Saturday, June 05, 2004

Nerdus P. Jerkwad and the Literature of the Young Adult

The last Artful Dodger of the year.
The Lonely Trek to Super Seniordom

It's June. This year - my senior year of college - is nearly done, yet I keep thinking about books I read in grade school. You know the kind. You'd order them from those tissue-thin pamphlets, and after six to eight weeks, you get these teacher-recommended books emblazoned with silver or golden circles. The Newbury Medal. The Caldecott Medal. The Nerdus P. Jerkwad Award for Children's Literature.

Two books in particular keep popping up in my head: Island of the
Blue Dolphins and Hatchet. The former was about a girl who is marooned on an island; the latter was about a kid stranded somewhere in the Canadian wilderness. I haven't thought about these books in years. It's not nostalgia, though. It's trauma-induced regression. It's not even my zest for reading, as academia has effectively quashed that.

It's empathy.

You see, although this is my fourth year of college, I'm not graduating. I'm actually transitioning to my fifth year, during which I get that loaded title of "super senior." I hate having to explain it.

"So what day are you walking?"

"Um, I'm not walking."

"Oh, you're blowing off the whole ceremony thing? I totally get that."

"No. See, I'm not graduating. Not for a whole year. I'm doing a fifth year."

Instantly, whomever I'm talking to tries to decide which of the two principal reasons to take a fifth year - overachievement or underachievement - has prompted my decision. I have to jump in.

"I'm doing a second minor."

The other person nods, having understood that I'm the academic dork kind of super senior, not the fuck-up kind.

But being a slave to academia is the least of my worries. By hanging around UCSB for another year, I'm losing most of my friends to the working world, where they'll struggle to perform in the professional capacity for which college has trained them. I don't envy the stress of the postgraduate job search, but I'm just now realizing that college minus friends might pose certain challenges as well.

As melodramatic as it might sound, I feel like that girl from Island of the Blue Dolphins, watching the ship carrying her family sail away. I feel like the kid in Hatchet, stuck in crappy Canada, away from the people most important to me. Mass emigration is tearing up a social circle that I've been meticulously arranging for the past four years.

Thankfully, enough of my peers are also trudging toward super seniority that next year won't be a total wash. I'll have folks - both fuck-up and studybug types - with whom I can commiserate and bemoan the difference between "the way things used to be" and how they'll be next year. And I guess I could lower myself and hang out with underclassmen, who, for all I know, might be cool. And even if that fails, the time I would have spent socializing I can now invest in new hobbies, like macrame, game hunting or re-reading books I liked when I was a kid.

Seriously, on behalf of the rest of the super seniors-to-be, I can say we'll probably be fine. But we won't watch you guys wear those goofy graduation hats without a slight twinge of jealousy. It's been a great four years, and I largely have you guys to thank. Goodbye, good luck and, if you ever want to relive old times, you know where to find me.

Former
Daily Nexus opinion editor Drew unsuccessfully tried to work Bruce Coville's My Teacher Is an Alien into this column.
Props to Mark Batalla for making me look like a stud in the art. A stud who wears cut-offs, sure, but a stud nonetheless.

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