I am an alumni interviewer, which means that I interview local high school seniors who want to go to my college. As I settle more into my career and college becomes more distant, I’ve found it easier to find the positive aspects of my undergraduate experience to share with students when they ask. The truth is that I was quite unhappy in college a lot of the time, and the redemptive parts of my four years there were very hard to see when I was in the middle of all of it.
One of the redeeming aspects of college was the professors who challenged me and recognized value in me when I struggled to find it in myself. One of my favorite professors, and one of the smartest people I have ever met, told me that I was a fine writer, and that I knew how to think. Both of these qualities, he said, were pretty rare. When I miss college, and I do, I mostly miss sitting in classes with people like that, who taught me how to think and write, and who became standards for the kind of thinker and writer I wanted to be.
I’m sure this is true for a lot of people who were good at school and are now out in the real world, but I miss being taught. I miss seminars and lectures where I am the one who can sit there instead of the one teaching, and I miss the feeling of working really hard to understand something.
I also recognize that there is a time and a season for everything, and graduate school is not something I am pursuing right now. Instead, I will teach students who believe that history exists as a subject to serve them or deliver cheap moral lessons, and I will work hard to be the kind of teacher that I needed when I was in school.
Hindsight, I defined for a half dozen middle schoolers yesterday, is understanding an event only after it happens. It’s looking behind you, a new way of seeing.
In hindsight, college was much more beautiful than I had thought.
O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.
O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says
we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis
e.e. cummings, “since feeling is first”
There are times when poetry is better for the soul than prose.
So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one’s days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends.
History is what is written and can be found; what isn’t saved is lost, sunken and rotten, eaten by earth.
Does anyone suppose that private prayer is necessarily candid - necessarily goes to the root of actions? Private prayer is inaudible speech, and speech is representative: who can represent himself just as he is, even in his own reflections?
If youth is the season of hope, it is often so only in the sense that our elders are hopeful about us; for no age is so apt as youth to think its emotions, partings, and resolves are the last of their kind. Each crisis seems final, simply because it is new. We are told that the oldest inhabitants in Peru do not cease to be agitated by the earthquakes, but they probably see beyond each shock, and reflect that there are plenty more to come.
You have to find college football; it’s probably not going to find you. But, oh, when you find it, it’s all over for you.