It seems to always be at the moments of extreme despair over the necessity of college that something comes along to make me love it again. I have been finding it all a bit pointless lately. For starters, I failed ‘Intro to Arts’. I’ll just repeat that again so it sinks in properly, I failed ‘Intro to Arts’, the subject designed to teach you how to not fail college. I found it unbearable to the point of exhaustion. Everything about it was so condescending and utterly useless with all the lectures bordering on nursery school teaching: “So has anyone here experienced working on a team before?”
So I decided to take part in a solo silent protest against it. My friend tried to tell me that my cause was noble, that I was quietly fighting ‘the man’ without this man’s knowledge, but all my quest has left me with is a €230 bill as a memento of my failure to hand in a journal entry describing my experience of ‘Intro to Arts’. I should have just gritted my teeth and written it, but since my experience had involved picture flash cards about using libraries and a questionable YouTube video about ‘The Time Management Fairy’, I couldn’t muster the strength to lie about how it had all benefited me so much.
I have also found myself describing my course to enquirers as “just Arts”, not Arts, just Arts, as though every other subject in the world would provide more of a valuable education, from computer science to jam-making.
It was in the midst of all this seasonal depression that I found out I was one of the lucky ten who had been selected from the applications sent to poet Harry Clifton to take part in his four week poetry workshop. I was as shocked as I was happy; since I immediately regretted applying a few months previous the minute I pressed send on the email. The thought of anyone reading my poetry, especially the Poet of Ireland Harry Clifton, made me wince with an angsty teenage dread.
At the first workshop I sat there in fear as he asked us to name some of our favourite poets, my mind going completely blank as I stayed quiet during a social situation for longer than I have ever in my life. It seems if you don’t speak for a long period of time you get loads of thinking done, and other people get the chance to talk. Who knew? Maybe I’ll try to shut my mouth more often.
After the initial fear, the workshops turned out to be amazing, even when the week came for me to read out my own poetry for everyone to analyse. Now, I’ve read my short stories at launches before, I spent two years as part of a sketch comedy trio jumping around stage in a leotard performing sketches that were rarely understood and once in a moment of insanity I wrote a ten minute personal essay on masturbation which I read out to confused comedy crowds around Dublin; but there is something about reading your own poetry to a room of people that creates a childish vulnerability I haven’t felt in years. Reading a poem, especially when it is an emo-style one which screams ‘LOVE ME’ on every line, is like standing up in the middle of a packed lecture and reciting a page of your diary from that time you were so heartbroken you thought your only friends were Dominos and wine.
On top of getting over this fear of revealing my crazy inner soul to a group of nine unsuspecting people, it was those nine people that really made the experience great. I have obviously been incredibly narrow-minded; I thought UCD would be the last place I would find a group of such talented poets. I think that sometimes when I overhear conversations with people shouting “LOL” at each other repeatedly I start to lose hope. But I shouldn’t, and you shouldn’t either. There are good people out there, hiding in the cracks of the campus, just waiting for someone with a mutual interest to come along and save them from the cold shadows of doubt.
What this has made me realise is that when people say that college was the best days of their life, it actually has nothing to do with the subjects they studied. Well, sometimes it probably does but that doesn’t fit with the point I’m trying to make so let’s pretend. The best thing about the college experience are the people you meet along the way, and the knowledge that they impart in you that will help you so much more in life than your 9am lecture on algebra ever will. It is finding those people who are going to make your college days worth it that is the struggle.
I think as part of orientation there should be a sort of speed-friendshiping station set up (just stay with me on this one) with tables and chairs running all over campus. You sit down in front of someone and have three minutes to discuss your likes and dislikes until a big bell rings and you have to move to the next table. Within days everyone would be running around, hand in hand with their new besties, literally laughing out loud.
Or it could just be for poets and you have to quickly read out poems to each other and then critique them. “Listen, that was really awful, I never want to be friends with you. Ever.” I’d joke and then shout “LOL!” loudly in their face. We’d all have loads of new college friends in no time!