Across the country millions of college kids are plagued by a dizzying array of questions that run through our minds on an infinite loop. What am I going to do when I get out of here? We ask ourselves. How the hell am I going to make enough money to buy a house, buy food, pay the bills, support a family? How the hell am I going to do that?
Shifting our attention to something less dreary and depressing is often necessary. The rampant uncertainty of a college student is saddening, not because of the specifics of it, but because of the meaning of it all. When the invisible umbilical chord is severed and we're kicked out into the real world, we know what's waiting for us. We see it in our parents and their lives. Nine o'clock bedtimes and monotonous days so routine that robots are more likely to do something surprising, in addition to constant financial worries that require long nails just to get through the day.
College is seen, on the surface, as a means of securing a prosperous financial future, but subconsciously, it has become nothing more than continued procrastination to keep us from having to become our parents—to stop being young adults and start becoming old ones. College shouldn't be about money or hiding from the real world, but instead, college should be a place that is a constant stimulant for the natural curiosity in all of us. It should be a place where we build on our passions and interests by learning more about them. Yet too many students simply focus on the grade, the degree, the end. Cram. Regurgitate. Pass Test. Move On. We have been led to believe that all one needs is a college degree to escape the financial hardships of adult life, but the closer one gets to their final semester, the more they realize they were duped. A college degree isn't the winning lottery ticket we once believed it to be and that is the sad irony of the modern college student.
Irony is a word often misused by college students, which is "ironic," but irony might be the essence of college and perhaps all human existence. We come to prepare for careers, which should help us be the consumers the system needs us to be, but what we get is a bundle of debt that prepares us to be the person the system creates: a person so consumed by the fears that one day they won't be able to afford the comfort they spent their lives striving for, forced to stand on line with a bunch of other unfortunates looking for a government bailout.
Wall Street was first, but the rest of us are next. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. The first Depression is evidence of this as FDR said the "stark unreasoning terror" many felt was responsible for the severity of the Great Depression. Many economists now affirm this assumption, stating that peoples' fears of a depression caused them to halt their spending, accelerating the financial collapse. Whenever people are told hard times are coming we panic, only making matters worse. Rather than letting the hard times come and dealing with them accordingly, we go to them; it's a strange defense mechanism. When the shit hits the fan we run the other way instead of turning the fan off. We allow the fecal matter to cover the room rather than a small corner of it.
It's one aspect of human nature (among many) that I'll never quite understand. This driving force that propels us towards total catastrophe. Take the jihadists for example. They believe the world began in the Middle East and that it will end there, yet their goal is to free their people and remove all infidels from their land. However, when we look at their actions we see that the total annihilation of the Middle East is more of a possibility than the goal they say they want to achieve.
All people, even dirty terrorists, suffer from this odd quirk to claim to want one thing, but privately justify behavior that leads to the exact opposite outcome. Is our judgment and rationale so bad that we can't drum up effective methods for achieving what we want? Or do we simply claim to want one thing because that's what we think we should want?
Let's examine the American Dream as it relates to the modern era. The original concept of the American Dream is hard work gets rewarded, but when we go beneath the surface, we see the American Dream has always been about acquiring wealth. Now we all have heard that money doesn't bring happiness, and how could it? They're just little pieces of paper. Ah, but money lets you buy things, and things make people happy, right? Well, not necessarily. Material items allow us to temporarily experience the one thing we are really after, which can't be bought in a store or online. That special, non-material thing is comfort. Comfort is really what we want. Wealth is a decoy just like the notion of a college degree. The assumptions we have for both are misleading. We think they will lead to comfort, but as we all know, the pursuit of wealth or a degree does not bring comfort to one's life. Comfort comes from within, but somehow our thought process got jumbled up and the natural yearning for a peaceful and carefree life has been replaced by the 9-5 grind that awaits us after college. After all, we have loans to pay and kicking it worry free doesn't exactly generate the income needed.
But I have a solution, and it is inspired by a man named George Constanza. On one episode of Seinfeld George realized he was being led further into misery by his thought process, so he decided to do the opposite of whatever he thought was the correct thing to do. Let's follow this great fictional man and do the opposite of what we think we should do. For the terrorists, let's just stop pursuing them. Rather than demonize Arabs and Muslims, constantly associating them with terrorism, let's make them hip and trendy. Let's take our troops out of their holy land, and bring them back home to ours. Let's not bailout corporations, but instead, give all the money to the citizens. Let's not continue to arrest people for drugs. Let's not view college as the pursuit of a degree and wealth, but instead, let's be enthusiastic about the content of our classes and actually retain some of that pricey information that we swallow and regurgitate just to pass tests. Let's stop being bulimic learners and allow those tasty morsels of knowledge to go to our hips—or more accurately, our brains.
All crazy ideas I know, but they might actually work. I mean, if we constantly act in ways that we feel will yield the best results, yet never do, then clearly doing the opposite should work in our favor. Ah, but there is a problem with this solution—and it has nothing to do with the fact that it is inspired by a fictional person from TV land. The moment we start to believe that doing the opposite is the best way to go about handling situations we then must do the opposite of that, which is why this will never work. But wait! If I can reach the conclusion that doing the opposite will never work then that means it is possible, right? The infinite loop strikes again! All this doubt, all this uncertainty. I'm going to smoke my pipe and have a beer. But should I?