University: adulthood in training

Feeling productive without having to give up day-drinking

Scott A. Ford

In September, polite small talk usually begins with, “Are you excited to get back to school?” 

Depending on who’s asking (and my caffeine intake that day), my answers vary from, “Oh yes, I always like heading back,” to an indecipherable burst of enthusiasm that ends with my stammering, “I super love books!”

I have plenty of reasons for loving the annual migration back to the classroom. For starters, I make a far better student than I do a capable adult. If you need me to write a 12 page essay on how regulating sympathy for Muslim women can be viewed as a subversive effort to justify interference in the Middle East, I’ll rise to the occasion. 

If you need me to do adult things – cook chicken, wake up before noon, parallel park or show up on time for a work shift – be prepared for me to fall drastically short.

On a similar note, the excuse of “I’m a student” is superior to the lesser-known excuse of “I’m a terrified shell of the adult that I’m supposed to be.” 

Student-hood comes with the privilege – nay, the right – to live off of cereal, get drunk on Tuesdays, wear leggings as pants and nap without feeling an ounce of guilt. Adulthood sounds exactly like the sentence, “I can’t come because I work tomorrow.”

I like returning to university because, after a four-month brain vacation, I get to turn my mind back on to its full capacity. I am presented with constant opportunities to learn and challenge myself, to be stimulated and to flex my critical thinking muscles. 

There’s no room for summer sluggishness – the incentive of a research paper means a motive to delve deeper into something I’ve always been interested in but have never quite been able to tackle on my own. It’s the extra push I need.

The world is more interesting to me when I’m in the habit of learning and being curious. Simply put, persuading a professor that I don’t find Christianity and third-wave feminism inherently incompatible feels more fulfilling than persuading another customer that their toast is rye bread and not – heaven forbid! – multigrain by mistake.

When I’m in school, I feel purposeful. There’s momentum. I’m working towards a definite goal and I enjoy the work it takes for me to attain it. Putting my energy into something I’m excited about makes me feel as if my life is going somewhere, and going somewhere good – a considerable contrast to the routine existential crises I had almost every shift at my summer serving job.

The conversation that begins with, “Are you excited to go back to school?” inevitably rounds off to a discussion of what comes after the degree. My answer is, very simply, “I don’t know yet.” Because I don’t. And I don’t mind at all. 

Getting there (where ‘there’ is a double major in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications and Religion and Culture) is pretty damn fun.

Besides, that’s Future Shanae’s problem. She’ll handle it. Until then, I’m cool with Lucky Lager and writing papers.

Shanae was too hungover to finish this article in time. She also writes at 

Published in Volume 70, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 17, 2015)

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