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I can’t seem to write an ending for my life. In my movie, I mean.
See, I’m writing a screenplay for a movie based on my adolescent years, basically the end of high school through early college. The trouble is I’m having a hard time coming up with an ending I like. And the same could be true for the story my movie is based on.
My difficulty boils down to a couple of simple facts. First, I’m really not ready to graduate. I’m terrified, bordering on hysteria as I contemplate leaving my peaceful existence in this fun little college town and throwing myself headfirst into the gaping, hellish maw of the real world. Yet there’s nothing I can do now to stop it from happening (aside from deliberately failing a class or two, but I don’t think that would go over very well back home).
Which leads to the second problem I’m having with this whole situation. Looking back on my tenure at CU, how do I evaluate my time here? Depending on the approach I take, I have had lots of grand successes, some spectacular failures and a lot that falls somewhere in between.
From an academic standpoint, it’s kind of a mixed bag. Assuming I manage to retain my sanity through these last few days and do as well as I normally do on all my finals, I should finish with a GPA somewhere in the 3.5 to 3.7 range. Not bad if I do say so myself. I’ll have earned a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism with a minor in political science. I would argue it’s been worthwhile, but of questionable “real value” given that I’m heading off to an industry considered by many to be dead or dying for long hours and little pay.
But even with something as seemingly simple as academic performance, there’s another layer to examine. What did I really learn here? If I were to be brutally honest, I’d have to say I learned very little from my core journalism courses. My practical experience on staff here at the CU Independent taught me most of what I know about journalism, no offense to any of my SJMC instructors.
On the other hand, I enjoyed most of my elective classes and gained a great deal of knowledge from them. I discovered a love of screenwriting, examined the nature of civil war across the globe and gained a newfound appreciation for the stars. Even though I didn’t necessarily come to CU to learn any of these things, I believe I’m a better person for having taken those courses.
I’ve always been a believer that the college experience should be about more than academics however, so now I have to evaluate the rest of my (mis)adventures here. This is where things get really messy. Despite my broad academic interests, I never really got involved in the broader CU community or any additional groups and activities. Considering the overwhelming number of options available to me, I chose to play it safe. In retrospect that was a poor decision on my part.
But the messiest part of all, and the part that figures most heavily into my screenplay, is my social life. Good stories are based on well-rounded characters and nuanced relationships among them. My problem in trying to write this story and assess these relationships is I have too many characters and can’t decide who to cut.
Do I cut my high school friends, who I spent most of my time with during my early years but grew distant from as I became more heavily involved in journalism? Or do I axe my journalism friends, who I have come to know and love but figure less prominently during my more developmental years? Or mix and match?
It becomes a question of value, and as the Eagles pointed out in “Tequila Sunrise,” “When it comes down to dealin’ friends/It never ends.” I’m truly torn on how to decide who stays and who goes in the story because I feel I’ve learned a little something from everyone. Including the high school crowd makes for better continuity and shows the value of old-friendships, but the college crew fits in better with where my life is likely heading. And I have outstanding romantic entanglements in both groups, and women of course make any guys’ life more complicated.
Last but not least is the fact I don’t have my ending figured out. I might be headed to a new city and state to pursue journalism, but maybe not. How can I pick who’s going to be in my story when I don’t even know where and how that story finishes?
In attempting to answer these questions, I must admit I don’t have the answers. Writing about your own life is hard because it forces you to evaluate it with intense scrutiny, which isn’t always pleasant. I’ll probably mix and match characters and situations in an attempt to make something that’s honest, worthwhile and (hopefully) something other neurotic college grads can relate to. I probably won’t make everyone happy, but that’s the story of my life.
Everyone evaluates their life in their own way, but it’s not something to treat lightly. As other graduates or soon-to-be alums take stock of their tenure at CU, I’d encourage them to give it the time and respect it deserves. Maybe even write it down.
Contact CU Independent Entertainment Editor (and December 2009 graduate) Rob Ryan at Rryan@colorado.edu.