Saturday, January 5, 2008

On College Apps

Lethargy kills. Or at least it would kill if it were not for the fact that it can't seem to motivate itself to get the job done. It always seems to hang back, in the wings, too tired to act out its full fury. So lethargy sort of injures. Or perhaps it bruises. Or maybe it bumps. Dents? Nicks? OK: Lethargy doesn't do a damned thing because it's too damned lethargic to move!

--end metaphor--

I have been so very tired this week--partially the result of being awake until uniquely absurd hours of the night (let's just say that I'm meeting friends on Facebook who live in India and they are in the middle of the day, so something is wrong here) and partly because it's winter and I'm always tired in winter--that I have hardly had time to think about the school year and how it is progressing. I'm behind in all of my classes--despite making it a goal for the year that this would not happen--but that's pretty much an annual thing, and it's sort of like any other New Year's resolution. It's the thought that counts. I am doing lots of work for my church, and even though I know that others are doing more I feel overwhelmed at times. (But I keep saying "yes" even when I know I should be saying "no.") I'm trying to keep up with my writing on both a novel and a memoir simultaneously. I'm reading at least three books--four if you count the book on CD in the car. I don't feel comfortable that I can get everything done; I am pulled twenty different directions at once; I feel, basically, like a high school senior.

I realize that I am not alone in my overburdened state. I have mentioned it before: I realize that high school students are among the most overworked segment of society (at least if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing). It's true. Those of us who have long passed beyond the beige walls surrounding those rooms with the odd little quirky combinations of chair and desk that no one in history has ever found comfortable may have forgotten this fact, lost as we often are in our nostalgia for the good old days. We don't remember the insanity of senior year, or maybe we were fortunate enough to escape it. But in this demanding, driving world that these 17 and 18-year-olds today inhabit, believe me when I say that many of them earn their "senior slump." (Not that their exhaustion counts one iota for me; I just "get it.") And I also realize that little of that overabundance of travail is their choice; most of the assignments are imposed by others, and all of them are the result of something that is required or something that is "optional" but they'd better do it if they want those college applications to look good. Yes, there is some element in there somewhere that involves things that they do for pleasure, but even you think anyone really wants to immerse himself in soccer or football or basketball or dramas for three or four hours every single day? You don't think it would become just the teensiest bit redundant?

"I celebrate myself and sing myself"; Someone on the radio in here is reciting from Whitman's "Song of Myself." Well, what the heck: if you don't sing yourself, who will? You are the only one who really knows the hell you might be going through. Let me tell you what today's high school seniors are often going through: in an eight-period day, five classes, maybe six or seven or eight (or even, in the case of at least one extremely masochistic lunatic that I know, nine), plus extra-curriculars, often several simultaneously, plus (often) employment, plus family and church and personal commitments, plus volunteer work--necessary because colleges want "well-rounded" applicants. (Lunch? What is lunch?) And this is supposed to be the "best time of your life."

Well, I'm on record as saying that high school was definitely not the best time of my life, although there were some things I did enjoy (like playing chess in unused classrooms, eating warm bagged lunches in the small cubicle that was the school newspaper office, creating mammoth "letters of the week" with my best friend, each of us trying to outdo the unwieldiness of the other's epistle, rushing home to watch "Dark Shadows" after school or to skate on the frozen pond in the winter, leaving school with excruciating stomach cramps during sophomore year only to discover, 36 miserable hours later, that I had appendicitis--gosh, the images that come back are awfully random!). But what I'd like to go on record as saying is that I believe that anyone who truly believes that high school was the best time of his or her life either has had a pathetically miserable life or is allowing nostalgia to completely cloud reality. If high school is the "best time of your life," why do so many high school students spend so much of it walking emotional tightropes? Why do they worry so much about how everyone is going to perceive everything they wear or do or say? (I know: some of them don't. But pardon me: those who say they don't care about what others think are either mature beyond their years or kidding themselves--probably the latter.) Why worry about whether some moron with a home computer and the personality of a toad is going to plaster their alleged sexual escapades all over his myspace page? (And what is it they worry about here: that people will think these rumors are true or that they will recognize that they are false?)

We all worry about things. We worry a lot. But in high school there is simply so much more to worry about. Take college applications. Please. Though most of us--now, with the benefit of hindsight--realize that it isn't so material which college we attend, and that we most likely would have had similar successes in our lives no matter where we had gone (and, with a few top-end and a lot of low-end exceptions, that is undoubtedly true), still, when our kids get near College App time, we suddenly develop a case of Acute Educational Amnesia, and all we can think is: what is the best school my little Joey can get into? And the result is that seniors are forced, in the fall of the "best year of their lives," to fill out reams of paper and compose heaps of brilliantly written BS in order to have a chance to get into a school and make their futures look brighter (which they undoubtedly will accomplish by composing more heaps of brilliantly written BS once they are there). What do they ask on applications that they can't get simply by looking at a transcript (which they all require anyway)? And what can they expect to learn about applicants by asking the questions that they ask? All of them can be subdivided into two categories: general (please read that: "boring") and bizarre.


Why do you want to come to this college? (Gee, um, because I could find it on the map?) Tell me something about yourself that isn't on the transcript. (I lost my virginity when I was seven.) What are your career ambitions? (Well, I hadn't really thought about it; I guess I'd really enjoy cleaning out the monkey cage at the zoo.) What idea has influenced your life the most? (I think it was when they canceled "The Gilmore Girls." Do you think they might make it into a movie?) What person or persons do you admire the most? (My parents. Did you really expect me to say anything else? They are going to read this!) What is your favorite work of literature? (Do video games count? If so, then definitely "Final Fantasy 716." If not, then I guess any issue of Amazing Comics.)


If you could be any animal other than human, what would you be? (A tarantula. I love small hairy things that make women cringe.) What is the most antisocial thought you have ever had? (This is a trick question, right? I LOVE MY COUNTRY AND GOD AND MY PARENTS AND THIS UNIVERSITY AMEN.) If you could talk to any person in history, who would it be and what would you say? (What is this, "Quantum Leap"? I'd like to talk to the guy that hired you and find our what drugs he was taking.)

Of course, these questions are intended for one purpose only, and it is not to see if the prospective student can write. (If it were, why would they not standardize the question and simplify the procedure, thereby enabling the applicant to do his or her best work on it?) No, the real reason for the endless repetition and the tedium of the college application process is that the people who run admissions offices had miserable high school experiences (like most of us) and harbor an abnormal repressed hatred of all high school students. They are clearly sadists who want to make teenage lives hell. (I guess I am being a little bit facetious here: the real reason, I am certain, lies in the desire to make sure the high school senior really wants to attend their school. Why on earth else would anyone waste time this way?)

And what about the interview process? I only went to one interview, and it was enough to convince me that any college so pretentious and self-absorbed as to feel that its representatives need to see applicants for admission face to face is too pretentious and self-absorbed to provide any kind of quality of life for its student body. (What do they really get out of these things anyway? Just another opportunity to make you sweat, and a chance to see that you are not the Elephant Man.) This, of course, does not apply to optional interviews; those, I guess, are cool. At least they provide students with an excellent excuse to take a midterm vacation during senior year.

It was a good thing, as it turned out, that I detested that particular university. They "waiting-listed" me. This is the final straw: the ultimate torture device that colleges save for people they really hate. "Let's not let them into our little club, but let's not tell them for another few months. Bwa ha ha..."

Anyway, as the days wind down toward some more restful future that in all likelihood will never come, when I might finally be allowed some consort with that elusive goddess Free Time, know that I empathize completely with what all of my college seniors have gone through. And a word just for them:

Just remember, as the entire universe slips inexorably into a black hole: these are the best years of your life.

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it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • Annie Hall
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • All That Jazz
  • Citizen Kane
  • Love Actually
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Almost Famous
  • Bull Durham
  • Notting Hill
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
  • All In The Family
  • Seinfeld
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Star Trek
  • Firefly
  • Wonderfalls
  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

xkcd - A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and