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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

I want to go to college for the rest of my life

“Whur life? It’s looking forward or it’s looking back. And that’s our life.” -Ricky Roma, Glengarry Glen Ross I’m writing a final project for a course right now that centers around the idea of spending the afterlife at Carleton. That is to say, discovering that, after you die, you go to Carleton forever. Aside from the obvious throwaway gags (“I thought I’d at least get into Swarthmore” is one that I’m proud of), I think it raises all sorts of interesting questions about what college is. Can you imagine going to Carleton for eternity? An eternity of three-term years, an eternity of convo every Friday, Crack House every Wednesday, three-day fifth weekends, the occasional sighting of Schiller, the occasional all-nighter, the occasional hookup? After a while you’d have taken every course at Carleton. You’d probably read every book in the libe, except perhaps the ones written in languages that they don’t teach here, because you could learn every language. You could major in every subject. You could comps every term, if you wanted. There wouldn’t be a reason for grades. After all, what are grades but indicators of quality to people looking at your resumé after you’ve graduated? If there’s no graduation, not ever, then there’s no one to assess your quality. There would never be a reason for an advisor to tell you you couldn’t take a course. There would never be a reason to declare a major or fill a requirement, either, because what would be the consequences if you didn’t? Looking at college like this, it seems clear that the social system at any college gets a lot of its legitimacy from its own temporary status. You’re only here for four or five years, and then you’re in the Real World and people are going to want to know what kind of a person you are. If there’s no threat of that, then college stops being preparation, stops even being an exciting place to learn, and starts to seem like a prison. I think that, at the back of our heads, we all have this idea that there’s only so much time, that while we’re here we need to go to as many talks and work as hard as possible so that we don’t have regrets when we leave. But that temporary status is really just a convenient aggregate name for what really motivates life here: consequences. We know that we’ll be punished later on if we don’t make the best of our college experience, whether by libido, unemployment, illiteracy, regret, or any number of other things. If there are no consequences, if there’s no future in which to be punished, then we’re living in Groundhog Day. Everything here is predicated on temporality, and on one end of that temporality is fear. We’re afraid that, after college, something bad will happen to us because of something important we failed to do in college. But at the same time, having enough time in college to do everything that’s important would be crushing and horrible. Our enjoyment of our time at Carleton is based in part on our ideas of what comes next. Is it possible to think about Carleton in a vacuum, or is our experience at Carleton created entirely by imagining the future?

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