Something I've been thinking about a lot lately: My undergraduate degree. I had a lot of fun in the English department at the U. Papers were fairly free-form, creativity was held at a premium, and logic was a thing only philosophy majors dabbled in. Mine was the psychedelia of Sartrian Existentialism swirled with Sound Poetry, L'Orca and a meaty measure of Shakespeare. It was the most academically satisfying time of my life. It was the also the most disconnected with the Professional World I had ever been as well. And that was fine by me. I was this close to getting a PhD in literature. As far as I know, it might still happen. I'm still trying to figure out how I could become a literary minded expert witness, emerging from my professorial cocoon to occasionally spout out Ben Johnson and Seamus Heaney, leave the jury astounded, and with a swish of my robes return to my post as poet laureate at Harvard. Anyway, here's a letter I kind of wrote to myself at the beginning of what would be my "Senior" (2nd) year at the University of Utah, via the Daily Utah Chronicle: You thought it would never come around. In all those lazy hours of summer, you never imagined that you’d really have to return! Welcome back to school, you. It’s time to verbally rage against the machine once again, while diligently grumbling your way towards an official sheet of paper signed by important people that allows you to, get this!... work towards MORE official sheets of paper signed by OTHER important people! That’s right, that’s what you’re reading, studying, testing and bleeding for- a “degree.” To you freshmen, a degree’s not just limited to temperature and angle measures anymore. It’s a palpable, paper representation of all the hours you slept through lectures, all the papers you started two hours before they were due, all the times you told yourself this lie- “tonight, I’m going to STUDY,” and all the endless, empty cans of Coca-Cola by your desk. After eighteen years or 2,000 hours of credit, you’ll talk to an “advisor” about getting a degree. They’ll assign you another two semesters of “real classes,” and then you’ll be ready to don those rental robes and funny caps, walk down an aisle and receive…a fake degree. But the real one’s coming… …in the mail- First class, United States Postal Service, mind you. (They spare no expense, because they spared you none!) You’ll shake with anticipation as you gently withdraw your degree from the official envelope, shake it a bit, and put it somewhere conspicuous. If you notice any wrinkles in the degree, don’t try and iron it. (That’s not something they’d teach you at the University, but they should. Paper burns) Now, buy a nice frame for the degree, and hang it up on a wall somewhere. After $20,000 and a lot of headaches, you deserve to have people notice it! Your degree will have signatures from people you never met, but you’re pretty sure you heard of. In between the fancy titles and fancy ways of saying that you’re officially a “Bachelor of something,” your name appears in bright, bold letters. Perfect! Now you get to work for 10.00 an hour! When people see that you’ve earned a degree (you’ll have to show it to them), they’ll immediately think “Oh, me too!” and continue about their business. If you’re an Engineering major, or just lucky, they might even be impressed. These same people will probably ask if you’ve had any professional experience. At this point, you’ll be tempted to say “I’ve been in school for the past twenty years, moron! How can I possibly have any (bleeping) professional experience?!” but don’t succumb to that. You haven’t been working so hard just to flush your degree down the proverbial, professional toilet. Just calmly reply that you thought your degree would allow you to enter into a profession and gain that experience. So, when that day arrives, and you’ve proudly got your degree, don’t be surprised when you hear this from people and potential employers: “Silly you, degrees are for kids!” Welcome back, you! Enjoy!

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