Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The 4-year slap in the face

By Nick O'Malley

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Courtesy Nick O'Malley

(Author’s Note: Dear potential employers. I see you’ve found a column I’ve written just before my graduation. Please don’t think of this as a sample of journalism. Rather, think of it as an open letter to college.)

My parents told me I’d like college – probably too much.

And I did. But it pains me to know that, like everything else in the world, there are few paradigms. We’d like to think that education is a simple progression: 12 years of primary school then four years of college.

But not everyone gets the four-year ride, the dorm experience, the freedom of the real world without bills. But this column isn’t about them – they usually know the deal. For those who don’t, that’s what college is for, it’s for slapping you in the face and telling you to take what you want out of life, not what’s in a textbook. A degree’s just really handy for getting internships and jobs.

Here’s a secret: The college experience is not about taking classes and getting a good GPA. This whole college thing is a social experiment designed to un-teach students. It doesn’t just tell them the answers to exam questions. It teaches them to look at the world and say: “This is stupid. I’m doing something else.”

There’s no one keeping you in that lecture hall. You’re free to go. You’re paying for the class, so you can leave whenever you damn well please. You could. It’s late April and, if you don’t know most things for your final at this point, you’re kind of screwed anyway.

That final, though, isn’t the measurement by which education is measured. Believe it or not, there’s not that much of a difference between getting a 4.0 for a semester and going to Barcelona to drink and stay up until 7 a.m. every night for a week. The biggest difference is you’ll learn more from the latter.

So, what should students do? Go off and do stupid things, that’s what. Like writing a column in a list format. Journalism-wise, it would make Edward R. Murrow (one of those guys you’re supposed to have heard of, you know) roll over in his grave. Also, use parentheses and clichés. It drives my night editor crazy. (She thinks it sounds like you’re a creep whispering in her ear. Underpants.)

1. Learning is less about a thesis adviser you meet with once a week senior year. It’s the Girl Across the Hall from freshman year. It’s the guy who didn’t care if you messed up, kissed you and gave you the one thing you really wanted in the world – probably a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

2. Papers are meant to be written at 3 a.m. That’s when great thinking happens. Far too many people have attempted to write sober and on enough sleep. Those topics are trite. Truly great ideas rise with the sun, when your pants are nowhere to be found and you’re at that point in sleep deprivation where you start to hear stuff. Screw the typos; that’s the paper your professor wants to read. Just make it work.

However, staying up until 4 a.m. to write this when you have to get up in four hours for a job interview is probably less wise.

3. On the nights when a paper is not due, there is still no reason to sleep.

Freshmen, take advantage of your youth and vitality. There was once a time where a select few of us would stay up until at least 4 a.m. talking about, well, nothing in particular, only to wake up four hours later. Who knows why? Maybe it’s because the Girl Across the Hall liked your I-guess-he’s-attractive roommate. Maybe she’s into you. You didn’t ask, did you? Wuss.

Also, that guy you’re into. He might be the one with the peanut butter cup.

4. Learning, though, is about making mistakes. It’s less about understanding the means of production on one read through and more knowing about how to get a dishwasher to not overflow with foam to the point where you spend the next hour cleaning it. And you know what? It wasn’t that funny, because maybe you’ve never used a dishwasher before, and the dishwasher is stupid anyway.

What? Shut up.

5. Break something. Do it. Stuff doesn’t cost that much money. The proportion of stories that are awesome and involve stuff-breaking to those that are boring and don’t involve stuff breaking is too big to ignore. Also, don’t bother with logic. Logic is living in the past of two sentences ago and got left behind because it’s busy dealing with the “asinine statement” I just made. That guy sucks anyway. He thinks Star Wars is stupid because no one can tell him why the lightsabers only go up to a certain length.

6. Mess with people.

Hello Chelsea. Are you enjoying editing this column? I know you have the first look at it. I should warn you, though. I’ve intentionally placed two typos and an AP style error earlier in the column. Did you find them? Delete this if you dare, Chach.

7. Find your paradise. This was advice given in a senior column years ago, and it’s really just too good to not steal.

I once tried this in Canterbury, England. I took a bottle of Golden Champion British lager and went out to a park bench overlooking the city while everyone had fallen asleep. It was a stupid idea and I was kind of cold the whole time. I forced it.

Paradise finds you. For me, it’s is a stretch Escalade in Miami after leaving a club that was part of a two-night package that you were so sure was a scam but sounded so tempting. Katy Perry’s “Firework” plays in the background while you do nothing but yell nonsense and take pictures for five minutes before you get to the next club. For those five minutes, the drama that was building and would later erupt three hours later with everyone crying is irrelevant. Just enjoy the five minutes.

8. Once upon a time, I wrote about things. That time is over. I’m graduating in three weeks and I fully intend to use my favorite writing style: mindless nonsense that’s hopefully funny and has an underlying point.

9. Screw underlying. Don’t get caught up in classes and work all the time. Try to do some things you’ll probably regret, otherwise you’ll regret it.

10. Don’t be a cheapskate like me. Buy people some drinks. The first person who doesn’t work for this newspaper to text me about Item No. 10 gets a free beer. Please be over 21.

11. OK, so, the key to integrating into college is to remember that, even though you’ve never met the kids around you, they probably liked the same things you liked. So if you and your friends all loved playing Mario Kart 64, other kids probably did as well. Also, force new people to be friends with you and don’t hang out with people you went to high school with.

12. Just go with it. At no point did I expect this to be a list of advice. It’s also really long. But no, we’ve gone too far. Screw it, we’ll do it live. Run it, Ms. Night Editor.

13. Take naps when you can. Like right now. I’ll wrap this column up tomorrow.          

Nick O’Malley is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “The 4-year slap in the face”

  1. Melissa M on April 28th, 2011 11:57 am

    Nick, I really enjoyed this.

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