I often ruminate on whether all my ruminating does me any good1 . This rumination brings me back to all my past life event in a pretty haunting way, but it does give me some time to reflect on what specifically went wrong. I largely do this because, as far as I can tell, I am now pretty much middle aged and mostly a failure in life. I am becoming increasingly ok with that. But I do wonder what the hell went wrong.
I think there were likely a series of events. I distinctly recall the exact moment I stopped doing my homework in high school. It was after I asked my father for help with a writing assignment, and he tortured me for it in a way that convinced me that there was never going to be any win state to any of this- that there wasn’t an amount of hard work I can put into my homework that would ever result in positive affirmation. That’s a different – and dumber – story.
I was thinking about university. I often have wondered if I ever should have bothered going. Likely I shouldn’t have.
I was the first person in my family to go to university. What this meant at the time was that when it came to figuring out where to go for university, no one in my family had the first clue. Nor was my high school’s advising worth a damn. It was mostly people who didn’t want to be there and couldn’t relate to a kid if it meant there life. Nor was I a kid that made it easy for people to talk to him. Oh well. All this meant that I applied to schools at random, with next to no idea what the hell I was doing. This resulted in my applying for a whole lot of schools I flat out got rejected to. The one I did get accepted to was one of the ones that pretty much had an open door acceptance policy.
There was a reason for that. It was actually a night school for adults, specializing in architecture. You were expected to be working days and coming into study at nights.
I did extremely well in my first semester and pretty terribly in the second. It was the loneliest year of my life, as I was pretty much the youngest person at the school, and I had no idea how to make friends. I still don’t, but back then it bothered me.
I likely wasn’t the smartest person at that school, but considering that everyone else there had a full time job, a family, and a full course load, no one talked to me long enough for me to find out. After a year I was on academic suspension for not managing to find a job at an architectural firm (I wish I were joking), and so I went home with my tail between my leg. I ended up in a local community college where all the people who could barely put forth an effort in high school ended up. They weren’t putting forth an effort here either. I picked up a nice smoking habit here, but otherwise was never challenged. Again, I doubt I was actually smart compared to the other kids. I was just the only one who gave a shit.
I stayed there for about a year and then moved on. The next destination was an American University abroad, which I will not nominate. I will say that it had the fixed population of a village, and a floating population of one semester students of 4 or five times as much.
What I am about to say is going to sound like boasting, but I ask you to please read carefully to the elaboration where it is revealed that it isn’t. I have, repeatedly, heard people talk about how they felt like the smartest person in the world in high school, only to get to college or university and realize that there were plenty of smarter people in the world. I recently was listening to a podcast and heard this sentiment repeated by a member of Mensa. It is pretty commonly held. And yet I never had that feeling. Not that I didn’t meet anyone who in some context could be considered smart, but I never met anyone who threatened my internal conception of my own intelligence. There was no one there who made me digging down and think about the nature of intelligence more generally.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN I AM SMART OR SUPER SMART.
It actually means the opposite.
As mentioned above, I went to an American University abroad. Not only where most of the students there the kind of people who were there for all the wrong reasons, but so was most of the faculty. Everyone that was there was there principally for the purpose of being abroad. Learning was a secondary objective. I had a lot of conversation with a lot of people. Some of those people were very bright, but they were also victims of an environment that never challenged them either. Most people were there to have fun, and what made the experience all that much worse is that they for the most part didn’t have fun with me.
What this ended up meaning is that I went to a university for three years and pretty much just paid for a sheet of paper. The education I got largely came from was largely from the books I read on my own time. But intellectually, I was never challenged for ten years. Had I been, I would easily have been dethroned. But the simple point was that I never was.
So I am one of those people who can pretty comfortably say that I got nothing from my university. I didn’t grow intellectually, and I didn’t grow socially. It was a waste of time and money.
The lessons I failed to learn there I sort of learned in my Master’s, although I managed to fail myself in that as well. There will be a part two to all this, at some god damned point.
1 One might call this meta-rumination.