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This year’s more important countdown

Forget the ball dropping on December 31. For me, this year’s real countdown happens tonight, and I’m utterly filled with trepidation. Tomorrow is my last day as a UCLA undergrad. After tomorrow, my long, long, long career here is over. UCLA and I have come to blows countless countless times over the years, and in the end, it all sort of worked out, more or less. And this process of working things out with UCLA has brought me closer to it, just like partners in a relationship being brought closer together by working through their conflicts. Now, strangely, the thought of no longer identifying myself as a beaten-down student scares me.

All the baggage, and cynicism, and bad memories will now be compartamentalized, separated from this upcoming phase of my life. They’ll be stored away for archival purposes or to be exhibited or studied from time to time. I fear I might forget them, get caught up in the good life and forget their lessons, forget to honor them. Then I would be a different person, in which case the person molded by failure that I am today, might start to slip away tomorrow. Less than an hour left; I don’t want this to be a countdown toward an execution.

Even if I never do lose sight of these experiences, I still feel like I’m leaving something behind. Being a student fosters a very introspective attitude, and it was this introspection that comforted me when I was down. As a working individual, I fear my attitude towards life might change in ways I won’t even perceive; I’ll have a different role in society, and in order to understand it, my perception and attitude towards life will have to change. Without money, I’ve always had to be resourceful in filling my time. There was always StarCraft, then WarCraft III of course, but I also spent a lot of time reflecting, planning, analyzing, reading the news and reading about technology and reading about art and reading and reading. And lately, writing as well. Soon I’ll have money, and I’ll see the world not as something in the background, but as a collection of resources exchangeable for money. I might become overwhelmed by consumerism. Might I never again stay up late tinkering with new technology, watching old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, analyzing myself and planning substantial self-improvement, or just reading? Might I never know the despair of having to eat chicken sandwiches and tacos from Jack in the Box ever again? Might I become that nicely-dressed person in the nice car , that I struggled not to envy? Might I never again see the me expressed in late night essays, in procrastination, in despair, in skipping class, that school obligations showed me?

That’s not all I fear losing. Everyday I was a successful student, I honored the me that had failed. I turned my outlook around and I discovered my own principles and values, and I got much of the strength to do this from my failures. As a working individual, I will be starting fresh in a new arena with new rules. Will I be able to draw on my principles and values and thus continue to honor the me that suffered? If they are relateable, will they lead me to success or new failure?

What I’m trying to say, I think, is that I cherish what I went through. I was walking through campus after my last final this morning and a flood of memories, prominent and subtle, social and private, brash and poignant, rushed through my head. Everywhere I looked I saw a painful memory–in seven years, it’s possible to rack up quite a few. In some places, I saw happy or triumphant memories. Combined, these places are the signposts of a journey of complete metamorphosis. Perhaps I fear that these signposts are only visible to the eye of the student, and that I won’t be effected by them, or identify with the memories they evoke, when I’m no longer a student. Then I would have forgetten the pain.

I have to take this change in stride though, because I do wish to continue growing. I have to rest assured that my memory, faulty as it is, won’t fail me with these most jarring and influential experiences, and that my principles and values are stable enough for anything that is thrown at them. After all, they were forged in an emotional torrent, to provide me with direction and stability in that torrent. They should be able to withstand the occasional storm. And if these principles and values are stable, then at least the legacy of my failures is too.

Ten minutes left.

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1 Comment

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marcus said:

good ol’ alma mater… congratulations mike!


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