I once leapt from a fighter jet, brandishing a can of spray cheese and a large machete, screaming, “I’m coming for you, Niles, you backstabbing son of a biscuit.”
No I didn’t. I just lied. In print too, no less. That first sentence was what we in the business (the non-profit college newspaper editing/columnizing/quietly-weeping-over-our-lost-youth business) refer to as a “lede.” I hit you with a little ol‘-fashioned crazy opening and then drew you into my column, where I now unleash my cogent, poignant, intellectual, stimulating, frustrating, thought-provoking, bizarre, unnecessary, overwrought, underprepared, and above all concise musings.
So now that we’ve got that out of the way in a manner both direct and engaging, I can transition smoothly toward my main points, stuff I’ve learned that might be worth writing about.
Mac and cheese.
Having completed precisely 64.08 percent (rounded up) of my total days as a Boston College undergraduate, I believe that I have developed something approaching an understanding of life at this wacky university. And if I haven’t, I’ll just pretend I have. Unearned confidence gets ’em every time.
During said time, the first of my many profound observances and discoveries was the importance of solitude. As a child in the untamed Wisconsin wilderness, I spent many a night tracking moose through the forest so that the little ones could have supper. In the freezing cold, with only my two hands, a trusty pair of boots, and a smartphone, I braved the world and came to the understanding that in solitude there is peace, and there is freedom.
Then I came here, got a forced triple, and learned that in communal living there is stank, and there is noise. In the sweaty quagmire of freshman living, I could feel my mind slowly melting like an ice sculpture that has not been properly stored inside some sort of refrigeration unit.
The library became my refrigeration unit.
Among the books, I regained solitude and wrote strange and slightly annoying columns. The silence was total, except for the interruption of some guy eating a bag of potato chips and occasionally passing gas. In this pulchritudinous cornucopia of unnecessarily fancy vocabulary, I was officially at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (just running with the ice sculpture metaphor now). For hours, I would stack books on the floor between the shelves, open each volume one by one, smell them thoroughly, sigh deeply and loudly, and roll around in the pile of literary knowledge. I have been kicked out of the library 17 times, if you were wondering.
I also learned one way to make it past the library and function as a human being in the real world: originality. In whatever you’re doing, you gotta be original. It makes the everyday interesting and tolerable. That’s why I frequently scream “Look out. The potatoes have overtaken us. All hail the mongoose,” in crowded dining halls. Super original.
This world is filled with people who walk around day after day and blend into the woodwork like the army of gigantic chameleons living in my meat-curing shack. We’re all going to die, in case you forgot, so may as well try to bleed a little originality out of your bruised and beaten soles. If you were wondering, that last line was not a typo. I am referring to the soles of your feet and not the soul of your essential being or whatever. Walking, driving, bunny-hopping, or using any preferred mode of transportation: get around and make something real of yourself before the aging, disease, and unavoidable death all really start to hit you.
That’s pretty much what I’ve tried to do, albeit in stupid and weird ways. I spend time alone to think, to despair, and to understand, and then I try to make myself, and the work I do, worthwhile, original, and decent. And with all that, I’m still pretty much a sad, little mess of a human being, but don’t worry about it.
Before I draw this column to an entertaining and memorable close, I’d like to set a final scene to illustrate one of the points I learned a little later in my time at BC.
I’m sitting in the Stokes lounge, reading Walker Percy, when I stop, put down the book, and stare at a wall.
Life is pain. Everything falls apart. “Everyone I know goes away in the end,” according to Johnny Cash, quoting Trent Reznor.
But then I hear my name, and I look up to see someone walking toward me:
“Hey, how are you?”
“All right. Totally not thinking about futility and cancer and pain. How about you?”
The conversation continues as many conversations do, until this person leaves. Everything is a little better now. So the final point: Not Solitude. Sometimes to stay sane, you have to leave the solitude, paddle your canoe to shore, drive on down to the general store, and talk to Dale about the weather while he wraps your sandwich. It keeps the wheels turning, and by wheels I mean … I don’t know, some internal mind thing, you get it. People might be horrible, but they can also be not horrible, which is nice.
And as for the mac and cheese point that I promised above, which may in fact be the greatest lesson I have learned at BC:
Mac and cheese tastes good when you eat it. That’s all. Until next time.
Featured Image by Meg Dolan and Zoe Fanning / Graphics Editors