For half a decade now, my life has been a smiling, diverse lie of face paint and broken dreams. No matter that my 2009 Samsung flip phone, glimmering on the edge of this library table, stands in fierce contrast to this pseudo-Impact font type advertising INNOVATION on page two. No matter that this official university crew-neck sweatshirt now hovers in the dark crevices of the campus bookstore’s sale section and will eventually be vanquished to the walk-in closets of bargain-hunting Midwestern moms. No matter that the football team was suspended after a particularly wild hazing incident in 2012 that included whipped cream, T-shirt cannons, sixty-seven pounds of beef jerky, and several Catholic priests flown in on student fees from the Vatican.
In this campus life magazine, the marching band somberly plays the dirge that is our fight-yet-vaguely-insensitive-to-Native-Americans song.
You cannot understand the insufferable state of ennui that follows a life trapped in the glossy confines of glorified brochure hell. I feel as if I am not living, but rather enduring the motions of a bored and underemployed alumnus flipping through my inspirational inferno to find the already perforated “Alumni Contributions” cardboard stock page for roach material (FYI: page 27, just after SUSTAINABILITY and just before LEADERSHIP).
Every day, my smiling multicultural friends and I eat generic Asian stir-fries in the cafeteria. We don crisp lab coats to gaze at beakers and sketches of double helices, indicating our bright futures of curing cancer or otherwise creating lucrative erectile dysfunction pills for struggling pharmaceutical start-ups. We stare intently into our computer screens, designing the programs that will streamline education or just help us garner a reputation as Bill, That Weird Guy Who Works in IT and Leads a Comfortably Middle Class Life of Perpetual Self-Doubt.
Can you see it? Can you see the desperation in my eyes—an academic war hero confined to hell—as I stare at you in this close-up shot advertising my scholarship? I hope this photograph inspires you to donate so that our university president can purchase a new lawnmower. Otherwise, as he does when he is grouchy, he may change the academic requirements so that I can no longer take my general education course, “Astronomy 104: Stars and Galaxies for Aspiring Tarot Card Readers” for credit or no credit. If you have used the “Alumni Contributions” page for other endeavors, no worries. Our team of innovative drones (red and black for school spirit!) have already located your home address and will be calling you several times tonight during dinner.
All I ask is to be freed. The ginger orange of the campus diner stir-fry sauce stings my mouth. I am having an allergic reaction to this homecoming rally face paint. These lab goggles do little to protect my face from chemical burns as they are merely a prop that one of the photographers found in the drama society’s office. I don’t even know these people sitting next to me in the library, but I am one of eight black students on campus and they wanted to avoid internet stock photos for “authenticity” or “threat of a public relations threat not seen since the great beef jerky Catholic priest incident of 2012,” so I am here.
Please, let me be free. And go Raiders.