Thursday, September 8, 2011

What September 8th Means To Me: Ugh, College.

Not surprisingly, these first few days of September still remind me of the start of the school year, but today I'm specifically reminded of the wake-up call otherwise known as college.  College, for most, is the first taste of freedom and some sort of responsibility, but college, for me, also served as a reminder of my place in the hierarchy of the intelligent...or, you know,  the realization that I was the jester's understudy.

You see, I went to Reed College. For those who don't know, Reed College isn't only a left-leaning small liberal arts school nestled in southeast Portland, it's also the most highly concentrated area for intellectual snobbery in the entire nation (unofficially).  Every freshman at Reed is required to take a humanities course featuring ancient Greek and Roman literature, and it was in this very class that I met some amazing people who helped me confirm my cellar dweller status: my good friend Jenny who, without a doubt, is the most interesting person I know (she could give the Dos Equis guy a run for his money), my friend Nico (who was so smart that his comments and observations were generally followed by that reverent silence and head nod reserved for the truly insightful), among others. But it was also the class that quickly made me realize this sad fact:

I was, without a doubt, the dumbest person at Reed College.


OK, perhaps that was unnecessary, but at least I was unique?  Yes, yes, I know, Mom, I'm not stupid, it's all relative and, you're right, I was probably the only person in my freshman class that knew what body part Kelly Taylor was shot in during the season premiere of 90210 that year. I suppose that's worth something. Anyway, I'll never forget the day I officially realized I should probably ride the short bus to class:

That particular day, the humanities class was discussing the meaning and importance of artwork emblazoned on Greek pottery.  Now, this artwork didn't feature actual pictures of humans, cities, animals or anything like that, no, they were mostly random squiggles and circles similar to designs you might see in the bargain bin at Walmart.  The entire class was dissecting the meaning of each brushstroke, each squiggle and relating it, somehow, back to Ancient Greek culture. It all seemed like a lot of bullshit to me, so when finally asked my opinion, I responded with this genius statement:

"I dunno, maybe they just thought it looked nice."

And I suddenly felt like the guy who asked for the jelly in that Polaner All Fruit commercial:

And see the woman at the end there?  The one who almost faints?  My classmate Lily had pretty much the same exact reaction.  I'd make fun of Lily, but I'm sure she's actually doing something pretty cool with her life right now, while I'm blogging and comparing myself to a kid with down syndrome who won a race at the Special Olympics.  So, really, I guess she wins, the kid wins, I lose (and if there is a hell, I'm going to it).  Nevertheless, Lily didn't need to announce to our Spanish class that I was a moron later that day. "You weren't just wrong, you were so wrong, so unbelievably wrong, I think I've seen gorillas who fling shit at the zoo who are smarter than you," I believed she exclaimed.  Well, I'm paraphrasing the last part, but the first part is verbatim.  But hey, I'd have bet 5 bucks that I could have wrecked her in a Saved By The Bell trivia contest!  And, well, I'd bet 10 bucks she wouldn't have given a shit about that. 

Hey Lily,

I'm not ashamed

Anyway, much of the next four years, more or less, mirrored that moment.  I somehow graduated from that place, much to the chagrin of that professor who recommended I fail out of the English program because I couldn't interpret poetry for the life of me.  (Oh, this poem was about a woman menstruating?  Hmm, are you sure it wasn't about boiling potatoes? Really, are you sure because I coulda...a metaphor?  What's a metaphor?)

So, yeah, I suppose this entire post is dedicated to those who suggest I go to grad school.  I wonder if you'll think twice next time the thought crosses your mind.


  1. Oh my God. This is so funny I almost cried. The really awful part? I'm fairly sure that almost everyone at Reed had exactly this feeling (well, minus the Saved by the Bell). I sure as hell did.

  2. I want the online Alumni magazine to link to this right away.

  3. You are not the dumbest person at reed by a wide margin. You just had different interests.

    I've heard Reed described as: "You know that weird goofy smart kid of your high school? Reed is the college that that kid went to. That kid from EVERY high school." I think that's accurate, and I think that some high schools were weirder and thus that weird kid had to be really weird (i.e. heroin lin). Others were not that weird (files). You did not hate all popular things and thus came in that latter category. But whatever, I like malls and saved by the bell too.

    I agree with Grace though--I think most people felt that way. I had a Spanish Surrealist Literature class freshman year with all senior Spanish majors or native speakers. I had NO IDEA what was going on. I applied to other colleges and strongly considered transferring.

    And that's the best compliment I've ever received. Especially from you! Thanks!

  4. Oh my God, I remember taking that Russian Lit class my first year and listening to this conversation going on around me about East Versus West, which I clearly was supposed to understand, and just sitting their wondering if perhaps I should have taken that well-meaning advice about community college.

  5. ha! my Lit Theory class may as well have been taught in Mandarin. I do feel though, with my thesis, I expertly manipulated the faculty by concentrating on a pop culture subject and injecting some sort of academic thought into it. So, on its surface, it seemed worthy..but really i was just writing about teen movies.

  6. Three words for you guys...STUDIO ART MAJOR. Do I win?

  7. Depends! Whats the contest? :)

  8. also, i would point out grad school was exceedingly easy to every reedie i know compared to reed. i mostly drank and read genre fiction.