January 27, 2012

Knowing pains

Despite believing to know it all at every age, reflection on getting older brings profound sense of ignorance.

When I was one of them, we would line up early outside of our classes in small gaggles by the wall and talk with one another about things that were important. We would talk about what we did downtown last weekend and how Durkheim was the best or the worst thing we’d ever read. We would boast about how much food we could eat at the dining hall, and we would discount the professors we didn’t like because they were only grad students. We would walk to the Point at midnight because we could and we would argue over whether Harper or the Reg was better. None of us had cars, and we would walk to the faraway bus stops so we could explore the unknown and find streets named Herb Kent the Cool Gent. The Magnificent Mile made us feel like real Chicagoans, and we’d chuckle to ourselves about the tourists holding shopping bags as we walked down the steps to the AMC River East. We’d go to the Giordano’s downtown because the one in Hyde Park was being renovated, or we didn’t know about it, and we thought it was the best deep dish, no matter what anybody said. We knew everything there was to know.

Now I am one of us, and, if we are early to class, we don’t speak to the people waiting in the halls unless we know them. Before class, we text other people about things that are important. We don’t talk about what we did downtown because we didn’t go downtown, and we don’t talk about Durkheim because he doesn’t excite us anymore. We don’t have meal plans, so we cook our own food or order delivery, and we don’t have professors who are grad students. We don’t walk to the Point at midnight because Jimmy’s has a better view, and we don’t talk about the libraries because there is nothing to talk about—they’re just libraries. Anyway, the A-Level is gone now. Lots of us have cars and GPS, so we don’t look at street signs except for the ones that say things like I-90 and I-94. Our taste in pizza has matured, and we know Gino’s East is the best, and we watch our movies on Netflix, not at the AMC. We know everything there is to know.

I’ll be one of a different them soon enough, and we won’t line up anywhere. We’ll talk to people by the coffee machine, but it won’t matter—everything interesting is put online in real-time anyway, so everyone’s already heard it. We won’t talk about Durkheim, not even once. We’ll be downtown so we won’t tell everyone what we did downtown, in the same way that we won’t talk about the food at our favorite restaurant, at which we’ll eat every few days. There will be nothing more to talk about after we’ve been there a few times. The fries will be crispy like they were the last three times, and we will still like the way they put the lettuce and tomato on the side so the bread doesn’t get soggy before it should. There will be no Point and no libraries to sit in and no homework to do. We might have cars or might not, but it won’t matter because we’ll have money, and that’ll be why the world is our oyster. We’ll have priorities. Work will be important. Finding the right person for us will be important. These two things will take up a lot of time, so we’ll be really busy, and our schedules will be too full to do anything we think won’t be important. We’ll have a career and a home, and we’ll know everything there is to know.

We don’t know anything, do we?

Chris Stavitsky is a third-year in the College majoring in English.