Tuesday, September 29, 2009

College Ain't Shangri-La

Whenever I turn on TV and see Black People Tryin' to Make a Difference, much effort is devoted to making sure black kids make it to college. But in all our Let's-Get-Our-Kids-to-College fervor, we pay remarkably little attention to what happens to them once they get there.

In my case, college was where I started sleeping around, dipping my toes in the water of sexual exploitation and dating a much, much older man (details coming soon). And college was where many of my fellow black Yalies, presumably the nation's cream of the crop, also fell by the wayside:

  • The stress of being at Yale triggered epilepsy in my sophomore-year roommate, Deep. She quietly dropped out, with no support and no fanfare. (Thanks to Facebook, Deep and I are now back in touch. She recently had brain surgery and is now symptom-free.)

  • One of the prettiest and most talented girls in my class got pregnant freshman year by an upperclassman. Rumor had it that he physically abused her. (She eventually returned to Yale, adorable baby in tow, and graduated.)

  • One of the most brilliant, charismatic and amazing people I ever met in my life got addicted to cocaine at Yale. At his graduation ceremony, he walked in the procession, but didn't actually get his degree.

  • Another of my friends, a brilliant singer and actor, dropped out and moved to NYC. Last I heard, he was working in a bookstore.

  • And then there was a visible relic of Yale Gone Wrong, a former student of the Yale School of Drama, who was a constant fixture on campus streets ... as a schizophrenic, crack-addicted panhandler.
And those are just the stories I know about.

And that's not counting all the other stories. Like one of my freshman-year roommates – a pretty, popular, rich, white girl – who attempted suicide and transferred to another school. Or the white girls who wrote plaintively in bathroom stalls about the white boys who date-raped them ... before the University painted the walls dark brown to choke out their voices and avoid libel lawsuits.

College is not nirvana. It's not a place where futures automatically grow bright and brilliant.

College can be remarkably stressful.

College can be the place where young adults, recently released from their parents' watchful eyes, make extraordinarily bad decisions.

And college can even be the place where naive students become easy marks for sleazy individuals looking for someone to exploit.

As I wrote my Virginity diaries and looked back on my dark college years, the biggest lesson I learned is how vulnerable and unsupported I truly was during my Yale years.

(Virginity Diaries: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Lessons Learned Part 2 of 3: 1 2 3)

6 comments:

Edna Sinn said...

wow,true enough,
i experienced some of the things you wrote,

yours truly said...

well put. college/university life is formative in the most interesting ways. definitely moreso than high school.

JosMae said...

Whatever happened during college years, I'm sure there are lessons learned which help us to live happily now.


~~ True love at Filipino love ~~

Laetitia :-) said...

Yes, this brings to mind, "Train a child in the way he should go and when he is older he won't depart from it."

Sometimes parents / caregivers are so concerned with dos and don'ts that they don't give their children the skills to stay out of trouble by themselves by giving the reasons for doing or not doing something. The kids then suddenly find themselves with so much perceived freedom because Mum & Dad aren't watching them 24/7 that they go overboard, crash and burn in a much bigger way than they would have if they'd learnt those lessons earlier.

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