by Logan Miller
The University of Nevada, Reno campus is full of kids. I know, this statement might be provocative. I’ll try and elaborate on my position. Maybe I’ll even indict myself in the process.
During a College of Liberal Arts recruitment drive a few weeks ago, I spoke in front of a group of high school students still deliberating on coming to UNR. I was surprised by each fresh face. When I tutor, more often than not I address these same fresh faces. What’s worse, these students look at the beard and address me as if I’m a teacher. Whether in class, at work, shambling between Frandsen Humanities and Mackay Science or running from the Reynolds School of Journalism to the Joe, I’m confronted by the faces of thousands of children. I don’t remember college being this way when I started, and it’s been freaking me out.
During my freshman year at UNR, there was no Knowledge Center and there was no Joe. Those were still five and six years away. That bustling center of campus was empty. There was nothing between Lombardi and the Raggio building except Lawlor and pavement. Instead, students milled around buying coffee in the front atrium of Getchell Library and bought textbooks in the cramped ASUN bookstore on the bottom floor of the Jot Travis Student Union. It was 2002.
See, I’m a non-traditional student. I’m tempted to say iconoclastic even. I dropped out. Stress and dissatisfaction brought on by being a perfectionist, a desire to see my guild get past phase two Ragnaros… whatever the reasons, I dropped out for five years.
It comes off as a joke here, but I think the reason was ego. I was a perfectionist. I still am in many ways. If I couldn’t be perfect, I couldn’t be anything. I was stressed and dissatisfied because I was never perfect. I played “World of Warcraft” because it was the only thing my injured ego could manage.
During the interim between then and when I came back to UNR, I put bindings on skis, then I did odd work for a local ad agency, then I harassed Spanish Springs residents and the county coroner during the 2010 census. During this time I played video games and thought I had transitioned into some other part of my life.
As with most big change stories of the last decade, this one begins with the recession. I thought I was going to be a copywriter. Instead I got unemployment checks. Contrary to what I had thought, I had gained nothing. At least that’s what I thought as I imagined potential employers shredding my resumes along with those of the other ne’er do wells. As I came up against a full 99 weeks on benefits, I was at a loss. I had to come back.
What I came back to was a strikingly different campus. New buildings, new faculty, UNR was now a tier one institution. It felt like going to a whole new school. Everyone looked younger and sounded smarter and more capable than I remembered myself ever being.
Why call out the student body if I wasn’t going to offer some sage advice? Here’s the thing, the changes I underwent are few. I still stress out about stuff. I can’t manage maintaining a schedule: I keep on task through sheer memory and notes jotted down on bits of paper. I often wonder if a life strategies course is just a semester away. In a lot of ways, I’m the exact same student now as a senior as I was as a freshman in 2002.
The difference then? The ego, my own dark passenger. I don’t know how it is for other people, but after taking blow after blow to mine, I saw myself going in two directions. Either I could do what I had done in the past and check out or try and quiet that voice.
The drive to be perfect slackened. The stress and dissatisfaction I once felt at not being perfect diminished and I was capable of things as a student I never once thought possible.
It’s not the greatest advice. Hell, it might not be advice at all. According to U.S. News & World Report, the four-year graduation rate at UNR is only 17 percent. I can’t be the only 12-year senior among the remaining population.
But I think even that realization misses a larger point. Often when I’m peer tutoring, a student will expect me to treat them the way their instructors do. I think that larger point is right there in my title. Peer. It’s that ego again, thinking I am somehow separate from the 2013 freshman. If the school is filled with children, then I guess I am one too. I can be cool with that.
Logan Miller studies English. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.