Although I enjoyed college, I can’t say I did much more there besides reinforcing what I generally already knew. Maybe it was the majors I chose because I went with paths I was already connected to. Or maybe I was just one of those pricks who, when presented with new knowledge, would say, “I basically already knew that, I just didn’t put it together that way”, or some other know-it-all statement along those lines. Regardless of which it was, I never felt like I was in college to learn a subject, unless that subject was people, in which case I was able to learn a LOT.
The first, and most important, lesson that I learned was knowing when to be amenable, and when to be assertive. In one of my many English classes (waaaayyyyy too damn many), my professor was difficult. As hell. She was self-involved and loved nothing more than to ask students questions only to shoot them down mid-answer and explain the many ways in which they were wrong. People like that have always annoyed me (still do) because more often than not, they’re rude and egotistical. I’ve always felt like just because you know a lot about any given subject, it does not make you an authority on it because you can never know everything. Plus, it’s arrogant (and annoying) as fuck to basically broadcast what you do know, especially to someone who may know less than you. For example, I’m great with words. All words. Spellings, word origins and definitions, all of that nonsense, yet, I try to only use my vocabulary to its full capacity when I’m around scholars of the same subject matter. And you’ll NEVER hear me correct anyone’s word usage or pronunciation unless they look to me to do so. I have extreme disdain for the idea of talking down to people so I try to meet everyone at their level, never higher. Some call it ‘dumbing myself down’. I call it ensuring people’s intellectual comfort (yes, I actually do lol).
Regardless, this damn teacher annoyed me to no end so I would make a point to do all of my research just so that I’d be able to go toe to toe with her in class. I won many of our debates and felt great about it, until I was given a C+ in the class. The damn professor would never give me more than a C on any paper I turned in and for participation I got a damn C as well. The final paper that was graded by my peers was my saving grace and the only test that bumped me up to a C+. I was flummoxed. How, when I’d gone the extra mile to learn everything that she knew, could my professor allow me to scrape by instead of commending my interest? I wouldn’t know unless I asked, so I did.
Strolling into her office, her dislike for me was evident and it was no surprise that she didn’t have any real answers for my mediocre grade except for the fact that she ‘didn’t care for my writing style’ and felt I was being ‘too ambitious’ in our class debates. Sitting across from her, half-listening, I couldn’t help but realize how I’d taken the worst path imaginable in that situation. Instead of letting the obvious egoist win by simply nodding and smiling, I chose war and although I’d won a few debates, the real win would have shown in an adjustment to my grade had I just let the teacher teach, in whatever way worked for her.
Moral of the story is: choose your fucking battles. Because doing so has saved me from the mess that is another person’s over-inflated ego too many times to count. For the most part, I find it much more interesting to allow people to feel like they have the upper hand and I’m always interested in what they do with it. Only way to judge true character, if you ask me. In knowing that everyday life is not, nor should it be treated as, a psychological experience, I don’t think there’s anything better than killing people with kindness and nonchalance while quietly learning the keys to getting what’s best for you out of any given situation. Would I have learned this lesson without college? Probably. Would it have affected me enough to stick with me for the rest of my life? Probably not. And, for some reason, that was important enough to mention tonight.