life. That being away from the ones you love for four plus years, taking overblown classes with either egomaniacal or bitter, old professors in topics you don’t care about, and getting fat is something that will somehow better your career or your life.
If had it to do over again, of course, I wouldn’t do it at all. If I was my mother when I was 17, I would have thrown my punk ass on the first plane to London, put $10,000 in a bank account that I could access, and said “If you run out of money, either get a job or come home.”
Granted, a college degree is essential for a non-burger flippin’ job. I’m the first to say I took a lot of great classes and actually learned a few things in college — mostly from outside my major. I met some great friends and had some great times. Ok, so most of the women — and some of the men — were there solely to troll for rich boy husbands, and you know what? Most of them ended up getting exactly what they wanted. Now they live places like Dallas and Connecticut and Georgetown and breed, breed, breed.
Not me. I was the one sucker who actually went to college to get an education. What I should have gotten was the hell out of there. Now I’m twenty-seven and just beginning to find what it is I want in life — I suppose, finding my groove. To think I could have gotten a ten-year head start on all of this blows me away.