Why are you here?

“If you don’t love it, leave it.” — Merle Haggard

I was riding the 60 to the university the other day, and I had the misfortune of being stuck within earshot of two stylishly appareled students in their early 20s. I say misfortune because I lacked earphones, or anyway to distract myself from their conversation, which went from mildly annoying to nauseating over the course of the journey from Osborne Junction to University Terminal.

“My mom is such a bitch,” said Ready-Mix ready Boy. “I’ve fucking told her, ‘don’t fucking come down and clean my room’ . . . ”

“Your mom went into your room?” asked the Girl, incredulous.

“Yeah,” said Boy, “and fucking like messed up my guitar stuff. That shit’s expensive. I fucking told her before, fuck, but she doesn’t fucking listen.”

“Shit,” said Girl. “What a bitch.”

“Yeah,” said Boy. “Totally.”

The conversation went from there to regaling tales of how wasted they’d each gotten over the past week or so, which is fine and dandy, and none of my business. As the overloaded bus approached the south end of the city, their talk turned to the day at hand.

“What class do you have?” asked Girl.

“Just some bullshit psychology,” said Boy. “I totally don’t want to go.”

“But you’re on the bus already!” laughed Girl. “Just go!”

“Yeah, well,” said Boy, “I’ll probably go. But, you know, I just don’t want to.”

“Just go!”

“Yeah, I’ll probably go, but like, I just don’t want to . . . ”

At this point, my teeth were gritting against each other in frustration, in much the same manner that I gathered the teeth of either these two dingbats grind together on a Thursday night at Ozzy’s. I wanted to interrupt, like an asshole, and tell the douche to my right not to go to class, but to drop out instead, and save society the trouble of babysitting him for the duration of whatever degree he was half-heartedly “striving” towards. But I didn’t.

And so, here I am, doing so now. If you, dear reader, do not want to be here; if you do not want to be receiving the education you are lucky enough to be receiving, then drop out. It’s easy, and relatively painless (especially if your education is funded by the Bank of Ma and Pa, as was obviously the case with our bussing Boy and Girl). If you figure you have something better to be doing with your limited time on earth, why fuck around? Just sign the papers, return your textbooks, and get the fuck out into the real world.

There’s no shame in doing so. I did the exact same thing, myself. Directly after high school, I signed up and completed my first year as an English major. I enjoyed the classes, I liked the routine of school, but I felt I could be doing something else, something more immediately satisfying. When it came time to register for my second year, I didn’t bother.

Instead, I moved to Kelowna, started a punk rock band, got a library card, and spent the money I’d diligently squirreled away during my youth to pay for post-secondary school on a three-month whisky binge. It was great. No, it was fucking great; non-stop laughs, in fact. I did, more or less, the same thing for the next five years, and in the meantime traveled back and forth across western Canada; met tons of great, wild, crazy people; played hundreds of shows, and saw hundreds more; wrote reams and reams of poetry and prose, published some of it; drank rivers of booze, smoked piles of weed, and sent my brain so high into the stratosphere so many times that it sometimes surprises me today that I ever came back to Earth at all.

Towards the end of those five mad years, I found that I was missing something. What was I missing? You guessed it: higher education, and the opportunities it can bring you. After watching a short documentary on the environmental problems facing the Grassy Narrows First Nation, I realized that, shit, I needed to go back to school and learn something useful. In fall 2007, I was in my first year of Environmental Studies at the U of M.

Which brings me back to the two apathetic hipsters on the 60. Contrary to what some might think, higher education is not a right, it’s a privilege. Everyone who has the opportunity to take post-secondary education is lucky, and some people work goddamn hard to get the opportunity. If you happen to be doubly blessed, and enjoy post-secondary education on somebody else’s dime, then you ought to appreciate that, not whine bitterly about it.

If, however, you truly feel your time is better spent out of the classroom, doing whatever it may be, then by all means, don’t waste your time and money in school. For that matter, don’t waste the government or society’s time and money, either. For every dollar you put into tuition, someone else (the provincial government, alumni, etc.) coughs up about four times that amount. For every half-assed paper that is handed, grudgingly, in to a professor or TA, that professor or TA has to waste their time reading through it, even if only to stamp the waste of trees with a D, or an F, or C.

That government money could go to funding students who are struggling to make ends meet to get through school, or to lessen the burden placed on international students who pay out the ass for the privilege of attending our post-secondary schools. The time wasted by professors and TAs could be spent doing anything other than reading your stupid paper, like doing research, writing a paper of their own, or going for a walk outside, enjoying the beauty of nature.

As Merle Haggard said in his jingoistic, nationalist hit song “Fightin’ Side,” “If you don’t love it, leave it.” Nobody is forcing you to be here. If you totally don’t want to go to class, then like, just drop out. Seriously. You totally won’t regret it, and neither will your professors.

Oh, and one last thing. If you have the nerve to call your mother — the woman who gave birth to you and suckled you at her teats for the first months of your life — a “bitch” for cleaning up your room while you’re out getting wasted with the money you’ve saved by not paying for rent, food, utilities or tuition, then you’re not only an ingrate, but you’re a piece of shit. You should feel lucky as hell for such service, such love and devotion. If you don’t, well, you’ll learn to soon enough when the real world bitch slaps you around until you cry hot tears of pain, shame, and humiliation. In the meantime, feel free to send her over to my house anytime, son. Anytime.