Columns / Discourse / February 4, 2009

Neurocolumn: Declaration of (my) independence

The mailroom is a crapshoot. You win, you lose, but you never break even. Receiving no mail is just as much of a loss as getting a hefty bill for last month’s Target.com shopping spree, whereas finding even the most non-committal birthday card (you know the type, the crappy slogan with just a signature at the bottom) is a cause for parading the streets.

This morning, I approached my K-box with a newborn’s naïveté, still shielded from the ugliness of the world, still bright-eyed, albeit lacking a bushy tail. In short, I was a happy Marnie, content with life and its cozy patterns.

As I extracted the menacing form letter from box 1459, however, I knew that I was soon to get booted rudely out of Eden.

I will spare you the dry language of the notification, but I’m sure some of you found the same ticking time bomb in your mail as well. Two stapled pages: one white and one goldenrod, that horrific yesteryear shade that originated on 1970s wallpaper and now only survives via mass mailings involving grave responsibilities. The message, to paraphrase, said: WHATAREYOUDOINGYOULAZYLUG?? CHOOSEAMAJORALREADYANDSTOPWASTINGYOUREDUCATIONYOUNUMBSKULL! The deadline, they say, is February 7. Knox College, you hardly knew me.

See, I’m not exactly gunning to choose any path, trail, corridor, or course for myself right now. I understand that your form letter was trying to assist me, mistaking my lack of declaration for confusion with the process. Silly Knox! You needn’t worry; I’m perfectly aware of how to set up an advisor meeting, perfectly capable of signing my name on the dotted line. Truth be told, I’m just not quite up to it yet.

I’m shopping around, much like I tend to do on Target.com (with subsequent monetary retribution). A little from column A, B, and pretty much every letter until R, since I know “science” is the one field I can eliminate from my collegiate browsing. A 101 in everything, if you please. And if you would be so kind as to allow us six classes a term (plus 5 audits) to accommodate such a vast span of interests, that’d be greeeaat.

In a way, it would be downright rude for me to choose a major at the moment. So little have I actually experienced! I mean, I’ve never taken an economics or environmental studies class in my life; wouldn’t it be an insult to Steve Cohn, Richard Stout, and Peter Schwartzman if I turned my back on them and their passions prematurely? It was never my intention to do such harm. Plus, I want to learn about money and tornadoes.

And then there’s the issue of all the classes I want to take that don’t yet exist. Where’s the 300-level course on the Cultural Resonance and Artistic Expression of Every Johnny Depp Film Ever Made? I would be able to spout wisdom from a class like that at cocktail parties for the rest of my life — pretty relevant to later life, I’d say. Or, if you prefer to discuss something more conventionally “academic,” where might I be able to enroll in History of Great Philosophers: Calvin, Hobbes, and Charlie Brown? When I am a super-sophisticated adult one day, I’ll be able to sit back in a leather chair, puff on an unlit pipe, and say, “They were truly great minds. They were just limited by their panel space…”

Do you see now, Knox College? Do you see why I can’t fill out your icky goldenrod forms? I just want to bop around a while. I want to accumulate factoids and be the interesting supplier of nuggets of truth. I want to write home with the heading, “did you know…?” I want to learn without anxiety about what I will accomplish. I want to feel unburdened by a deadline or a looming commencement. Or maybe I just like being original, and don’t want my (hopefully) unique character trampled upon by telling people I’m a creative writing major and hearing them reply, “yeah, you and the rest of this campus.”

Whatever the case may be, I don’t think declaring a major takes any sort of precedence in my life right now, not when I’ve got columns to write and just recently discovered that whole episodes of “Kenan and Kel” are available on YouTube. So, in short, I’m sorry, Knox College. You and I will just have to play the waiting game.

Marnie Shure


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