Look at you! You’re a student in college! You have just about everything to prove it: six hundred dollar textbooks; texts from your mother that show she learned how to use emojis in your absence; and you’re even getting really into Bon Iver and The Smiths! College is such a blast. You remember your first week, right? You went down the street to get Taco Bell at like, um, 10 at night? College is freaking wild! You remember the next morning, right? When that professor gave you a two-page paper you had to write about something boring like the electoral college and you turned to the kid next to you and you were all like ‘Uh, yeah, guess who’s not doing that until the night before it’s due?’ and they were all confused you were talking to them and they said ‘What? Who?’ and you were like ‘Me!’ and then you both high fived? That was awesome! Good times. Well, it’s late and you have another full day of antics and hijinks fueled by your devil-may-care attitude tomorrow. As you fall asleep, keep reminiscing about all the good times you’ve had so far. Boy oh boy, you think, these first few weeks of class sure have flown by. You see the top of the ceiling now. Wait. Oh no. They did fly by. You frantically open your backpack and dig out the syllabus. That paper you high fived over is due tomorrow. You look at the date on your phone. Today is tomorrow. You were asleep!? It hits your brain like that time in second grade you weren’t paying attention during recess and a softball smacked you right in the eye. That paper on the electoral college is due in two hours. Don’t worry. I’ve been there, and I’m here to coach you through it, every step of the way.
Don’t panic, first things first: Open your laptop. Done. Word Document? Already open. Okay, going well so far.
Okay, now the title. It has to be clever. As long as the title is good, the content can be garbage, right? I’m pretty sure that’s how it works, and you don’t really have time to argue. Okay, it has to be a reference to a movie from the 70s or 80s so your professor will read it and know that you’re one of the cool students that they can count on to sympathy laugh at their awkward puns. A cheeky smile grows on your face. It’s come to you as if in a dream: the perfect title: “The Real Animal House: Exploring The Dysfunction of the Modern Electoral College.” Absolutely Beautiful. Kiss your fingers like a fine Italian master. Make a mental note to tell your Professor to send this to the New Yorker when they’re done grading it to let all the writers there know they’re wasting their lives. Start to question if you’re actually a prodigy. Should you even be in college? You should be teaching college at the least. No, there’s no time for that, focus up.
Man, writing that title was hard. Take an Instagram break, you deserve it, master of words. Open it to that new “You’re all caught up!” banner that Instagram added. Keep scrolling anyway. Discover that the banner wasn’t lying and see the same picture of the girl you went to high school with having fun at her college, so get frustrated and press the home button. Who are you even frustrated at? You kept scrolling.
Okay, back to the paper. Okay, states. States. The Electoral college has something to do with states. But what? You were too busy in class thinking about how awesome it was when you high fived the kid next to you. Okay, you think you remember, each state has one vote for the president and it’s who won the popular vote in that state but then sometimes the voters from the states don’t have to vote for the winner of the vote? No, wait, that can’t be right. Write it anyway.
There’s a knock on the door. Get up, but wait. Maybe if you just ignore it, they’ll go away. Hold your breath. Another knock. Dang. Open the door to your smiling RA. Stop them before they can say the words “Floor Dinner” and even though it hurts you physically to look into their eyes and rip their soul out, explain that you can’t talk to them right now and whip around and close the door.
Look at the clock. Fifty-five minutes. Tell yourself not to look at all the white space on the page. Do it anyway. And that’s just the first page. Cry. Wait. Do you even have the effort to cry? Lay your head on the keyboard.
And then it all makes sense. You know exactly what you’re going to do. Laugh a bit, because it all makes sense to you now! Whoa, okay you’re laughing too much now by yourself, your roommate is looking at you weird. But even that doesn’t phase you because you’re sure what you’re going to do next. Drop out! Move to a tiny town in the Southwest! Wear denim jackets with leather fringe trim and drink Coca-Cola out of glass bottles! Write poems about horses and how cool hanging out with horses is and work for the train station in town until that closes down and you start your own shop selling turquoise jewelry and iron trinkets named “Life’s Little Treasures” and the neon in second ‘t’ is a little bit dimmer than the rest of the letters but you don’t fix it because that’s what gives it charm! And suddenly one day you get a letter in the mail that a real estate developer has bought up all the land around “Life’s Little Treasures” and they’re forcing you out to build luxury condominiums, but damn it if you’re not going to put up a fight! Against all odds, you rally the whole town behind you and they carry you in the streets as they chase those real estate developers out of town as they chant your name!
No. Take a deep breath. Your place in this realm, whether you like it or not, is here, behind this laptop screen. Accept your fate. Start typing.
In a miraculous feat of word-vomit, throw every word you half-remember from the lecture in a mish mash of repetitive nonsense and by praying to the grace of Kernel Cobb, meet that glorious phrase: the minimum requirement. Read it over as you walk from the Maize to class. Accept that it’s almost complete gibberish. Accept that your professor might start to question if you’re even literate. Accept that this is probably only a fraction of a bit better than outright handing your professor a blank piece of paper with the word “Sowwy :(“ written on it with green pen.
Give it to the professor right away in class, before anyone else does. Extend it in your hand like bloody roadkill and drop it, and watch as it hits the desk.
Sink into your desk, flip down the linoleum desk part and lay your head on it. Your spirit is broken. Congratulations. You just a wrote a paper in college!