I left Columbia. My time here was the emotional equivalent of making sweet love to a cactus and pretending to enjoy it. This cactus looked like Brad Pitt to the rest of society, and everyone kept congratulating me on my happy union and all the wonderful things that were going to come of it. But excuse me: Cactus sex is unrighteous. Get me the hell out of here. Like all of you, I am an exceptional human being because I won the approval of the most qualified judges of personal value: Ivy League admissions officers. I’m pretty much a very, very big deal: The SATs are my bitch, my extracurricular engagements rival Oprah Winfrey’s, and I am one eloquent motherfucker. You know the drill—you’re in this boat. Either that or you’re awesome at sports and/or your parents could eat most people’s parents for breakfast as far as societal importance goes. Regardless, you have what it takes to win in the game of life, so what are you doing puttering around Morningside Heights? Unless your answer is “because I genuinely enjoy being a student at Columbia” (and if that is the case you have no reason to be offended by a word of this, truly), stop wasting your time. You could die tomorrow, so ditch those finals and do something less lame. Trust me when I say that you are exceptional enough to set the world on fire without that hefty receipt that comes in scroll-format. Don’t believe me? That’s fine, stay miserable. This is your trip, not mine. Let me put this in the big Columbia University Community picture: Columbia is a business enterprise, not a community—stop fooling yourself. Yes, there are communities within that enterprise like Sorority Sisters and the Chinese Dragon Dancing People and the Butler Chain Smoker Union, but Columbia is you. You aren’t Columbia. Dig? You are the only thing that makes Columbia anything remotely substantial. It’s not Mother Theresa’s house of the sick and dying, it’s a corporation. If it’s not making you happy, you’re not a terrible person. Society can go fornicate itself for stamping your forehead with the seal of approval if and only if you follow its path. For better or for worse, this mysterious nonentity that we call Columbia University caters to societal approval. That’s not necessarily bad, but it is limiting. If, like me, you once thought self-validation might come from a GPA or a diploma or a customized Vineyard Vines Columbia lion-print tie, think about what you really want out of this life. Columbia doesn’t give that to you—only you can. If you feel like Columbia doesn’t care about you, that it would be no different if you left, you are right. Anyone who thinks otherwise, please send me a sample of what you are smoking. But in all seriousness, the moments that augmented my experience with hope and beauty came from you. You, the individuals—not you, Columbia. To THAT you, I say thank you. You are everything. You should come set the world on fire with me, if you so desire. You, Columbia? Get out of here. You don’t exist. The author was a Columbia College student in the class of 2015 until October this fall semester. She currently runs the blog “Tales of an Ivy League Dropout.” To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact email@example.com.
Four seniors reflect on their time at Columbia, and what it means to be leaving these years—and NYC—behind.