A few days ago, I took BuzzFeed’s “Which Ivy League School Should You Attend?” quiz, and I found out that I have been wasting my time here at Columbia. In fact, Dartmouth was the school for me—my happiness here, the immense body of knowledge I have internalized, the critical thinking and analytical skills I have honed over the last eight semesters, and, of course, my friends have been, to put it crudely, a lie. Thankfully, my awakening to this elaborate delusion is occurring just a few weeks before graduation—a ceremony in which an institution puts you in a garbage bag and slaps a square hat on your head as an acknowledgement of four years of labor. In other words, quite coincidentally, I was already on my way out.
Graduating has been something of a comfort to me since the BuzzFeed deity informed me of my transgression from my predestined path. Good riddance to this place, I say, now that I know what fate had in store for me in New Hampshire. To think that I endured four years of New York when I could have spent my college days in Hanover, or, as it’s known around the world, the Big Apple Orchard. Forty-eight months in this godforsaken city and I can scarcely milk a cow. So of course I am eager to go out and see the world, the real world, not just some farmless, sheepless town like New York City.
Naturally, the recognition of my error in attending Columbia has caused me a lot of grief. How can I possibly reconcile the cognitive dissonance of knowing with certainty that my university days have been an utter waste? The anxiety this question has caused me is crippling, so I’ve spent some time trying to contrive a justification for the past few years, to craft some sort of rationale—however phony—to set me at peace with my schooling. I need to convince myself that there has been at least a shred of value in my Columbia education. Not an easy feat.
This led to me to think: Has there been any unifying element in what I have learned here? Is there any cohesion in my academic work that I can parse out and examine to identify even an ounce of profit I may have gleaned from my studies? What, if anything, am I leaving with? My Lord and Savior, BuzzFeed, by identifying my initial trespass, my original sin—attending Columbia, that is—made me search my soul for some kind of Theory of Everything to sum up my time here. Thank you, BuzzFeed, for bringing out this inquiry in me. I hope to see a lot more of you on Facebook. Over and over and over again.
Here’s what I came up with.
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, named after the West German revolutionary organization, is the experience that once you hear about something for the first time, it seems to appear everywhere. You hear a word you didn’t know, and suddenly it’s popping up all over the place.
What has popped up over and over again for me—what it seems like everyone is trying to get at, is the present moment. There has only ever been a single moment. There is only a single moment, and there will only ever be a single moment. This moment is experienced by us over and over again, in different places, with different mindsets, at different stages in our lives. And this moment is experienced by everyone, always. Every person is a new string of this same moment repeating itself. (Animals have the moment, too, they just don’t have a name for it.) This moment has explored all of Earth, all of history. The moment has been to the moon. The moment has died. The moment has fallen in love billions of times. If we can just make peace with the moment, individually, we can make peace with everything. This is the challenge of being alive. So that’s kind of Columbia in a nutshell, the way I see it. That being said, I have an extra ticket for the Senior Week cruise, and I’m willing to sell it in exchange for your soul. PM me.
Jake Goldwasser is a Columbia College senior majoring in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies. Thinking Twice runs alternate Tuesdays.
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