As one of the rising sophomores of Santa Clara, I have just undergone the experience of a freshman year of college. Freshman year was an incredible time during which I had the opportunity of freedom, more so than any other point in my life. I finally had absolute control over my own life; I was able to finally act as an adult member of society and to deal with all the responsibilities that come with having that authority. Over the course of the year, I learned to skate, started playing guitar, went skydiving, and met hundreds of people, some of which I could no longer imagine my life without. It was one of the single most influential times of my life and yet at the end it began to bore me.
When I first came to the school, the newness of it all took me aback. Every walk to class or trip to the bathroom was an adventure which had the ability to define my day. Time went slowly and the fact that everyone else felt similarly exhilarated allowed friendships to bloom almost instantaneously. In this time period I made friends with almost every person on my floor, excited about the prospect of spending the rest of my year with these new people whom I knew were going to be my friends. I would look around the campus and marvel at the fact that at some point the towering buildings and beautiful scenery would look mundane to me. The experience of wandering about at night with a pack of newly made friends, not having any idea where you were going and not caring defined the first few weeks
After a few weeks, classes began to become serious with the professors assigning major papers and midterms which were worth a quarter of the final grade. This too though was not so much a chore as a chance to learn new things. Seen through the excited eyes of a freshman, these classes were just another part of the experience. Trying out my new freedom, one morning I skipped my morning class and went to Santa Cruz for an all-day surf trip. The next class, I was worried the professor would call me out about it, embarrassing me in front of the class so I thought through the scenario in my head, thinking I would just tell her that I had been too sick to attend. As you can probably guess, the professor didn’t care that I had chosen not to attend, probably not even noticing. I can still feel the trepidation that I felt that morning, an anxiety that I lost over the course of the year.
As David Foster Wallace discusses in the short film “This is Water”, there comes a point where actions become reflex, when one’s outlook on life becomes so self-centered that everything begins to be seen through a lens of tedium. Finishing up the last few weeks of school, that is exactly the way in which I felt. I knew that I was the same student who came into Santa Clara desiring adventure and unforgettable experiences, but yet I also wasn’t. The walk to class became an annoying waste of time, the beautiful environment had faded into the background of my awareness, and the element of randomness was mainly gone from my nights. This happened casually, sneaking up on me despite the positivity which I had brought into the school year. I wasn’t depressed; I still was and continue to be a positive person, but the romance of being a freshman was no longer there. The more time I spent as one, the more disillusioned I became with being one.
It boggles my mind to think that being a college student, something which I had wished for throughout the entirety of high school became so mundane and boring to me. It was the experience of having something close to your heart be shown to be a falsity that was a common theme in my work throughout the year. Much as my dream of being a freshman was spoiled by living it out, so to was my food spoiled by examining the heartless system which produces it.
Whereas once I was able to enjoy my food peacefully, now it feels unclean to do so. Films such as Food Inc., which delve behind the curtain that the food industry is so keen to put up, have shown me the horrors to which those animals are subjected. While not entirely removing meat from my diet, as some of my peers have done, I have made the effort to be more knowledgeable about the truth behind my food. I’ve made efforts to shop more consciously, using restaurants such as Chipotle, who source their food locally (The Scarecrow), and supermarkets such as Whole Foods, who look into the treatment of the animals which they purchase.
The corporate world of the food industry produces a toxic environment where it is seen as alright to lie to the consumer and sell them inferior goods all in the name of making more money. Lying to the consumer in order to make more profit is something I saw rather frequently in my research this year. In the food industry, a prime example would be Foster Farms’ rhetoric regarding the outbreak of salmonella in their food. While they act as though the fault for the outbreak lies in consumers not properly handling the meat in a way where salmonella is killed, it noticeable that Foster Farms is involved in quite often in recalls, as less than a month ago 574 people were made ill by consuming meat linked to Foster Farms (NBC News).
Companies in other industries are also to blame for this mentality that the deception of consumers is an morally-justifiable act. Take the case of DIY, which started as a movement designed to reject the rampant consumerism in America and to bring the nation back towards individual self-sufficiency. While the concept is beneficiary to American society, the fact that companies have taken advantage of it has corrupted this ideal. Companies such as General Electric, who manufacture crowd sourced inventions and then proclaim themselves as champions of the DIY spirit and state that they are doing it for altruistic reasons when in reality they do so because it is profitable and it helps them to market themselves to Americans (Voight).
As David Foster Wallace states in “This is Water”, it takes a vigilant mind in order to live life fully. This vigilance should to extend to all matters in one’s life, not accepting the easy truths and moving on. So I urge you, the reader, to not let your life be unobserved. Challenge yourself, in all things, to live life in accordance with what you believe and not let yourself be taken in by the lies of others. Don’t merely go through the motions of living but examine all parts of life and wallow in it, enjoying the beauty before you. That is what I learned this year in my CTW and I wasn’t able to see how it could have been directly applied to my life until now, at the culmination of the class. In the words of Henry David Thoreau “I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” (Thoreau)
Voight, Joan, firstname.lastname@example.org. “Meet Your Maker.” Adweek 55.11 (2014): 22-25. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 16 May 2014.
Thoreau, Henry D. Walden. Radford, VA: Wilder Publications, 2008. Print.
Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Magnolia Pictures, 2009. DVD.
The Scarecrow. Dirs. Limbert Favian and Brandon Oldenberg. Chipotle Inc. 2013. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUtnas5ScSE>
This Is Water. Dir. Matthew Freidell. Prod. Allie Dunning and Jeremy Dunning. By David Foster Wallace. Youtube. N.p., 30 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 June 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKYJVV7HuZw>>
Aleccia, Jonel. “Salmonella Surprise: 574 Sick in Foster Farms Outbreak, CDC Says”. National Broadcasting Company. June 12, 2014. Web. June 13, 2014.