The independent news organization of Duke University

Como canta la zumaya

I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.

— Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption

Certainly we as college students can be seen as the epitome of getting busy living. It seems to be a general consensus that college is the ultimate excuse for behavior that in most other circumstances would be severely looked down upon, possibly even provoking legal action, and could be considered idiotic and self destructive. You drank 11 beers Tuesday afternoon? It’s okay; you’re in college. You and your friends leave the common room in a perpetual state of disarray? It’s fine; people will clean up after you because you’re in college and you don’t have to walk 15 feet and throw out that stale pizza. You want to pop your collar? It’s all right; it won’t look stupid in college where everybody does it. You want to not go to class for two weeks, not do the reading and just show up one morning with a paper in hand? Go for it! You like to… et cetera.

These stereotypes are all well and good, but most reasonable people know that college, well this one, is about more than the sex, drugs and bad Scott Stapp-inspired Creedesque Rock music, or rather that it is supposed to be about more.

Someone pays an exorbitant amount of money to pay for our education here. Why? Is college really that fundamentally important? A kid in my high school class went straight to medical school in India instead of college. He’ll be a doctor in two and half years when I’ll just have a degree in something. President Andrew Johnson didn’t even go to school. He became a tailor’s apprentice when he was 13 where he served two years before opening up his own shop at the age of 15. Two years after that, at 17, he was taught to read and write by the woman who would later become his wife. Two years after that, he began a political career that would eventually take him to the White House. It is doubtful that college could have given him a better life personally or professionally.

Am I saying that college is useless and unnecessary? No. I am, however, stating that it is overrated. People seem to think of college as the place where you discover who you are and become the person you will forever be. In theory, it’s the place where you are supposed to make mistakes and experience heartache and hone your social graces and learn work ethic and party and become well versed in pretentious snobbery and talk condescendingly to others because you can discuss Marquez, Borges and Lorca and understand the significance of this column’s title.

Where’d this rant against college come from?

Well, the idea of college being the place where you can get busy living with minimal consequences seems to run counter to the tangible reasons to enroll, those being gaining skills and knowledge that can prepare you for a middle management white collar job post-graduation and a life of mediocrity or grad school.

Additionally, the idea that somebody who uses college not as an opportunity to meet friends, network and party, but rather as a chance to study, read, listen, watch and read using the immense tools at their disposal at this institution, is not getting busy living detracts from the college experience.

Some people try to define themselves by the company they keep. Some people can’t fathom the idea that someone who doesn’t party, drink, hang out, hook up or drink is fully participating in and enjoying the college experience. Some people think that associating with people simply for human contact is the first step toward becoming someone they wish not to become. For them, if college is indeed an opportunity to discover oneself, isolation from people can be a necessity if one is to get busy living. Allying themselves with people who do not share their ambition and do not bring anything to the proverbial table with regards to self discovery can be the first step toward getting busy dying.


Thaddeus Edwards II is a Trinity sophomore.


Share and discuss “Como canta la zumaya” on social media.