Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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Out of touch out of time

As it turns out the process by which one becomes Phi Beta Kappa is not based solely on GPA. They set a cutoff point, send lists of those students around to the respective departments of their majors, and receive back a whittled down list that included 10% or less of the graduating class. That's nice, I guess, but it means that my class rank is probably lower than I predicted. I could definitely see my boisterous and memorable personality outweighing a GPA deficiency.

I got my last two grades in and they were both A giving me a 3.9234 GPA for the semester, and a final Columbia College GPA of 3.8617. Higher than I thought it would be when I went in but lower than it could have been by a good deal. My high watermark was 3.885 but I couldn't maintain tha, let alone raise it above the 3.9 mark for Some Cum Loud. More accurately I WOULDN'T maintain that, I don't think it's arrogant to say that I could have had it been a higher priority. I mean I only slipped by .0233, not exactly a tumble off Everest. It's funny how your GPA interests change over time. You start out with endless possibilities and quickly settle in. Then you're a 1 a 2 a 3 or a 4 and you start to be more concerned with the first decimal place. Will you be a 3.3 or a 3.7? It seems like it matters. Eventually, around the midway point of junior year, you settle in at the first decimal (at least if you're doing well. The law of diminishing returns means that it's harder to get from 3.8 to 3.9 than it is from 2.6 to 2.7 or 3.9 to 3.8. Each A has less of an upwards pressure and each lower grade a greater influence. Where I spent the last half of my college career I needed like 3 As to every 2 A-s just to tread water.)

And then towards the end you're worrying about the second decimal place and it would take a monumental effort to move even that. You're like "Am I a 3.85 or a 3.86"? How STUPID is that? There's not that great a difference between 3.7 and 3.8 and yet the distance between 3.85 and 3.88 seems like a yawning chasm that you'll never be able to cross.

It's a sick cycle carousel, to steal a lyric. They get you on the treadmill with something that really IS important. The difference between a 3.5 and a 2.5 will have a large impact on many of the things you might want to do after school, although not all of them. It's something worth worrying about. Then they move you on to something that really doesn't matter unless you're being ultra competitive. 3.3 vs 3.5, it's a something but it's not an everything (although with grade inflation the upwards pressure has effectively reduced the size of the viable scale.) You can make it up in a variety of ways.

In the end you're worrying about 3.56 vs 3.54 and NOBODY CARES. It's an irrelevancy. Maybe it will make a hair of difference on some ultracompetitive application someday, but honestly it's an irrelevancy. There's some difference between 3.89 and 3.91 but that's only because of a psychological oddity where people think that's a greater leap than between 3.83 and 3.87 because of perception. We see that 9 vs the 8 and we're like "Wow! Now THAT'S impressive." We don't stop to read the second decimal place, let alone the third or FOURTH. GPA should not have a fourth decimal place. It's insane. It's immoral.

People talk about Marijuana as a gateway to harder drugs. Or homosexuality as a gateway to immorality. Nobody talks about GPA or salary or any of these other things as a gateway to conformity. It's so easy to be co-opted by grades, and then one day you wake up and find yourself actually caring whether you're a 3.88 or a 3.86. You know it doesn't matter. You know it's a fucking joke and a result of arbitrary decisions made by professors or even good decisions you made, to prize mental health over academic achievement, but it still gnaws at you.

It's how they get you. It's not just in school either. There are people out there, many of them, worried about whether they'll make 10 million or 9.86 million this year. Not those specific numbers, but you get the point. The jump between 20,000 and 40,000 a year is an astronomical leap. Between 40,000 and 80,000 it's a big jump. 80,000 and 160,000 is a stride. At some point, though, it becomes insignificant. If you're making 3 million dollars a year then you're set for food shelter healthcare education and anything else that you might realistically need. From then it's whether you can afford the NICE boat or a sixth bedroom you won't use on your house.

But Society gets you. It works you down to a nub trying to earn that irrelevant shit. It draws you in with stuff that matters and then leaves you scrambling just as hard for stuff that doesn't. That's what's behind a lot of rags to riches stories, I think. The guy who was once working his ass off just so he could 'put food on his family,' as our president says, doesn't know how to slow down once he's working for a nicer model of yacht, and now completely ignoring that very same family (Or a different one if he traded up in wives as so many of those guys do. I don't get that at all. I would never marry a woman unless she had some special quality about her that meant that she would be irreplaceable by anyone else. Of course I grew up with wealth and limited prominance so maybe I have that luxury. Plus nobody will want to marry me in the forseeable future so maybe I have the luxury of idle speculation.) that he has long ago absolutely COVERED in food.

This is the greatest fallacy of our society. That these things matter. This is why lawyers sacrifice entire beautiful summers not out there with the Robins and the Blue Jays and the short-skirted beauties but parked in sticky leather seats trying to save Wal-Mart from having to allow its employees to unionize. There's no rational reason to do that. You were given one life. ONE fucking life, man. 80 years more or less. That's it. Life is short so love the one you got cause you might get run over and you might get shot, to rip off another song.

Game over man, game over.

Yet people spend these lives, and I MEAN spend because it is a currancy, on frivolous wasteful shit. On accumulating bullshit and oppressing other people and just...WASTING. I don't mean that everyone who isn't a total hedonist is a total fool. The scientist who spends his life in a laboratory trying to help cure AIDS or add to the fund of human knowledge or whatever...what he's doing is fine. He's spending his lives, the days are always running through your hands like sand through the hourglass, but for a purpose. For a reason. He's investing in other people and the future and he's probably enjoying it, at least at some level. He has triumphs and pains and even if he loses his family he still has his work.

I don't spend every moment of my life fruitfully either. I waste it being fat. I waste it fighting with people on the internet pointlessly. I waste it watching shitty TV shows that aren't worth the magnetic tape they're stored on.

But I'm trying. I'm striving not to be defined by GPA or salary. I'm doing my damndest to buck the system and get out from under the wagon wheel before it's too late. I don't want to be a Wal-Mart attourney oppressing people for beaucoup bucks.

That's why I want to go into writing or film despite being a talentless hack who will undoubtably end up poor and suicidally depressed within 14 days of honestly trying either of those as a career. Because the time I spend writing or behind a camera doesn't feel like time wasted. It feels like time well spent, time that I won't regret. Time that's not being spent but rather consumed, enjoyed, savored.

The wagon ride might be a way for me to get to the top. To be rich and powerful and screw a lot of squaws (I went with squaw although I did not want to restrict the crudity to Native Americans. It was an aliterative choice. You understand.) But at what price?

At what fucking price?

I don't think I'm willing to pay it.

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