The University of Texas at Austin wordmark
Small handwriting sample of Andi's First-Year Student Journals, link to journals home page
Andi sits outside at a coffee shop on Guadalupe

Andi's blue Adidas Santiosage flip-flops

Andi works in the photo lab at The Daily Texan, she holds a film reel in the dark room

“I will go down with this ship,
And I won’t put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door...”

—Dido, “White Flag”

I suppose it all boils down to mediocrity. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who just wanted to live life in the middle of the road, in a square house with gray walls and a mediocre canary in a mediocre cage. For a while there, I thought that was what I wanted—to be just good enough at everything so as to escape questioning, but not extraordinary enough at anything so as to draw too much attention to myself. In all actuality, it’s a defense mechanism against the fear that I will never be truly great at anything. It must be caused by a fear of commitment to any one goal with a dash of conflict with my inner child. (The last part is sarcasm…I think.) And so, this has kept me from being above average at even one thing, not to mention made me a tad self-obsessed (like you hadn’t noticed). In effect, it has given me exactly what I’ve “wanted”: mediocrity.

So I guess this is the part where I make sense of things, since—in the end—things are easier and more people listen to you if you do that at the end of every soliloquy. Truth be told, I’m still figuring things out. I haven’t made sense of anything.

Let us digress for a moment…

So the other night I walked to the Capitol with a couple of friends with the goal of watching the sunrise. I had been told it was a beautiful thing, and the thought itself seemed very college-esque. Had I ever been able to get up and say, “I’m going to go see the sun rise above one of Austin’s landmarks” on an idle night in high school? Neh. It seemed like the culmination of all I had been looking for all this time…independence, poetry, friendship, new experiences.

But as we walked around waiting for the sun to arrive, I realized that I didn’t really need to see dawn. Just wasting time with people who barely had to say anything to make me feel at ease was enough. This whole time I’ve been striving toward this goal of “college-ness,” not realizing that it’s never really been about the sunrise. It’s what we do with the few hours beforehand that makes us who we are.

On the other side of the farm, the coupling up has begun. “The Freshman Challenge,” if you have not heard about it, is the challenge to stay single freshman year. At this point in time, the challenge is more or less scrapped: even the most resolved have crumbled. It is a beautiful thing to watch, everyone finding someone who they identify with, feel comfortable with. The idea behind the challenge, however, is that being in a relationship might prevent a person from building and working on their non-romantic ties with people. And it’s somewhat true. It’s bittersweet in a way, because those of us who are “sticking with the challenge” are all at once happy to see their friends content, and at the same time orphaned in a way. The dilemma at this point is yet another unresolved question. Then again, at UT, all it takes to start a club is a purpose, three people and $10…eh, it’s always an option.

Back to the matter at hand. I would like to apologize. I feel as if I am supposed to be insightful and introspective and interesting, three things which I have never felt further from. There is this concept that our artists and writers and leaders and musicians must have something more understood about life than we in the general public do. I think it’s exactly that idea that has kept me from pursuing art or literature or music or being a leader. It’s the fear that I would be a phony, since I know no more—even less—than the next kid. Yet somehow I’ve gotten roped into that position anyway. And here I am.

Everybody has to write about something.

It takes quite a special person to be able to write about nothing.
Were it to make me insightful and interesting, in a heartbeat I would spend my life walking barefoot along some beach, writing anonymous poems of genius in the sand that would later be washed away by the tide, but only after leading innocent passers-by on a wild hunt for the author of those brilliant works. I would love to be clad in a flowing skirt and Birkenstocks, playing the guitar in my peach orchard for the local kids, singing songs with hidden pertinent messages about life’s lessons. In all honesty, though, this life of waking up every morning to a cereal bar and broken-in blue jeans, getting caught in the cogs of the system of higher education, memorizing derivatives and interest rate formulas…it ain’t half bad. Cafeteria meals and bored nights in front of a television with friends are actually seemingly mundane things that I look forward to. Really, they make me no more mediocre than the Birkenstocks and tide poetry would make me special.

And this is where I end with some insightful conclusion to leave you with the answers to life’s most elusive truths.

<Insert Universal Truth here.>

The bottom line: what this first semester of college has taught me, and perhaps what I have known all along but been too chicken to own up to, is that my search for the formula to success, being fascinating, being happy, defeats the purpose of actually having any of those things. Because…they just kind of…happen. I can’t explain it. I wish I could. I’d have Pulitzers, Oscars and even possibly Nobel Prizes to look forward to if I were only so eloquent. I guess I just need to stop searching so hard and just let them come to me. Which is not to say that the answer is to be passive. Say those things are the wind…so we can’t go hunt for the wind with a spear and dagger…but we can’t just stand outside holding open a grocery sack either. It’s somewhere in between, somewhere that if I were even to try to define any further I would feel even more like the phony that I am. It would seem that I knew something.

I know nothing.

Things that I know:

Peanut butter and jelly are yummy.
Don’t run after participating in a pizza-eating contest.
Thomas Edison’s middle name was Alva.

Things I don’t know:

Everything not mentioned above.

I know nothing.

…There’s always next semester.

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