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The Road to Nowhere

By Judy P. Tsai

It's the loneliness that gets to you, really. That and the boredom. Day in and day out, you get up, shower, go to class, take incomprehensible notes, eat lunch, study, eat dinner and sleep. Its an interminable cycle, the only relief coming at Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break and those national holidays you thank God for everyday, after you bitch and moan to Him about how awful your life is. This is college all right.

As if I had a choice. I'm Asian for Chrissakes. Sometimes, I feel like I've been strapped to a conveyor belt my whole life and I'm slowly headed toward some dark, yawning abyss in the distance often referred to as the Real World. Its definitely not the processed, edited-for-melodrama hi-jinks of the MTV version, but something far more sinister. It is a place where kids somehow lose their souls on the way to being bonafide adults, those people who connive, deceive and ass-kiss, among other things, to claw their way to the top, wherever THAT is.

At least the mutation happens slowly, very slowly actually, in this breeding ground called college. You don't even realize it's happening, most of the time. It's a conspiracy, I tell you. Everyone seems to be playing along (drugged into submission most likely), but paranoid conspiracy theory freaks like me know better. We don't buy into it for one second.

Oh, I won't try to fight the future, but at least I can bask in enlightened misery as I wend my way through this game called life. How many more spins until I get the plastic kids and husband? After one more semester locked behind these ivory towers, my transformation will be complete. I'll be shipped out with all 1,599 of my compatriots, nicely packaged in inconspicuous black robes and mortarboards with a yellow tassel signaling that we are indeed, USDA-approved, primed and ready for corruption.

Sure, some will slip through the cracks and be lured back for more mental punishment, but sooner or later, the grad school gig will become worse than this Doberman-eat-Doberman world. They'll be begging to be thrown into the ring, like those Christians to the lions.

Despite my cynicism, the wretchedness which is college did not make itself known early on. I had suspected during my more naive years in high school that education in America was a complete sham, but it was only after my first year in a college 3,000 miles away from home that I fully realized this fact. School, instead of sparking a love for learning for the sake of adding to my personal repertoire of knowledge, has only managed to dull my intellectual senses and developed within me a repulsion for anything academic. The endless rounds of frantically scribbling down notes in lecture, memorizing all the possible facts, dates and names of the required text, then regurgitating them for a caffeine-assisted paper or a hand-cramping three-hour exam. All this butter-churning and what's the grand prize? Why the first letter of the alphabet of all things, fancy that!

This hypnotic pattern has conquered even the most stalwart of those in my class, especially in art history when the lights are kindly dimmed to provide more clarity for the projected slides. One by one, we drop off to Nyquil-land, a beautifully choreographed piece of work accompanied by the monotonous drone of the self-absorbed instructor, with the occasional snore adding to the background vocals. The room becomes still, sleep has once again been mistaken for rapt attention.

Thanks God for J. Crew catalogues. After a hard days work of battling sleep, it's time to rev up those engines. Sex, drugs, alcohol are the main hobbies, though any sort of rambunctious behavior will do. Wantonness is key. Any random hook-ups are always welcome, too. Who doesn't love an emotional crisis in the aftermath? Party 'till the cows come home. So how does one become lonely in a hip, happenin' place like this? Well, don't forget, there are still those prudes like me who refuse to be swept up by the illusory excitement. Oh, I may be occasionally coerced into making an appearance at a function or two, but I do NOT enjoy it. It's against my nature to partake in artificially induced adrenaline rushes to alleviate the boredom.

Pain is my protection against this place. I like to gouge my wounds with a broken stick that has nice big chunks of sea salt glued to its splintered end. I figure if I can still feel my nerves crying crimson tears, then I'm okay. Once I ran down the sidewalk, tripped three times and was so happy to see rivulets of blood gushing from my mangled knees that I couldn't stop grinning for days.

If we masochists stuck together, then something good might happen. Unfortunately, those lonely hearts out there do not sport any recognizable labels like DKNY or Tommy Hilfiger, so we burrow deeper and deeper into our own graves. Maybe I'm not giving other people enough credit. Maybe everyone is a lonely, bored masochist just like me, but is afraid of letting anyone know lest a revolution be born greater than anything Marx could whip up.

We all appear calm and collected on the outside, driven to find the best consulting or investment banking gig next year so we can hoard all the superficial baubles to assuage the pain. But deep inside, we are all shouting at the top of our lungs, our inaudible, unanswered screams echo into the abscessed recesses of our hearts: HELP ME!

But really, kids, when it comes down to it, why buck the system which has spawned two millennia of the greatest civilization ever known to humankind? I never said I wasn't a hypocrite. Homo Sapiens never had it as good as they do at this very moment. Party because it is 1999, man! so what if our souls are empty and life is just about making the next buck? Sham, spam. The show's just getting started.

It all comes naturally, really. You've rehearsed every day of your life ever since your were a small babe, thanks to the status quo. Ladies and gentlemen, you are being led to your doom and all you have to manage to do is stay awake.

Judy P. Tsai '99, a Crimson editor, is an economics concentrator in Winthrop House

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