Law and disorder, a remix

‘Bout a month ago, Guy wrote “Law and Disorder“. Guy (I feel weird talking about him like he’s not going to see this) wrote of his anxieties about leaving his home and attempting to not be a failure at life (for varying definitions of “failure”, of course).

I’ve been running this over in my head ever since reading it. This is the remix; my mix of his post and my perspective. I’m borrowing his writing style where I can (I’m not as effective a writer as he is).

The most jarring (to me) were his statements:

And that is what I have to do, survive. You always have to worry now when you grow up. But I don’t feel like anything like an adult, just an awkward teenager in a 21 year old’s body. There’s no God coming to save me, no deus ex machina ending. All I have is my own meager powers, and I can’t fail. If I do I’m nothing. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it can acquire some really good substitutes. And power is the only thing that’ll make me appealing to women anyway, if anything does.

[…]But there is a long road ahead; I just hope I’m not too burned out to walk it.

That’s my own personal revelation, the most important thing I ever learned in college: This is all there is to my life.

I’m feeling stuck in much of the same way, and yet very differently.

… I don’t think that was coherent at all. Let’s try that again. I was raised to believe that all I have are “my own meager powers”, even when my family practiced Christianity and believed openly in god. The kind of drive (by fear) Guy described is what got me through high school and the IB program. My college choice would define my life; people care about what college you go to, after all. That’s what stays on your resume when high school is left far behind. If I didn’t make the most of myself during high school, those same service-jobs Guy fears would be waiting for me, and my father would be very notably unsympathetic to my plight. Picking a future in college was easy: which offered me the most money and the best climate? Rose or WPI? Fine. Here I am.

Now I am here again. The things I do in the next few weeks will make or break my future once again. Admittedly, I have better prospects in industry than Guy, probably, but that doesn’t change the fact that what I choose in the next couple of months will decide the direction of my life for the next few years.

If I fail, I am nothing.

I will have made no useful contribution to society. My $160,000 education will be worthless, because I made nothing of it. I will not be doing something that makes me happy or evokes passion; I’ll be slinging code for some shitty small company with a distorted sense of priorities and a failure to note that their employees are human. I will not be using my powers to improve the world in a real way.

The fear of slipping into doldrums drives me forward. I care little for money (although making ends meet is very nice) or making a name for myself. Every time I closed my browser containing a grad school or Teach for America application without all essays written or questions answered, there’s a voice in my head saying, “You’ll become nothing, worthless…” Then I logged back in and struggled with applications again.

I don’t know that everyone realizes how miserable college can be if you are actually seeking to find a way to be of service with what you learn. I think the nadir of my college existence was when my SO asked if I was going to try to request a teaching position in a city where he might be applying to grad school. There he was, waiting for me, his own decisions unmade and our life paths diverging. I sat with my mouth open for moment, then said, “I’ll… do my best.”

Yeah, the best time of my life will surely be commencement. Oh, the parties I won’t attend! I toss and turn at night, afraid I’m making the wrong relationship vs. career choice, afraid I’m too burned out for a full Ph.D. program, all the while burning myself out with exhaustion and anxiety and steadily pulling worse grades. Pass those muscle relaxants this way, Guy. Care and share, dude, please.

I’m enough of an optimist to have a hard time settling the question of whether college is or is not all there is to my life. I don’t plan to stop learning. I don’t plan to lock myself into a life plan once I leave; I know I can go back to school and get other degrees in the future if/when my interests change. One of the smartest men I knew in high school had done just that throughout his life. Of course, he ended up an alcoholic busted for a DUI right off campus, I think, so I’m not trying to be like him in every way.

But, you know, there are good elements to his story.

Guy hasn’t been writing a lot of humor on his site. I haven’t been opening up much here. I’m fighting with my passions and my romantic relationship and my SO and my body and my mind. All of it, in filthy, unmanageable, disorder.

Edited 12/22/2006 to clarify intent and swap up a bit of word choice.


  • Andrea

    Whoa…that’s all I can say after reading this. I feel where you’re coming from and I’m terrified…especially with the new things in my life. I’d give advice if I had advice but since I’m in a similar boat as you I think I’m just gonna leave it as whoa.

  • Lissa

    Seems like we’re saying “I’d give advice if I had advice” a lot to each other lately, Dre. 😛

  • Guy

    Glad to know my writing resonated with you. I feel that there are people worrying about the same problems as us, but oddly enough it doesn’t provide as much comfort as you’d think.

    Sadly I’m not up in good old Rose, otherwise I’d be more than happy to give you a few delightful Somas.