I’ve long held a set of narratives, stories that I tell. I sometimes feel bad about using specific ones, and have admitted previously to the fraud that I am. It’s by lies of omission or using a selective narrative, always honest. Here are all the major narratives that I tell regarding college.
I’ve been out of school for 4 years now, and the question that often comes up is what happened. This here is where the story starts. Depending on who it is that I am speaking, and other context. There are several reasons, each with their own story to detail. I could discuss all of them, but it’s often in idle banter, so it would be overkill. In the end, I normally resort to only one or two.
The most common story is that my back went out the night before finals. While it’s the truth, and it’s the simplest to discuss, I don’t prefer it. I don’t like it because it generates sympathy, which is nice, but it always makes me feel like I’m lying.
Another story, that is common is that I decided the system is broken. This one obviously isn’t simple to explain, but I can just spit out a line or two about the system, as almost everyone agrees it’s broken. This is also the honest truth, I had saw the precursors of the 2008 financial collapse and wanted to get a job as soon as possible to shelter myself and family.
The reason I wanted to help my family is the 3rd story, that I rarely discuss. I’ve mentioned it only once or twice. My mom had quit her job so that she could help in taking care of my great-grandparents, and after their passing at the beginning of 2006, had struggled to find another position for 2 years. This weighed on my mind heavily, and is partially the reason I had such a negative reaction to the ridiculousness of the academic system.
Another story is that I had a hard time adapting, because I was tossed into the deep end, even after trying to explain this would be negative. During course registration, they placed me in Calculus, and I had asked for remediation in Trig, as I had 0 experience with Trigonometric identities after being fucked around with in high school. Upon my asking, I was told that my standardized test scores in mathematics were too high for me to be placed in remediation. Of course, that wasn’t their last blunder, they stuck me in a general Calculus program, that moved more slowly than that of my college and with a professor outside of my college. So any discussions I had with my academic adviser resulted in confusion.
All the while I was dealing with a rather inept teacher, in a course without recitation and lacking the same pace as the engineering program. My first 4 weeks I spent 60+ hours a week trying to brute force my way through that one course. The last time I went to a scheduled course, was during the second semester, when I asked a Trig question to the professor of the remedial Calculus teacher and he responded, “You don’t know Trig, then why are you here?” I don’t blame him, and explained the registration situation, but didn’t like being attacked for something I knew was wrong but couldn’t get changed. I still respect him, and he was one of the best professors I had while in school. After that interaction I stopped attending my courses. I started dropping in freely to other courses that seemed more interesting or that my friends were attending so that we had something else to discuss outside our general topics.
Lastly, and another one that I rarely mention, definitely not outside of family and friends. I partied a bit too much to try and help cope with all the other stress I was dealing with. It helped me feel better, but it didn’t help in the long run, there was at least a few times where I was too hungover at exams in the middle of the week. There are plenty of individual stories I have that I could share, but in general this is it.
While each story is true, they also each evoke different responses. Some result in sympathy, others questions, and some with just a shrug and now you know better. It’s up to you to choose. Ultimately, I’m responsible for every choice I made, but not all of them were by choice or even mine.
Every event has more than one perspective, and sometimes an individual has more than one thread that they can weave their cloth. The narrative of our fate is presented in whatever way that we choose to narrate it. Stories abound, but it’s up to you to choose which you want to tell.