I Think I Want to Waste My Senior Year

In 24 hours, my college town will double in size. Every year close to 30,000 people come out for a Halloween block party. 30,000 twenty-somethings take over the main drag of Athens. The city shuts the street down. People wander in and out of the dozen bars on the street and bands are booked for different alleyways. It’s a great time.

Except last year, there were 50 arrests.

The year before that, there were 78 arrests.

I don’t think anyone comes here expecting to get arrested. Probably, the vast majority of these people are good kids in the wrong place.

But, I have an issue. We have created a world in which the end all of “blowing off steam” is participating in a party that is rife with illegal activity.


In 24 hours, religious zealots will descend on my liberal college town to stand in the middle of a block party to hold signs reminding people of hell. They will tell the costumed college students that fornication and drunkenness end in death.

I don’t think these zealots are hateful people. I just don’t think they’ve ever interacted honestly with a costumed college student.

And many costumed college students will come to the conclusion that God has nothing to offer them but death and punishment.

And all of this sucks.


Fifty miles away, in the heart of rural southeastern Ohio, is a 10th grader working on his homework. He is in a special education program. He loves to read. In fact, he has read the book his class is currently reading four times already. When asked about the book, he gets excited and can talk about it for near half an hour. Most of that half hour is summary, but it’s the most detailed summary you have ever heard.

On Monday, he will go to a school where teachers will applaud him for that rambling summary, believing that to be the precipice of his academic achievement. Meanwhile, the “normal” 10th graders will be asked to analyze symbolism and figurative language in poetry. None of this higher level thinking will ever be asked of our student in the special education classroom even though he obviously has the capacity to connect to a text in a profound way (since he has read a book four times).


A costumed college student at the OU Halloween party will be arrested. She will call her parents in the morning. After the initial shock and anger of their daughter being arrested, conversations will happen about why she engaged in the behavior that led to the arrest. She will site stress or peer pressure.

She might go to therapy for a while. When she is finally able to see herself as a “good kid” again, she will leave therapy. She will go back to hanging out with her old group of friends. She won’t get arrested again. But her grades will suffer. No more Bs; Cs and Ds now. She will graduate, won’t be able to find a job, and will move back in with her parents.

She will spend months, years complaining about information overload or “how busy she is.”


I am tired of having to hear about the costumed college student while the book-loving 10th grader is struggling.

My generation is wasting our time. We are wasting our time with “inspirational” blog posts and with quotes with cool pictures on Tumblr and with inventing things to complain about. There is plenty to complain about. When drunk drivers kill innocent people, for instance. Or when bullying and “slut”-shaming leads to suicide.

Or when half the country isn’t getting a quality education.

Or when your country uses drones to kill people from other countries.

Or when 20% of women report being sexually assaulted at some point.

But, instead, my privileged middle class peers and I choose to spend our time talking about how Facebook poking is cramping our dating game. Or how corrupt and evil everything is except our three closest friends. Or “blowing off steam.”

I have been told more times than I can count that I need to enjoy my senior year. Why? Why is that so important? I appreciate the sentiment, but with all due respect, I am only here because I had the privilege of growing up in a family that valued education and because I went to a public school that expected I end up here and because I am hardly paying a dime for my schooling.

And what is this enjoyment anyway? Does it really require that I go to a block party that was invented so that my peers could perform illegal activities without consequences? Does it require that I go to a small bar with my close friends and toss back a cold one?

Or can I, like, fix things? Would that be okay? Like, if I took all of that energy I put into trying to figure out how to make myself happy and spent it on figuring out how to save lives? Or would that be a waste of my senior year?

The Goal is Sustainable

I was chatting with a friend about goals and their helpfulness. Mostly because of a post from ZenHabits this week. The post basically said that life without goals can lead to a life full of content. It was a good post, but I have a major complaint with it: I don’t think it is sustainable.

Being happy and stress-free is great! I like truly lazy Sundays as much as the next person – you know, the ones where you actually have nothing to do. But there is also a way that being under stress excites me and meeting goals energizes me that is even better than feeling laid-back.

And the thing is that stress helps us survive. Not, of course, the stress that puts rocks in your stomach and makes you yell at people like you are like Alec Baldwin being told to turn off your Words with Friends game, but the stress that motivates you to get out of bed each day to find something to eat and then go to the bathroom and then find a sexual partner. Goals help us manage that stress.

And goals might be something you can get rid of if your one dream is to write a book. After all, who really cares when your book gets finished? But how many of us would want President Obama to give up goals? I want my leaders to have articulated initiatives. It is true that not all of us will be president, but many of us will be parents, leaders, CEOs, teachers, or managers. How can you lead others when they don’t know what you expect of them? I don’t think you can. And goals are the way we communicate expectations and hopes and dreams to others.

The Interesting Business of College

Being a college student is interesting business. On the one hand, we are told repeatedly that this is the time when we get to start living – we have the freedom and the ability to really do what we want. On the other hand, there is an understood rule that we will be responsible, get our degrees, go on to occupy “meaningful” jobs and be productive members of society.

The great absurdity of life, as my friend once said, is that we don’t spend every second of every day doing something we love. Because, he argued, who, if not ourselves, are we trying to make happy? And if there is anytime at all to be happy, isn’t it during our life?

These are important questions to think about. The problem is that happiness is such a hard concept to pin down. Is someone who plays video games all day because that’s what she wants to do really happier than someone who goes to class because she has a responsibility to do so? I don’t think so.

Yes, we should be chasing things we are passionate about all day erryday, but we also shouldn’t let immediate gratification blind us to the fact that some of the things we want we are going to have to wait for.

What do you wish you were doing?