DSG gets huge props for creating something called “Vice President for Social Culture.” Kim Jong-un is going to be mad at Dear Student Government for thinking up that lyrical title before he could. Actually, maybe that’s what Duke’s Social Culture needs—more military parades.
Stuff like this makes me sad to be graduating. Writing about Duke is always challenging, often heartening and sometimes mesmerizingly fun. I would like to assure the Honor Council that writing a column added a lot of moral cards to my values deck, including a Charizard.
So, thanks to The Chronicle for allowing me to publish 68 columns, one of which included this sentence: “If you want an analogous example of would-be incendiary, ‘strong’ rhetoric that likewise stands on weak, knee-jerk foundations, look no further than either side of the aisle in the U.S. Senate.” No, I don’t know what it means, either.
Hey, I got to keep my column for six semesters, though I think my first two re-applications were approved out of pity. That’s what makes it so humbling to do the senior reflect-and-feign-wisdom thing. I’ve been given a lot of space to mess up here, and mess up is exactly what I’ve done.
I once handed my thesis advisor a short story that revolved around two telepathic sheepdogs. It was—you’ll be shocked to hear this—not very good. I’ve turned in some lousy work to some of Duke’s best teachers. Special thanks to Michael Gillespie, Michael Moses, Tom Ferraro, Mohsen Kadivar and especially my advisor, Melissa Malouf for telling me that I needed to do better. I can’t list all of the things I’ve learned from you. But I will say that I now know there’s no way around a good argument. Except a better argument.
Shout-out also to OUSF and the A.B. program. They kept me moored to reality—and reminded me to act, not just brood—when my underclassman self threatened to float off in a gale of confusion. Thanks for keeping me from turning into a parody of myself, which might have happened if I had kept on referencing Yeats every 30 seconds. Speaking of things falling apart, centers not holding….
Duke is an abyss of nihilism and dehumanizing sex and Nasty Natty. I know this because I read it in a book and also in a magazine article. The sinister decadence to which we are all enslaved explains why my friends have seemed so willing to forgive my moments of douchey-ness. I came to this defeating realization earlier this evening when I just couldn’t stop myself from filching my roommate’s frozen pizza, and he didn’t even seem that upset about it. We are all lost, and we don’t even know it.
OK, yeah, it’s all been my fault, not the fault of Social Culture. Sorry for my mistakes. And thanks. Even if you are the corrupt heralds of an age of moral decline and cheap beer, you’re still excellent friends.
My parents have been unnervingly supportive throughout my time here. This means that I don’t have much to say to them except that I’ll see you this summer as long as you’re not going to try charging rent, and also thanks.
Telepathic sheepdogs. Wow. They spent a lot of time sniffing sagebrush and bumping into each other. The existence of those two dogs is a mistake, a piece of bad art that should never have happened. But I’m glad it did happen, because it’s a perfect example of the mix of play and agonizing and embarrassment and critique-absorption that is the fate of anyone who’s going to wind up learning here.
For the record, the story ends with the sheepdogs saving the day in a way unique to pretentious college-student fiction, by which I mean that they make a character’s life more meaningful and interesting in a very quiet way. Not epic stuff, but still. My college career has been mostly sheepdog-free, and I’m not as interesting as I’d like to be. Even so, I’m leaving Duke with exactly as much direction as I wanted and more confidence than I deserve.
I could say an endless amount about what has made my Duke education what it is. The best I’ve got for now is a metaphor I stole from a bad story I wrote. This is my way of saying thanks, but I know I’ve got a lot of work to do before I can do right by what I’ve gained here.
Connor Southard is a Trinity senior. This is his final column of the semester.