August is a peculiar month. Regardless of if you have a real job or if you’re preparing to go back to school, August is a month conducive to reviewing your progress and gearing up to get a fresh start doing whatever it is you do. Indeed, August is the December of the summer months. Sure, summer isn’t over–though it is more over than winter is when December ends–but there is a definite cleavage between the “footloose and fancy free” that is June-July and the “I gotta stop fucking around” that is August leading into September. Now, I realize that there are people that never really fuck around, but I also know those same people don’t work as hard during the summer months as they do September through May, because that would deny Newton’s 4th Law of Physics, and, as we all know, that just can’t be done.
I’ve spent most of the summer in New Haven honing my craft of doing only things I want to do, and while this has worked out like gangbusters for the better part of two months, once August hit it suddenly felt different. This could be due to the fact that my lease runs out at the end of the month or it could be due to the fact that the only thing I know forcertain is that I can’t really stick around the Elm City passed August, but this simple turn of the calendar begat a tacit somberness. As you might imagine, I was mildly perplexed by this. It would be too easy to pin this on the classic “end of the summer, time to get a move on” mode I’d come expect in the 16* years that I went to school because, for the first time besides the time I opted to leave school and possibly never return, there is no school. While I stand here at the precipice of adventure, there’s a certain melacholia that I couldn’t put my finger on.
Last night, a balmy summer eve (no feminine hygiene product), I had occassion to grab a drink with my Justice League protege, Young Memphis. Before I get on to the actual point of this story, I’d like to tell all Yalies for whom this is relevant: Fear not. The parties are in good hands. Young Memph aka Young Blip bka Stuntin Like His Daddy has the situation under control.
Anyway, we spent a good deal of time discussing his school and party plans for next year. As we sat and talked shop–him throwing out his ideas, me chiming in with my little two cents, telling him to remember stuff he already knew–two things struck me. Firstly, this scene was like the Godfather, except with smart Black kids. I was the Vito to Memph’s Michael. All I needed was a sweater and a glass of red wine, telling him that whoever approached him about doing a joint party was the traitor.
The second thing was my discovery of the thing on which I could put my finger. As I walked back to the crib after drinks, I was sad. I sat and couldn’t believe that I was giving final pieces of advice because I wouldn’t be there to help. In my reflectiveness, I realized something essential about college. While I always found it foolish to say that college is the best four years of your life–I always preferred the idea of any four year span in which I do something I like while getting paid as opposed to four spent writing compulsory papers for free–I came to realize what it is about college that’s so special.
Best or not, college is, without a doubt that I know about at this point in time, the most unique four years of your life. It’s a space where you can safely go through a lot of bullshit, both jolly and otherwise. There are few points in life where, in the course of a year, you can: Do a play, write for a publication, be expected to learn something in English from someone that doesn’t speak English, beef in intramurals, dash off a paper that night before though you had ample time to do it, throw a party for a seminar final grade, take multi-hour lunches, heckle people at sporting events, have romantic and sexual meltdowns, tutor youth, have awakening with regard to your essence, get a mulligan on that same awakening because it was dead wrong, see famous people talk about shit for free, and drink irresponsibly, all while never getting up before 11 during a week in which Friday basically doesn’t exist. Even more absurdly, this year isn’t one that really raises an eyebrow. In fact, at the end of four of these years, you get a certificate saying you had the goods to finish something. If you live a life like this out in the world, you’re Ernest Hemingway, a junkie with a heart of gold, dead or some combination of all three.
(Sidebar 1: I think it’s also the uniqueness of college that turns me off to a career in event planning. I mean, I think it’d be ill to get paid to put together a stellar function or possibly run a night club, but there’s something distant and sanitized that makes me less than enthusiastic about the prospect. In school, it was more for the love of the game with people I can at least semi-identify. In the world, it’s a disparate band of traveling assholes who I don’t know like that and feel no need put a solid effort in for. It’s like a homecooked meal and fast food.)
I always find it funny when people say, “God, I wish I had one more year.” My thing is, what the fuck am I going to do with one more year? An additional year isn’t really going to make a difference. In fact, the thing about the Mystery of College Uniquity (a stretch, I know) is that it’s only got a shelf life of four to five years. After that, it becomes something else. As much as the dream may seem like heaven with multiple virgins, it’s a dream that can’t be sustained. By the time it’s time to leave, you’re terrified, but you’re ready. An additional year would only lead to stagnation and a sullying of what might have been a fairly gully experience. If I want one more year that badly, I can hang around for another year and just be the creepy dude that’s living the dream. As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather have another four years because now I have a better idea what to do with them.
So for me the dream is officially over. Now everything concerning college and my involvement with it is in the past tense. No more A D Phi basement and no more slow jams with my folks. No more bright college years. JPW, welcome to the world. World, welcome to JPW. Peace to the light in August.
Penultimate Thought: If you’re going to remake a song, make sure it’s not noticeable worse than the original.
Final Thought: Chilli will never age.