Monday, January 4, 2010 2 Comments
Originally published May 26, 2009.
When I was young, I didn’t spend time thinking about college. I didn’t wonder what it would be like or what I would do there. Like many children of middle-class suburban families, I just knew that college happened after high school. College was a given, an expectation.
But once I got to college, I reflected more on the past. The influence of college only works in reverse, and now, as I creep nearer to the finish line, I can say one thing for sure: childhood didn’t mess up college for me, but college ruined my childhood.
Oh, sure; it started with small things. When the holidays rolled around, I watched the Rankin/Bass stop-motion version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer I had always loved. But thanks to college, criticism marred my viewing experience—why did only reindeer boys get to play reindeer games? Wasn’t Santa an equal-opportunity employer for his sleigh team? Why didn’t People for the Ethical Treatment of Bumbles step in before Yukon Cornelius pulled all the Abominable Snowman’s teeth?
Then college encroached on the childhood pastime nearest and dearest to my heart. I loved reading and read for leisure all the time. Even though I started critically analyzing books in high school, I managed to resist sacrificing my enjoyment of reading to literary theory because at that age, you’re still allowed to dislike books for trivial reasons. Gatsby? Too melodramatic—hated it. Frankenstein? Too monotonous—hated it. Scarlet Letter? Really, really hated it, plus it was so easy to tell from the beginning that Arthur Dimmesdale knocked up Hester Prynne that I proceeded to write “IT WAS HIM” in my book next to every mention of the good minister.
And at the end of the day, I went home and read David Eddings or Neil Stephenson and relegated the deeply boring English class material to the back of my mind for the day of the AP exam. In college, I was certain everyone read William Gibson’s Neuromancer for a class.
Because I imagined childhood spilled right into college, I thought majoring in English was a great idea. Majoring in reading books? Great! Sign me up! Study the things you love already, right?
Or so I thought, even as my leisure reading time dwindled away. I read so much during the academic year that summer reading became more of a chore than a respite. I quit reading sci-fi entirely and replaced it with Virginia Woolf, Salman Rushdie, and (gulp!) James Joyce. Before I could think better of it, I began to highlight and mark my own books. I started to like Whitman.
I thought about essays I could write in my spare time about Frankenstein, which I still hated but had to admit contained a lot of analyzable content.
So, this summer, I decided to put an end to the madness. I marched into my room two days after finals and resolved to turn off my brain. Give me trashy sci-fi or give me death! I refuse to analyze anything!
One week later, I’ve managed to successfully ignore any possible semblance of social commentary or literary theory in Ender’s Game.
Instead, thanks to my second major, I keep complaining about Orson Scott Card’s writing style in all my conversations.
Chelsea is a senior in LAS.