College – to Slack or Not to Slack?

I graduate with my Bachelor’s degree in May. I’m an English major, which is the 3rd incarnation of a major I’ve held, and I do love it. The problem I am facing now is that I must leave behind the college town, parties, and most of the friends who’ve become like family to me during the last four years in order to head into the “real world” and graduate schools. I am not prepared.

My outlook on the English major, at first, was simple: I love to read so this is easy. I made my decision lightly, realizing that I had read most of the texts previously and could simply refresh my memory using the internet if I did not feel like reading them over again. It became so bad that even the texts that I had not read were becoming internet fodder, and I can unproudly say that I have never read an entire assignment in all of my four years at this university. I skimmed through by what knowledge I retained from elementary school and high school study of the classics and what I could find on internet summary sites. I hate myself for doing this.

It turns out that I want to be a professor for the rest of my life. My goal is to obtain a Ph.D. in English, begin teaching, and while I teach, attend classes to obtain post-doctoral doctorates. It sounds great and like a perfect plan for someone to loves literature and has an English degree, but I am scared. I slacked all through college, and now I feel completely unprepared for graduate school which I will hopefully be able to attend in the fall.

Recent personal events have made me realize my horrible mistakes in how I approached college, and I hope that I can persuade at least someone who is on the same path I took to veer off and run back to the fork and go another direction. College is made out to be the golden-years of a not-yet-adult person’s life, and it is. Honestly. The problem, though, is that it is not ALL golden. You need to work for the classes you take so you can get something out of the money you pay. You need to work so that you can move forward in your life after you get your degree and not sit and wonder what exactly you’ve learned those last four years.

I didn’t even waste my time drinking. No. I wasted my time by playing online video games: Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, World of Warcraft. These online economies and worlds seemed far more important than what was happening in the Humanities building, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Lately, I can’t bring myself to even log onto one of these subscription service games because it just doesn’t seem “worth it” as much as reading something that I could potentially use later in my career or writing something that could put a little more food on the table.

College is about education. Yes, I want everyone to enjoy these years. They are as close to perfect as I believe any of our lives will ever be, but do not neglect the fact that the reason you are here: to obtain a higher education. One cannot be educated against his or her will. I have picked up on a lot during my stay here, but I could have done so much more. I maintain a B average (an A in my major), but I still could have had much better scores that would have helped me in graduate school (both attending and being accepted). It doesn’t even take that much more work. If you are like me, reading for a couple hours each night occurs normally, but the thought of reading things that were assigned did not spark anything inside me. Now it does. I look forward the graduate school with open eyes. I can’t wait to finally be able to join in discussions about books instead of preparing a single thought from an internet summary site with which I hope the teacher is not familiar. College is about education. College is about growing up. And growing up is about responsibility. If we do not do what is asked us in classes, how can we have truly “earned” that piece of paper we get after four years? What do we take with us but a knowing that we have “put in our time?” Nothing. And that makes me sad. I wish I could change the last four years so that I could go back to being that nerdy kid I was in elementary and high school who ruined the curves on tests and got threatened with “getting beat up” for it, but I can’t. I can only look and see what the future holds for me (by my own choosing) and work toward that as diligently as I can. I am going to change my ways, I am going to finally become an English major, and I am going out-right “earn” my Master’s and Doctorate.

A quote by C.S. Lewis that I found in a book my girlfriend gave me last week perfectly sums up my mindset in the last couple of months: “An unliterary man may be defined as one who reads books once only. There is hope for a man who has never read Malory or Boswell or Tristram Shandy or Shakespeare’s Sonnets: but what can you do with a man who says he ‘has read’ them, meaning he has read them once, and thinks that settles the matter.”

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