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Who's that man with the old tin hat?

So I’m going back home to California for winter break, and I’m beginning to prep myself mentally for the entourage of questions I know I’ll be getting, not only because I’ve gotten it oh-so-many times on campus, but also because I’ve heard it before.

“Hey Matt,” these people will say. “What’re you majoring in?” And I’ll have to answer, “Philosophy and English.” That answer will warrant the same reaction as people here: they will look disappointed, and then ask, “So… what are you going to do with that?” I will then answer, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe law school, maybe grad school, maybe I’ll pursue journalism or maybe I’ll become a chicken farmer and videotape myself slaughtering a chicken. That tape will become a famous documentary and I’ll give a million speeches to people like you about how deep the death of a chicken is and how important their headless run is to my life.”

Of course, that response will make them throw their water in my face and cry. Then I’ll tell them I’m joking and say that in reality I’m going to use my majors to read good books and then debate their existence with myself, until I’m wrapped up in the fetal position crying because I can’t come up with a concrete answer.

On the same note, how many times have you come out of a class that has run five or 10 minutes over and heard someone say, “Gee golly class went so long today! I wish profs would just stick to the schedule!” I know I’ve heard it one too many times. Hence my writing about it.

Which brings me to my question: what’s the point of college? I mean, you’re going to get all high-horsed because I’m majoring in something that isn’t “useful” in the business sense and then complain about classes and how boring they are, then why are you here? Next time I hear someone say “I wish we didn’t have to do any work and that we could just hang out and party all the time,” I think I’m going to tell them, “Well you can! It’s called dropping out.” Honestly, if there were no parental oversight, I bet about half of Duke would just drop out and use their $40 million trust funds to a) buy copious amounts of alcohol and b) get by in life.

So why do we come to college? Is it to make our parents proud and feel better about ourselves? Is it to just launch us into a career or law or business school? Maybe. But there’s something else to college that we all too often mention but never stop to think about. College is about learning, it’s about finding out who you are. It’s about learning, not only in the classroom sense, but in the “life” sense, if you will. It’s cliché, but just stop and ponder that for a second. If you talk about how you’ve forgotten stuff since you’ve been here or that you haven’t learned anything, then it’s your fault, not Duke’s. I get sick of this place sometimes, but in the long run, I know I’ll be able to look back and realize what it’s done for me. Maybe I’ll even mention Duke in my chicken documentary. As the chicken is running in circles headless, the screen will read, “Does Duke exist? Read Hemingway.” But it probably won’t say Hemingway because I can’t stand him. See? Utilization of my majors right there before your eyes.

Next time you meet someone who’s majoring in something that doesn’t make sense in your eyes because you’ve got it all figured out, talk to them. You might be surprised. It’s okay to shake yourself up sometimes, and I’m not talking about going to Shooters. Use your time here to figure out who you are. Stop going to frat parties, start just chilling out in the commons room with friends on a Friday night. Eat meat if you’re a vegetarian, become a vegan if you’re not. We’re only getting older now, so before you’re wearing diapers again and have a set of dentures, do something incredible that you’ll be proud of and can tell your grandkids. You won’t regret it, trust me.

 

Matt Dearborn is a Trinity sophomore.

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