Looking Forward To

“Pick a verb to embody who you are, a descriptive adjective or a short pithy phrase to encapsulate the essence of your being, nay, your very soul.” Sounds like a team-building exercise doesn’t it? I remember the first one of these I ever did in kindergarten.

Directions: Select an adjective that begins with the first letter of your first name and then attach it to your name.

I picked something awesome like Monster Matt. I don’t really remember exactly. I was more focused on a strange girl named Jaycie who decided to go with, Just Jaycie.

“Lame,” I thought to myself. “Out of all the great J adjectives out there, you pick just?” This is way off-topic, but I find it interesting that one of the few memories I have is of myself as a five-year-old acting self-possessed. Jaycie, if you’re out there and reading this, I apologize for having had the thought.

Waiting is the adjective that I would pick for how I feel now, and it’s not a good one truth be told. Who wants to feel as if they’re waiting for something their entire life?Perhaps waiting can be perceived as something positive. Waiting can be altered to looking forward to something instead. Although it doesn’t roll off the tongue as cleanly as the singular waiting, it implies that plans have been made and one is taking steps to ensure that better things are to come.

In 11th grade, English students in Mr. Bulman’s class each created a time capsule to present to the class. I decided to bring in a stick that I had picked up while hiking in Utah during a spring break trip with my friend, his family, and some of our other friends. On the stick I had written everything that I had ever wanted to do in life, a bucket list written in black ink wrapping around the bottom of the stick.

1) Serve in the Peace Corps

2) Travel the world

3) Live an unconventional lifestyle (whatever that means)

4) Fall in-love

5) Learn to communicate in other languages

In high school, one’s world, or at least my world growing up in a predominantly white, middle class suburb, was simple, compact, clean, all the parts visible. In a nutshell, it was this:

1) Get as many A’s as possible and enroll in as many honors classes that the school offered.

2) Run XC, track, ski, and do your best. Maybe you’ll get a scholarship to run somewhere.

3) Never do drugs; they’ll only lead to doing meth out in the boonies and eating your own scabs to get high.

4) Work weekends at the restaurant and save up for college.

Beyond that, there wasn’t a ton to focus on, just getting into college, essentially. A series of humbling events brought me down to earth quite a bit, and when I ended up going to the U of M over another school I had had my sights on since freshman year, broke my foot in a car accident, and didn’t get an ACT score as high as my friends, it dawned on me that the plan that I had had, the one in high school, couldn’t account for any deviations. Furthermore, it didn’t extend beyond getting into college.

There I was, a college freshman at the U enrolled in the College of Biological Sciences with my sights on med school! What was I thinking? I hate science! “But no,” I told myself. “You love the way the body works, and if you don’t necessarily love science, you’ll learn to love it, and if you don’t, that doesn’t matter! You’re going to be a doctor!”

I’ll share with you a little secret: I was paired up with a group of three other students at Nature of Life, the summer orientation camp at Lake Itasca, and the project we were assigned for one of our sessions was to look at some slides and snap pictures of what we saw, comparing one slide to another. We were so bad at locating what we were looking at that we snapped pictures of blurry nothing, attached those pictures to a PowerPoint, and did not provide any written commentary on what we had observed. When it was my group’s turn to present, the professor was literally speechless, and we had nothing to say about our slides. All we mumbled was, “And then there’s this one… and next is this one too.” All he said at the end is that we should have asked sooner for help, and that was that. If that wasn’t a clear sign that science was none of our business, I’m not sure if it could have been spelled out more blatantly.

Right. So there I was, goal-less, directionless. Many a week were spent holed up in coffee shops trying to glean Truth from books on philosophy that I didn’t understand, long and extremely emotional runs along the East River Parkway that often finished with an intense sprint, and pages and pages of diary, I mean journal, entries in which I would dump my heart and soul out onto college-ruled pages like your lunch lady used to drop turkey gravy and mashed ‘tatoes on your plastic tray every Thursday. Just a big, moist, thud, but everyday. That’s what I was dishing up. I still have that notebook, but I haven’t gotten around to burning it yet.

One day, however, I woke up and decided to fuck it all. “Fuck you, online introduction to introductory chemistry course! Fuck you calculus! I already took you once in high school, and I didn’t like you then either!”

I decided at that moment to only take classes second semester that interested me. In retrospect, it was the best decision I have ever made in my life. I took FREN 100 and creative writing and loved them both. I became excited about what I was studying and managed to finish out the year strong with a GPA .7 higher than first semester.

Here’s the point of all of this; I’m sure you’ve heard it before. You have to fill your days with meaning. Get into a good college was almost everyone’s plan that I knew of in high school because everyone was doing it, and therefore, it seemed like the right framework to operate within. When you’re in college, that framework changes to graduating with a degree in A) something you love, B) something practical, or C) a combination of A and B, and getting smashed three nights a week while simultaneously cranking out an average of 10, cohesive academic papers per month.

Waiting Matt. I feel as if I’m waiting right now because for the second time in my life, I don’t really have a plan. Not all of my friends are doing one thing. Some are off to graduate school, others are doing the corporate thing, some are teaching English abroad, etc. I’m working two part-time jobs and an internship. Not bad, but I still feel as if I’m waiting, maybe for the day I get a call from a major Twin Cities publication offering me a job where I get to wear fancy clothes and become Matt, the young profesh. But then I see things like this: http://vimeo.com/47355798 and think to myself, “Matt! You sellout! What happened to your stick! What happened to the 17 year-old who was full of big plans?!”

It still astounds me to think about, that almost everything is on the table. The question then becomes what do you want to pick up from table and put into motion so that you’re no longer waiting for something, but looking forward to, hell, excited for?

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