Whitney Houston once sang, “I believe that children are the future/ Teach them well and let them lead the way.” True, she also later said, “I believe that Bobby Brown’s recording career has a future,” but that shouldn’t detract from the value of the earlier statement. So, for my first address from the bully pulpit that is Words From the Top, I want to primarily speak to the freshman. Yes, the freshman, the wide-eyed innocents gazing ahead at the bright college future ahead of them, imagining the onset, any minute now, of the best years of their lives. My message can be reduced to four simple words: Just give up now.
Everyone goes into college with big dreams, whether it’s to complete a double major, find true love, make lots of lifelong friends, or, in my case, become the opinion page editor for the Daily Cal. However, those dreams are, to the one, almost completely unrealized. Like a Hypercolor t-shirt, excitement over college begins with spectacular brightness, and slowly fades into a blotchy smear of apathy, until finally, an outdated shred of depression and disappointment are all that remain. It’s better to realize that the sooner you completely stop trying, the the sooner you’ll find, if not happiness, a somewhat comforting void of non-feeling, superior to the constant letdown and pain that is college existence.
First of all, stop talking about yourself. Even in elementary school, when you’d regale classmates with accounts of your new action figures, or then, just as now, they are more interested in the previous evening’s television programs than anything concerning your ordinary, pathetic life. In fact, when you speak to them, those other people aren’t really listening at all, but instead simply planning what they’re going to say once you finally shut the hell up. Talk about pop culture, and pop culture only, if you want your peers to hate you the least. And if you’re one of those people who asks questions in lecture every day, just be aware there’s a special circle of hell for you people, just below unbatized infants.
Secondly, give up those antiquated illusions about “true love,” or “soul mates,” or even “legally recognized domestic partners.” When you get involved with someone romantically, there are but two possible results: a) marriage, and, b) an emotionally scarring breakup resulting in tears, heartbreak, and possibly a restraining order. For 95% of the people you meet, it ain’t gonna be a). So, dating boils down to a waiting game, slowly and secretly building up resentment and annoyances over the other’s idiosycracies until the inevitable, pitiful breakup.
Finally, let go of the idea that simply by attending Berkeley, you are somehow set apart from the other faceless masses of Cliff’s notes-using, latte-sipping college students in the nation. Not only have we dropped to a generous 20th in the nation among universities, but we’ve also grown so large that Berkeley can support three mediocre pizza establishments on one block of Telegraph, as well as seven different antique shops on the corner of Shattuck and Adeline. However well you did on the SATs, it’s difficult to feel too much pride, or even dignity, while living in a converted study lounge with two other students. If you can even catch a glimpse of your professor’s face during lecture, consider it a good day and yourself fairly privileged. Unless you’re one of the seven or eight New Zealand expatriates that care about rugby, our intercollegiate sports won’t be much consolation either. Nothing says “Cal pride” like a seventh consecutive Big Game defeat…
So, you might ask, how does the Squelch fit in to this gloomy picture? We don’t have any illusions about getting famous, or getting laid, or even getting ourselves to class most Monday mornings. All we try to do is provide, through laughter, a fleeting moment of escape from the permanent midnight of existence, where one can half-forget the futility of life and our impending, inevitable deaths. And, of course, the finest examples of pornographic top ten lists the western world has ever known.