Response to the UCSB Alumni Survey

October 11, 2009

I wrote this in response to an email I got from my old university, and liked it enough to post it on a website nobody visits. Enjoy?

Dear Maria,

I wish I could take your survey, but the fact is that ever since I escaped UCSB with my near-worthless BA in Philosophy, paid off my debts working jobs that required no semblance of a college degree, and fled to Central America, I have found myself utterly unable to do, or even imagine doing, anything that comes in a standardized form, which unfortunately includes the Undergraduate Alumni Survey. I apologize profusely, but as I sit here at 11am in a surfing town in Nicaragua, sipping delicious coffee between breakfast and whatever I might end up doing this afternoon, debating the merits of heading a few hundred miles north to visit a friend at her beautiful slice of beachside paradise or go instead to Guatemala chasing girls, I really just boggle at the idea of sitting down and filling out a survey about how post-UCSB life is treating me – instead, I’ll take the same 15 minutes and happily write this email, and probably better explain how my life has changed then I could in any survey. Plus, my internet connection is god-awful, and loading another page just doesn’t appeal to me. So sorry.

Here’s how my life has changed from UCSB to now – at UCSB I took a lot of classes that I found uninteresting, rote, and useless to my life. I wanted to take a lot of classes, don’t get me wrong,, but the ones I found interesting and useful all seemed to be parts of majors and tracks I couldn’t be a part of because I was busy getting terrible grades in History of Islamic Art and Architecture, or maybe Special Issues in Women’s Literature, which was really just 4 hours a week of some angry old crone raging against everything and anything with a Y-chromosome and a dick – I never thought I could hate attending a class of 40 girls and me, but that happened. Meanwhile in evolutionary theory classes, graduate PoliSci and chemistry, engineering, the classes I couldn’t be a part of and had to instead sneak into after the first few days of class, I learned all sorts of fascinating things – useful ones too – and did it all without ever receiving credit. I got shit for grades in my classes because I hated them, because I couldn’t get into the ones that were interesting, because I got shit grades. You see the circle here, don’t you Maria? Catch-22 in action, and I was stuck in the middle.

So that was UCSB, that and binge drinking, empty sex, a lot of hungover mornings, a list of jobs I didn’t like, and a lot of drunkenness. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t completely unhappy – I made friends, I had a lot of fun, and I grew up a lot – all parts of going off to college. Still, a year and quarter later, sitting here, I’m only glad I went to your college because of the value other people put on that stupid fucking piece of paper, the one I only like because it has Arnold the Governator’s signature, and I can one day show my kids Terminator then tell them that the evil robot from the future later got to run our whole state into the ground face first, just shitbagged us all. It’ll be worth a laugh when they don’t believe me, and then I go get my degree to show them his signature. Really, that’s the only reason I care about my degree at all – because other people act as if I’ve accomplished something when really I just threw money into the fireplace, jumped through a very expensive hoop, got my pat on the head, got my biscuit, and now I’m magically qualified to work other jobs.

UCSB is too expensive, top-heavy with asshole business school graduates posing as administrators, raising their own ridiculous salaries while furloughing workers, busting unions, throwing poor workers the scraps and gorging themselves on the obscene student fees and dues, extorting kids who just don’t want to be poor and working a shit job their whole life. Here boy, good boy, lookie what I got here – a diploma. You want a diploma, don’t you boy? A nice little diploma, you can work as a manager instead of a warehouse handler, you can afford the things that we pretend in the USA make you happy. Just reach a little further boy, put a little more cash fireplace, and everything will work out fine. Not a day went by at UCSB that I didn’t feel like a fucking hampster on a wheel, running always to find a better, happier life, and never going anywhere except down.

UCSB did help me though, with one thing. I learned at your university that the world I lived in, the one I was trying to become a part of was fucked and awful, not fit for anyone who ever wanted to be happy. Instead of looking to get ahead, to rise to the top, I started looking for a way out, found one, took it, and here I am in Central America, having the time of my life.

I don’t mean a vacation, I mean a full-on checking out and letting go, a clean break with the life I had and didn’t like, a way to escape the miserable cycle of awake, arise, eat, work, shit, sleep, awake, arise, supplemented by buying new and diifferent toys, things, devices, placebos for the real problem that life in the US style destroys everything it touches, corrupt the beautiful, corrodes the good, saps the value out of virtue, rewards blunt stupid drive for success at the expense of all other things. All for me, fuck the little guy – if they can’t stand up for themselves we can just roll over them and not even look back – it is an awful way to live, and UCSB perpetuates that uncaring, uninvolved, individually miserably lifestyle by being a big unfeeling diploma factory – put the money in, fuck around for 4 years, get a piece of paper, and welcome to the next circle of hell. No, I won’t do it, I realized, I would rather die then live like that – so here I am.

It’s a better life Maria, it really is. Adventure, friends from everywhere, a culture and language more expressive, kinder, more interested in your life and yourself. I imagine you have a home, kids, a husband, investments, a car or 2, a retirement account – a lot of things tying you to your life where you are, and perhaps you’re quite happy as well – I would hope so. However, the best thing I ever did with my young life is to have run when I had the chance, slipped the bonds of material society, tore my eyes off the TV, got sober(ish) and ran like hell. Thus far, I’ve never looked back, or been so happy as I have since I left. So thank you, and thank you to everyone at UCSB for the piece of paper Ahnold signed, as it has proven my key to getting the fuck out of Dodge, away from the life I hated, and into one I love. Still, UCSB was not a good time for me, and I’m thankful every day I’m away from that place – it’s not a very warm or friendly place, and I got the distinct feeling that nobody gave 2 shits about me except when I didn’t pay on time.

Thanks for reading, and good day to you. If you’re ever unhappy with your life, remember that the rest of the world doesn’t work like the USA, and there are places out in the world still where your neighbors know you, where starting conversations with strangers isn’t the mark of a criminal or dangerous psychopath, and where people you don’t know genuinely care about you. Oh, and it’s cheap as sin to live down here – I live twice as nicely on half as much, and don’t have to work all day every day just to keep a roof over my head. Well, take care, and remember to smile.

-k

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4 Responses to “Response to the UCSB Alumni Survey”

  1. Karen Says:

    so, ok that was funny. I have no idea how you got onto the Peace Corps Journals Website, but it was worth five minutes of my time.

  2. Citizen K Says:

    Karen, glad you liked it – I’m on the Peace Corps Journals site because I was in the Peace Corps, got kicked out (largely for writing things on the internet) and they’ve never bothered to take me off. If you’d like to read the Peace Corps part, it starts at https://mentalcigarettes.wordpress.com/2009/02/ and goes on a while from there. Long read, but some people like it.

    Cheers!

  3. S Says:

    Amazing. Very happy I read this, as I feel exactly in the same situation, along with many other UCSB grads I’m sure. I have even flirted with the idea to pack up and go to Guatemala like you mentioned or a place like Peru, just to get away and to find myself after these rather unenlightening 4 years. What’s your story? What pushed you over the edge to just go for it and leave? If you have any tips or things that you wish somebody told you, places that need to be experienced or any helpful information for somebody just hanging around Santa Barbara post-college with nothing more than a heavy liver and month to month living to show for it, please email me. Thanks!

  4. Citizen K Says:

    Hey S-
    Glad you liked the read, there was a lot of emotional baggage poured out into this one, and it warms my heart that at least someone read it. Truth told, UCSB itself pushed me to leave, made me realize how much I disliked American education and formal education in general. I couldn’t come to grips with the materialism, self-justified greed, or focus on gaining advantage over your fellow man that UCSB will forever symbolize to me, and so it was from my experiences there that I was galvanized to get the fuck out, to start anew somewhere else.

    At the time I decided to leave the US, I was applying to grad schools, and eventually decided to join the US Peace Corps in lieu of diving into the next level of hell – what a saving grace that was! I loved the program, right up until the day I was kicked out for petty rulebreaking (read my “peace corps diary” entries for that whole story) and from that program I gained the language skills, cultural knowledge, and immunizations I needed to transition from volunteer worker to full-time expatriate.

    If you really want to leave all you really need are these things – the language of the place you’re going, and a burning desire to live a completely different, much more difficult, and very much more rewarding life. If you want to do it, it will work for you. If you want to discuss this at all in depth, I recommend emailing me, and I’d be happy to have a lengthy conversation on my preparations and experiences. Chao -k


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