About one year ago, I was filling out the college admission form for the second time. As with questions about our desired dorms, it included a form asking to rate our interest in a variety of topics from “not interested” to “very interested”. There seemed nothing unusual about it. Science and technology, Italian culture, California ideals… I seemed pretty neutral to most of these, choosing “may be interested”. But then “food” came up as a topic. “Well, I enjoy eating food, so of course I’ll be interested”, I thought to myself. So I selected “very interested”. What I did not know at that time was that decision would finalize my marriage contract of my college English class required of me during my first two quarters in college.
I know “marriage” might be a strong term for referring to a relationship not between another human being, but if you think about it, being in college is being in a well-planned and awaited relationship with our studies. We’ve all been preparing for college since we were at least high schoolers, building up our college resumes with Advanced Placement courses, extracurricular activities, and grades for that one moment of applying to several four year colleges. We’ve sacrificed hours of leisure for a better future. We heavily anticipate the months of March and April of our senior high school years to decided where we would be for four years.
And most importantly, your total college cost, tuition, textbook cost, and housing cost for a single quarter /semester or two may cost as much as an average marriage. My college’s tuition for a quarter is in the $20,500’s. Couples on average are believed to spend between “$19,323 and $32,205” on a wedding(“Cost…”). My mom keeps reminding me that a single class costs about $100, considering all the costs, so I MUST attend all my classes. I understand Mom~
I think what bothers me the most about college though is that although we pay the heavy costs of college, American culture doesn’t do good enough of a job to encourage students to really enjoy their education. A fair number of college students look forward to it mostly in a social aspect. General education courses are often skirted off as “annoying requirements” for a diploma that may land us a job. College is seem more as a chore than a blessed opportunity.
I really wanted to get as much as I could from a true college experience as I could, textbook knowledge and all. I know of others who aren’t as blessed to have the four year experience, one that who never will… And I didn’t want to let my parents’ savings go to waste.
And… I really wanted to go to the college I had been admitted to the previous year. I had graduated the year before, and accepted the application when I did in my April, but I became really sick during my last months of high school. I lost most of my remaining high school days and a month of college due to it. During that time, I was unable to mentally get myself to check my emails or do anything. My parents felt that maybe my applied college had given up my application since I failed to respond to their orientation emails. They thought that I would probably need to take the junior college route to get into a four-year college. But, I decided to take the slim, improbable chance of requesting for a gap year. It worked! I knew then that I had wanted to take on this education marriage.
During my gap year, I had taken community college classes and was forced to stay near home, in fear that my illness would come back (it did). There was no social life on my college campus. I couldn’t drive, so meeting with other people to hang out was hard. I often spent lots of time on my own, wondering what life would be like in a four year college. During that November, the Facebook group UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens (or UCBMEFT) came out and took my Facebook story by storm. Everyone was adding each other to this college page and the numerous other inspired college meme pages, even for colleges that they hadn’t applied to. I was able to see how my fellow classmates related to each other in their college mishaps and grades. I became really excited about attending a four year college, when I would truly relate to their experiences.
Memes became a big part of my college freshman fall quarter than I expected. I was able to meet the people of my current Christian club and finally connect with my roommate (after three weeks of pure unease). And, interestingly enough, my English class was meme-worthy itself. The class title, not kidding, was “Food Porn”. For the first few weeks, we had talked about, looked at, and even created our own food porn! We had recognized the visual importance of food advertising and how it affects us as a nation, even if most of the food appeal is a lie. Who knew that food could even be a topic for a writing class?!
After we had spent a fair time with food porn, our professor had us read Eating Animals and Consider the Lobster, both which examined the ethical issues behind eating many of our “ethical” meats. He had us participate in class discussions about the texts and our analysis of the well-written and creative writing styles of Jonathan Safran Foer and David Foster Wallace respectively. It made me want to become less of a meat eater when we had to watch videos displaying the harsh reality of animal treatment in factory farms. I can’t look at a turkey ever again with the same ease anymore.
The other meat that we had learned about was the realization that everything that we’ve been taught in high school English classes was wrong! We realized that our previous essays were reversing the outline of a basic argument. Reading the professor’s book Slant, we rethought our writing processes with a slant, the mix of a thesis and a so-what. We needed to open up our essays to more questions and underlying issues rather than narrow ourselves in!
The biggest meat of writing information was the professor’s motto. “Write essays that you want to read!”. It made me realize that the greatest meat of an essay was the enjoyment of the writer. We have been so used to writing forced, structured essays that we had resented even thinking about writing an essay. That really stuck with me the most throughout the months.
I incorporated all of these meat in an essay I wrote about offals, those animal intestines that you see in Chinese restaurants and the like. It was my personal instinctive counterargument to the vegan- vegetarian- push that the texts have encouraged. As much as I’d like to stop eating meat, I can’t due to my family owning many Chinese restaurants with meat. I argued that offals do have more value than Western society likes to think in terms of “morality”. It’ll be difficult to stop all people from eating meat, but the least we can do is not waste the meat we make from factory farming! Is it not more immoral to waste animal resources than to kill animals themselves?
In another essay, I was able to incorporate creativity with my love for math in an essay that doesn’t offer any excuse for food waste. I took all my experiences with the various school dining services and used each restaurant to stress key issues in American food waste, particularly those involved with composting, surplus food, and leftovers. We purposely avoid placing blame for wasted food on ourselves! In one of my sources, I read of a woman who developed her own strategy to “forget” the existence of surplus food so when this surplus is past its expiration date she can throw this food away “‘with an easier conscience’”(Evans 53). Scary thought, isn’t it? It hit me more closer to home than I’d thought it would.
Here’s a “writing experiment” that I started my essay off with, the universal symbol of a person throwing away food that was created by various words that I thought a food waster would say as an excuse. It was the most random idea I had thought of at the moment, but it worked out once I became determined to do it. I am quite proud of this one!
At the beginning of the Winter quarter, we moved on from factory farming and food corruption to deceit in all industries. Food companies are messed up in their own ways, true, but so are many other things! Our professor challenged us to work in groups to create a podcast based on any topic involving corruption. Initially I wasn’t gung-ho for the idea since I’ve never been the best in group settings. I also wasn’t too familiar with my group members. It took some time for us to work everything out, but we succeeded in creating a podcast highlighting the notable female bias in the Silicon Valley. Our group set-up forced us to get creative in presenting our podcast as one of “many” podcasts by a male student at our school asking informed females about gender-specific issues. We took phone and Skype interviews with female tech workers to add to our podcast. I had mislead myself into believing that everything wasn’t going to go well when quite the opposite was true.
We also do a fair share of misleading and lying ourselves, even without knowing it. Dan Ariely in his book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty discussed various ways in which we as people lie to ourselves. We use our creativity, personal belongings, and our conscious to lie to ourselves of who we are, for better and for worse. It was rather amusing listening to classmates who openly admitted the ways that people cheated in their high schools in a college class!
It just so happened that around that time I went into an identity crisis about being in a four year college. I was insecure as to whether I was capable of being in my intended major, or even being at the college at all. I felt my interest in my major was fading quickly, but I didn’t know what to change to. Was it right to put my family’s finances at a big risk when I was so unsure of whether my education mattered? College only really matters if you finish with a degree, isn’t it?
We were assigned to write our final essay of any given topic relating to our official class theme of “Food, Self, and Culture”. I felt that I had run out of ideas at that point. I had wanted to stick with food as much as I could since it was a food class. Most of my classmates had switched to other subjects of their interests that involved corruption or illegal means such as overuse of drugs in the Silicon tech industry and the competitive e-Sports. I felt uncertain of thesis statements that I had brought to class for peer review. I thought these statements over for days, and on a whim I decided to pick reality shows as a topic.
I had deeply thinking about the ending of a video game I had finished, Danganronpa V3. I won’t spoil the ending in here, trust me! I love the Danganronpa franchise, don’t get me wrong (the featured image includes the main protagonists of Danganronpa V3, Kaede and Shuichi) and I’d highly recommend it, but the end of the most recent game really made me consider the moral ramifications of teenage violence in similar franchises such as The Hunger Games movies and novels. Is it right for our society to popularize medias such as these into the mainstream? I discussed the video game as part of my analysis for the short story Those Who Walk Away from Omelas by the recently deceased Ursula Le Guin that questions whether the mistreatment of a select few people is worth the sacrifice for the happiness for most people. I emailed my professor to ask whether this idea could work, and he thought that it was an excellent essay idea! I was excited to hear that a series that has great meaning to me could be used as the basis for a college assignment, especially since the essay would be very specific to Danganronpa V3 and The Hunger Games movies.
The essay proved to be my most ambitious venture ever! It took me about three hours to find a proper narrative that related to my stance ( that these medias that display child-killing encourage young adults to consider their moralities in decision making towards authority/establishment), but once I found it I hit jackpot and was able to use the story to lead my essay. I had borrowed about four physical books detailing reports that defined ethics and morality (it’s far more greater than you can imagine!), reviewed a fair share of websites and databases, and relooked over summaries for the medias so I could describe all the occasions of defiance (murder or not) with enough background information for anyone to read the essay! The outline for my essay, consisting of nothing but bullet points, totaled to five pages. I thought that my essay would be ten pages at most, but in bringing the essay to completion on my rough draft, I realized that I needed a lot more time than expected… I once had to work on the essay for four hours straight to get it done within the generous extension.
The essay… turned out to be 17 pages long, double spaces, MLA format, even without the works cited pages…
The closest I’d been able to get a research paper to that length was nine pages. Heck, the page requirement for the essay itself was at least five pages!
It was an exhausting essay. Midway I was beginning to regret my idea since there was a lot that needed to be talked about.
I brought up all the crucial plot points that related to the three subcategories of ethics. I established that each character had their “just” motivations; there is no one “common sense” after all (Wallace 26)! The Hunger Games movies most notably encouraged young adults to create communities that dedicated themselves to relating words of the movies and the scarring violence to relieve daily stresses and discuss socioeconomic inequality. We seek to find definitive solutions to movies that deal with realistic issues such as inequality. Violence has always existed in “popular medias” such as Grimm fairy tales since they effectively keep children away from dangers through the use of fear. The world will always be filled with violence, so the best solution is to discuss use of it with young adults so they may make their own best judgements!
Meaning (The Most Important):
Looking back at it, the fulfillment of my improbable essay goal was an exhaustion worth taking! I was able to reflect on the basis of my own decision making best by writing that essay. The research proved that the world isn’t as straightforward as we’d like it to be. The “just” in any decision should be seen in the same light as anything “in-just”. They can switch at a matters notice depending on which ethic subcategories are weighted higher than others in society. One of the most important things you can do is encourage discussion of ideals and topics that you know that exist, whether you morally believe in them or not. All of our personal values are based on one another’s. We should be open for outside opinion enough as we are to our random ideas.
We tend to feel the most at ease with ourselves when we stick with a specific set of values over our lives. It’s only natural. We want to feel that what we are doing is right. Doesn’t your life only have meaning once you fulfill a life-long dream of yours? No, it doesn’t. I believe that life has meaning only when you take those improbable challenges and you daily face your “opposition”. I wouldn’t be able to write an essay, let alone this blog post, so long if I hadn’t taken those few minutes writing an email to my professor about an idea that popped up in my head. I wouldn’t have been able to challenge my creative limits nor even be attending a four year college had I acted on my “logic” over my intuition. Writing an essay that you would want to read becomes no different than living your life as if you were to want your life to be like someone else’s.
A required English class such as the one I had for two quarters of my freshman year of college doesn’t serve primarily for me to learn about English. It serves to push me and other adults into finding our own meaning by pushing us out of our comfort zones and helping us distinguish our intuitions from “logics” that may “mislead” us. It was about finding the “meat” in my lives and the “morality” of my decisions. Being in a group setting instilled a shared discomfort that became an unspoken mean of relating with peers, just as “memes” serve to bring college students together. The “marriage” of college is costly in many regards, but it “means” so much to me. I can not be any more grateful than I am now!
“Shuichi Saihara and Kaede Akamatsu from Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony.” https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/858991328899557263/
“How much does the average wedding cost?” MSASea. http://www.msa-sea.org/43506-average-cost-of-weddin-venue/
“Average Wedding Cost in the United States Is $25,764.” Cost of Wedding, The Wedding Report.Inc, http://www.costofwedding.com/.
Harlot777. “Food Porn.” Imgur. 3 March 2015. https://imgur.com/gallery/pVczv6F
“Meat Chickens 2.” Safe https://safe.org.nz/issue/factory-farming-meat-chickens
Evans, David. Food Waste: Home Consumption, Material Culture and Everyday Life.
“District 8 Battle 2.” Wired. https://www.wired.com/2014/11/mockingjay-violence-teens/
“Big Meaning.” Christopher Curtis Sensei. http://curtissensei.com/?p=820