“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.
us digress for a moment…
So the other night I walked
to the Capitol with a couple of friends with the goal of watching
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
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
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.
is where I end with some insightful conclusion to leave you with
the answers to life’s most elusive truths.
<Insert Universal Truth here.>
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
Peanut butter and jelly are
Don’t run after participating in a pizza-eating contest.
Thomas Edison’s middle name was Alva.
Things I don’t
Everything not mentioned above.
an e-mail message to Andi.