Prepare for reality

While ascending the college escalator, reality emerges fast and hard.

Here we are, standing shoulder to shoulder on a dark escalator thatâÄôs headed to graduation. A crowded line of workers, artists, engineers, doctors, dropouts, mothers, drug addicts, sex offenders, athletes, business professionals, writers, consumers, all learning together, waiting together, for the promise of a magical piece of paper. The higher the escalator goes, so goes the knowledge, so goes the list of mistakes, a long roster of heartbreak, an understanding of the world, the reality of how cruel people can be, how great, how different, how free, how stilted, how self-involved, how reckless and motivated. I remember freshman year, hopping on the escalator with shear anticipation. A fellow rider, also new to the climb, turned to me and asked, âÄúSo whyâÄôd you choose this place?âÄù âÄúWell,âÄù I said to him, âÄúI really wanted to go to design school, but it was too expensive. So I decided to go here. And, if I ever want to change my major, theyâÄôve got a little bit of everything.âÄù At the time I had no idea how detrimental my indecisiveness and inability to make important decisions would be to my ride. I lulled in my first two years, dropped a class here and there, thinking how far off four years would be. Nearly five years later, IâÄôm still on this cold, bleak escalator. No one warned me how quickly it would pick up speed. No one told me that I should invest in parachute lessons for my departure at the end âÄî I always assumed thereâÄôd be a lovely little office and a modest little salary awaiting my arrival. Ha! How wrong I was. I never expected such a drastic shift in the economy or such giant increases in tuition, or the reality of how much you can spend at a bar in just one weekend. Where were those warnings? I look down, suddenly gaining a new fear of heights, pondering how necessary this climb really was, if I was inevitably going to fall right back down anyways. I remind myself that this is an investment. IâÄôm a hard worker and I can think of at least four or five places where I would make a great unpaid intern. The girl next to me flashes a warm smile. She sees that IâÄôm uneasy and havenâÄôt conversed in a while. She tells me how great these things called âÄútemp agenciesâÄù are. It sounds alright. I suddenly realize IâÄôve been hogging the guard rail for a while and the guy next to me seems to be in need of some air. I push back into the crowd. ItâÄôs a little claustrophobic, it smells of PBR and cigarettes and I think the kid behind me is about to puke. I try to focus. I can actually see the end, maybe thereâÄôs something worthwhile waiting a little beyond the edge. Stay positive. Stay positive, I urge my myself. I guess IâÄôve always wanted to go sky diving, I think. I remember some of my friends who decided to jump a ways back. Even they are ok, I reassure myself. I look up, above the crowd of heads, the sun seems like a great sign of hope. As I reflect on all IâÄôve learned, I begin to realize how necessary every step on this escalator is. A splash of vomit hits my leg. I sigh. âÄúKids.âÄù I start laughing. For some reason, I know IâÄôm going to miss this. I tell him not to worry, they didnâÄôt offer a class on moderation. I pull out my water bottle and take one last sip, then I hand it to him. âÄúKeep it.âÄù I say, realizing he needs it more than I do. âÄúIâÄôm getting off soon.âÄù I smile. Yes, I might fall, but maybe I will land in a pool of Jell-O, or a ball pit, or in a cubical. Maybe I could make a giant paper airplane out of my diploma, or cut a bunch of paper dolls to catch me. IâÄôm getting restless. ItâÄôs time. Bring it on, future. Ashley Goetz welcomes comments at [email protected]