We are all very proud of me. I am a member of the class of ’03, and we have been here – immersed in academia – for four years. We’ve been here since the 20th Century, when Jamal Crawford played basketball and Haven Hall didn’t look like a museum. When Little Caesar’s peddled $3 pies out of The Union and when becoming a computer science major seemed wise. In those carefree years at the Century’s twilight we came to this mighty University in search of many things.
Easy classes were often one of them.
Others sought challenge; an opportunity to not just flex their creative and analytical muscles, but to waltz with them. Astrophysics! German! Aeronautics! Aeronautical Astrophysics! “Bring us your books and your theories and knowledge!” we shouted. Or I shouted, at least. Others stared dumbly.
I tended to mix things up, academically. A little easy here, a little hard there; didn’t want to overdo it. I came to Michigan to learn, by Jove, but nobody likes an egghead. A few lines of Byron and a grasp of Nietzsche’s existentialism and I could maneuver my way through any party I might attend when I’m rich and famous. They say Romantic poetry and a great set of abs will get you noticed at the beach. They’re completely right.
I took my required distribution classes. I really did take an astronomy class. There was a lab, every Thursday, which met on the roof of Angell Hall at 9:00 p.m. What seemed like a brilliant bit of planning on my part in December (It’s perfect! Be done with class on Thursday at 11 and be all set to go out partying! It can’t miss!) turned out to be me being miserable on Thursday nights in February, with just Cassiopeia and Pegasus to keep me company.
But I did manage to navigate my way southward, via the constellations, when I got lost on a backcountry Indiana road two years ago. Distribution Requirements 1, People Who Say Distribution Requirements Are Completely Unnecessary , 0.
I scored well on the math section of my SATs back in high school. So well, in fact, that my math score was higher than my verbal score! I know. I know. How can anyone with such dazzling prose as exists in this column be an even greater mathematician? I tried to tell my academic advisor just that, but she insisted that I needed to fulfill the school’s “quantitative reasoning” requirement.
So off I went, and signed up for a sociology class on the subject of demographics. The 2000 U.S. Census data had recently been released, and my professor was as giddy as a spaz on Christmas morning. We spent 90 percent of the class letting computers crunch numbers for us, and the other 10 percent hypothesizing over a perceived correlation between a shrinking population of middle income families in rural New Mexico and a sharp rise in housecat ownership in Baltimore. The class, as the kids are saying these days, sucked.
But my distribution fun was far from complete. Through it I found my way to Biology 100: Biology for Non-scientists. When I started the class I couldn’t tell the mitochondria from plankton, and I can’t now, but I will tell you this: A percentage of your grade, which could suffice to salvage your semester, is based on an end-of-the-term poster project and competition. I’m not lying, you can ask your friends. I made my poster on the gray wolves in Yellowstone, and decorated my oversized cardboard canvas with pirated images of Yogi the Bear and Maurice Sendak illustrations. My poster contained as much information on gray wolves in Yellowstone as one can find in 25 minutes on encyclopedia.com, and I won the fucking poster contest. They called me up in front of the 200 kids in the class and gave me a wall calendar. The wall calendar was my prize, and was made up of pictures from Walden Pond. On the March photo, there’s an M&Ms Peanut wrapper floating in the water. Anyway.
With calendar in hand and a firm understanding of urban migratory patterns I saddled up for a ride on the Spanish railroad. By railroad of course I mean class. And by ride I mean torturous death march. And by saddled, of course, I mean stumbled out of bed in an eerie dorm room predawn and drudged across campus in the biting cold of a Michigan winter to the last place in the world I ever wanted to be to learn a language I still can’t speak.