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On growing older and feeling the same

I’m old: an old man of 21. Or I’m getting there. Today marks the day where I can start drinking alcohol, buying guns, gambling in casinos and adopting children.

But overall, I feel much the same as the ungainly 18-year-old who first approached this campus in the fall of 2013—that faintly thinner, easily impressed and slightly crazier simulacrum who’d initially embarked on that perilous journey from the distant reaches of Chelmsford, MA to Waltham, MA in a daring bid to plumb the arcane secrets and Jewish wisdom guarded by Brandeis University at the bargain price of ~$60,000/year. At the time, I had yet to learn what a garbanzo bean was.

The saying is common enough: “College is a transformative experience.” It makes me wonder just how much I’ve changed in the past three years I’ve been here. Again, I don’t really feel any different than I did before; though I guess a really pensive rock wouldn’t really notice the process by which it gets turned into a pebble either. There are a few American “coming-of-age” rituals I’ve ticked off—working for money, exiting my teenage years and driving a bit, etc—and they’ve been nice, but haven’t really struck me as being particularly significant in my development as a person or a personality. But when I really get to thinking about it, I find that the things that have actually had an influence on me actually do seem to bubble up and say “Hey, that was significant. Don’t forget it.”

Too often those “things” happen to be individuals I hold in rather high esteem: a new friend explaining their culture back home, an old friend asking for help, a former friend growing cold, a professor suggesting the future, a chaotically colorful ball of interesting and, more often than not, exceptionally weird: people willing to set aside a moment of their lives to stoke the roiling currents passing through our brains and the obscure ripples lapping at our souls. I certainly hadn’t considered the more delicate underpinnings of a social phenomenon I like to call Justice Rage, that is, exhibiting aggressive behavior in the face of an issue one doesn’t actually understand, until I’d started school here. Back then, I didn’t often come into contact with people whose passions ran high about things I’d scarcely even heard of.

As corny as it sounds, I’ve also tried to just be less argumentative in general. This isn’t to say I’ve become less comfortable sharing my opinions or have managed to conjure up the mental fortitude necessary to mold my personality into that of a peanut; but when I find someone who disagrees with me on something and is willing to share their thoughts, I try to actually consider the possibility that they might actually be right in the end.

Aside from my interactions with people, I suppose the only other things that have constituted change in me have been rather mundane. Eat breakfast in the morning. Use dental floss. Do your work. Go exercise. Try to learn a language other than English more aggressively. A lot of it can be boiled down to that rightfully hallowed virtue called discipline. Though I have yet to master it, I like to think I’ve gotten a general idea of how it works. However, it’s beyond my ken to know just how exactly one should go about primping a principle that essentially consists of “Do things you don’t want to do right now until you get used to them.” I suppose that could even serve as a rough metaphor for life in general for the more pessimistic of us.

Ultimately, I consciously know my behavior and philosophies have changed, but I feel the same. It makes me wonder just what exactly college has done to me, other than mold me into a fledgling biochemist and thrown a lot of peculiar young/old men and women spouting odd notions at me and whether I’ll get a better idea of this all at, say, the age of 30. Do you think the chair that gets atoms removed from it one at a time would ultimately feel any different by the time it ceases to be a chair? Maybe it could have a nice lunch-date with the pensive rock for an hour or two and they could share in the subtler movements of each others’ lumpy, gray hearts.

I guess this article didn’t really end up being much about Brandeis, so much as a pile of bizarre pseudo-philosophy. April Fools.

And happy birthday to me.

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