Higher education

I don’t know anything about stars, about astronomy. When I was a freshman in college, I remember hearing about an intro to astronomy. I like outer space. It sounded really cool, something that I thought I wanted to look into, but I remember mentioning it to one of my friends, he was like, “No way man. I heard that you have to get up really early so you can look at the stars while it’s still dark out, and there are a lot of mandatory field trips. Don’t do it, I heard the professor’s a really tough grader.”

And that was all it really took to discourage me. My first semester had been planned out for me by the school, so I didn’t have any say in the matter, a couple of eight-thirty classes, the rest at nine-thirty or ten. I look at my life now and I realize that making it to class in the morning shouldn’t have been the challenge that I made it out to be. But I had a lot of trouble, going to bed at night, forcibly removing myself from where all of my friends were hanging out, watching movies, playing video games. That first year, sometimes we would pull all nighters, but not even thinking about school work at all. We’d just stay up and shoot the shit and all of the sudden it would be morning.

So I didn’t take astronomy. Second semester, I made sure that, regardless of any other variables, I just needed to make sure that my classes were as late in the day as possible, noon, five, I think I even wound up signing up for some at like eight or nine. And what kind of stuff would I be studying so much later in the day? Who knows? It didn’t matter. It’s obvious that I wasn’t taking school too seriously. I just wanted to hang out with my friends and have a good time. Any sort of learning was prioritized at a distant second. Actually, it wasn’t even learning. It was just doing whatever I could to make it look like I was receiving some sort of education.

I got my shit together somewhat. By junior year, I was making sure that I was actually putting an effort into my schoolwork. My grades were up and I found myself involved in various on campus activities. There was the school government, the student newspaper, my part-time job driving a van around campus. Still, even though I wound up doing OK, I never really feel like I figured anything out while I was there.

Like, I was supposed to pick a major by my sophomore year. I gave it a little bit of thought, and I couldn’t figure it out. I knew that I wanted to get good grades. Why? I have no idea. I chose history as a major, because my girlfriend chose history and so it seemed like a good idea. My dad was a history major. So I took all of these classes and showed up and took notes and wrote papers.

During senior year, I realized that I had saved up all of these electives, for what? Again, no plans, so I started taking drawing classes, painting, creative writing, filmmaking. It was the best year. I had so much fun learning how to do things that I hadn’t done before, like making short movies or putting paint on a canvas.

What had I been doing the previous three years? Why wasn’t I getting the same satisfaction out of any of my other classes? Probably because I didn’t challenge myself. I took history in large part because I knew that I could get away with putting in minimal effort in exchange for decent grades. Good enough, right? That’s what you’re there for, to get good grades.

But what else did I miss out on? I always think back to that astronomy class, every time I happen to look up at the sky on a clear night, I see the Big Dipper, the North Star, and that’s it. I don’t know anything else about any other constellations. I couldn’t tell you anything really, I’m trying to list all of the other random astronomic facts in my head, but there’s nothing. I said Big Dipper already, right?

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