Monday, August 22, 2011

Wear Sunscreen, Etcetera Etcetera.

This is my welcome letter/advice to this year's incoming freshmen. It'll be showing up the freshmen issue of The New Hampshire on Friday. I promise I'll get back to real blogging soon, shit's been crazy.

Welcome to UNH. I’m sometimes envious of you—my classmates and I are staring down the barrel of a job market that’s so spectacularly bad for new college grads it would be almost funny if we didn’t have to graduate into it in a matter of months. By the time you graduate, maybe things will be better, or maybe we’ll all be scrambling to learn Chinese. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m not really envious of you. Because I’ve learned a lot since I first lay in the top bunk in a sweltering room in Stoke during freshman orientation, unable to fall asleep because I was so excited to begin, to start what you’re starting this week, this big adventure called college. Here’s what I’ve learned since then.

Work hard, but don’t work too hard. Take a late-night walk in the snow, have long talks, hang out with friends at HoCo until it’s time for the next meal, lie on Thompson Hall lawn in the springtime…take time to notice that this is a nice place. Don’t miss it because you’re holed up in the library.

This seems like a big place to you now, but it will start to feel small. Explore everything—internships, study abroad, alternative spring break. Durham will always be here, and it’s a big world out there. And you’ll appreciate our sleepy little town even more if you’ve been away.

The people who are worth your romantic attention aren’t the ones texting you at 1 a.m. asking you to come over and “watch a movie.” Know what you want, know what you deserve, and stick to your guns. And, when you inevitably ignore that hard-won little chestnut from a wizened senior, just remember that every person you date/hook up with/have a weird undefined thing with is part of your story and part of the hopefully functional adult you’re going to become. Don’t disavow that. It’s college. We’ve all been there. (Just use a condom).

Fight for your friends. From this year onward, and progressively for the rest of your life, your friends are going to be increasingly scattered across the country and the world. The friends who were two doors down last semester might be in Kenya or London or New Zealand next semester. Your friends from home may not come back for the summer—they might take on internships in California or summer classes in Cambridge. Make the effort to hang onto the people you care about. It’s worth it.

Finally, don’t get locked into a five-year plan or fixated on a dream career. The jobs I’m looking at now are in fields I didn’t even know existed when I was a freshman. Things happen. You learn new things—about yourself and about the world—and you change your mind. That’s okay (and you’re not even remotely alone). Whatever you think you want now might not make you half as happy as something you haven’t even discovered yet. Yes, have goals—just stay awake to the rest of the world, too. And don't take it too seriously. You're gonna be great.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tea Partied Out

"We live, too, in the age of the Tea Party, a movement that cherishes stupidity and zealotry and hates thinking, reading, and teaching." -Harold Bloom, Harper's Sept. 2011

I haven't written a ton about politics lately, primarily (heh) because I'd rather let somebody cut off my fingertips with a bagel knife than listen to a lot of these wackjobs. Also, I'm still kind of traumatized by the last New Hampshire primary, in which I was unfortunate enough to throw my hat in the ring of the guy who was schtupping his videographer while his wife had cancer. Like, he was in my living room. My hat was fully in that particular, philandering ring. Anyway.

I felt like I have something I want to say about Michele Bachman and Rick Perry (and Mike Huckabee, I heard a murmur?!) but I wasn't quite sure what it was until today. I realized that the thing that drives me so entirely up the wall about these people (and the Tea Party in general) is that they are such absolutists. I'm not somebody who has a lot of Philosophies, but one thing I really do believe is that you shouldn't listen to anyone who thinks that their particular discipline can explain everything. Religion is not the answer to everything, but neither is science. Neither is meditation or Jungian analysis or psychotropic drugs. All of these things can fall into place and work for particular people at a given time in their lives, some more than others, but they're all just part of a bigger picture.

Today I was driving behind a car whose license plate said "SAVED." And it's just like, really? You're that sure? You want to carve that in state-issued aluminum? Now, I'm not knocking faith. But I cannot stand when people are so smugly self assured that their way--whether it's Christianity or libertarianism or veganism or chiropractic--is the only right way. Seriously, just don't trust anyone who tells you that something that can fit in a pamphlet is going to fix your whole life. (And I'm pretty sure Michele Bachman's version of Christianity can fit in a pamphlet). Life in general is a business that requires both diet and exercise, hard work and luck, psychotherapy and booze. It's not a single-sum game, ever.

Perry, Bachman, Santorum et al. think that their way is the right way, and everyone else is going to hell. Time was, in America, if you wanted to be president you tried to distance yourself from crazy, irrational people. Instead crazy and irrational has become a political base. Frankly I'm pretty scared--especially of Perry, because he's apparently in first place and whips people up into the kind of froth where they stand up and applaud the fact that he executed like 230 people while he was governor. Because Jesus is definitely pro-electric chair.

I have to go bang my head against a wall, I'll catch you guys later.

five hour energy for primary season=liquor and West Wing reruns