There are days when I appreciate the finer things about Missoula, and I’m glad I got to spend four years here to learn and grow. And then there are days when I grit my teeth, want to cry, and pray that these last three weeks vanish in the blink of an eye so that I can be in Seattle. This is going to be one of those days, unfortunately.
As a form of therapy to get myself out of this desire to start hitch-hiking to Seattle, I’ve decided to make a little list, I’ve got a little list! Valuable lessons I learned from living in Missoula and being an undergraduate student. I will be sure to tell my own theoretical sons and daughters these tidbits when they go to college, assuming they want to go, are college material…. and colleges haven’t morphed into Oryx and Crake styled institutions where the arts are only valued based on their applications in advertising and moneymaking, and learning for the sake of learning has become completely alien.
- Never sign up for Student clubs. As an aspie, I was already leery about student clubs, but four years later, having joined quite a few for various reasons (don’t ask) I have nothing but contempt for them, particularly the so-called left wing ones. Out of sheer boredom and the urge to fluff up my people skills, I signed up for College Democrats, LAMDA, Students for Choice, Students for Obama (don’t laugh), the Japanese Student Association, Hillel, and various others I cannot remember for the life of me, primarily for the free pizza. Either way, the progressive ones were the biggest waste of time in my life. I did learn a valuable lesson though: If you belong to a group which is primarily made up of women, especially when dealing with a topic that primarily deals with women, like abortion rights, and the group is being run by a man, run away, fast. If you belong to a variety of groups, and they regularly “trade off” leaders, that is, the leader of students for choice will next year be the president of College Democrats, and then the next year take over LAMDA, run away, fast. Especially if said leader is a straight white male. The biggest lesson I gained from these student clubs is that “well intentioned” straight white Christian males who claim to be progressive are easily the worst thing that can happen to a progressive group, because they, either intentionally or not, ruin the group’s “safe space” quality and make everything awkward and promote echo-chamber qualities, since everyone’s afraid to say what they really think. If you want to make a difference on your campus, student groups are useless. Instead, turn to organizations within your community, such as a local branch of Amnesty International, ADAPT, or whatever organization promotes the causes you feel passionate about. There won’t be any pizza, but you will get a lot more done with a lot less bickering and immaturity.
- Make friends outside of your age group. The people I am going to remember most fondly from Missoula are 30, 35, 64, 57, and 17. Seriously. I’ve never liked the majority of people in my own age group. Everyone keeps telling me to wait until my agemates mature, and then I’ll be able to be friends with them. Well, guess what? I’ve been hearing that since I was 7, and most people who are my age are still arrogant, disgusting, dishonest jerks wallowing like pigs in intellectual and moral poverty. Fourteen years is too long for me to be patient anymore. So I’ve made friends with much older activists, scholars, and all around cool people who are much more fun to hang around with, tell better jokes and stories, dance better, and are much more inclusive. That’s not to say that there aren’t any people in my age group with these qualities, or any jerks in their 30s and beyond, but in general, I find that making friends outside of my age group enriched me. The younger ones had unique perspectives, played fun games without pretense, and had the latest Pokemon game. The older ones had great music taste, let me use their personal libraries, and treated me like a younger sister or a daughter/granddaughter. Those are the ones I am keeping in touch with when I leave, whereas many of the petty, vindictive, nasty people in my age group with their poisonous influence are going to be forever banished from my life the minute I get off the plane and begin deleting them from my facebook.
- Never trust a town’s reputation based on websites. It took me a while to shake this idea that Missoula is a super left-wing oasis in the conservative desert of Montana. Now though, I recognize the truth: Some pot and a couple of ponchos do not a liberal town make. More like a moderate town with an ageing hippy population that still has a lot of trouble acknowledging some really serious problems in its system. Also, while the average person under 30 is likely to be left-wing, they’re more likely to be of the fauxgressive variety, who pat themselves on the back for voting for a black president, but still hold on tight to Christian supremacy, whine about how affirmative action is dragging their white male asses down, and making rape jokes willy-nilly.
- A strong Jewish population is more important than I thought. Pick your college town carefully. After all of this, I’ve concluded that I just don’t feel at home at any place that doesn’t have at least three synagogues, a bakery that sells babka, people who know that Jon Stewart’s real last name is Leibovitz, and a bookstore where the employees know how to properly pronounce names like Chaim Potok.
- There is no problem in the entire world that a night of cocktails and good food cannot solve. Good thing I could have learned that anywhere, not just Missoula.