OP-EDS

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October 17, 2008

Gardening class

It’s at about this time every quarter when I begin to feel about classes the way I do about the plant.

[img id="76864" align="alignleft"] A month ago, I decided to buy a plant. I’d never owned a plant before, but it was small and had friendly little flowers, and I was promised that all it would ever want from me was water once every couple of days. So why not? I thought.

I liked it a lot at first. It sat on my desk and looked cheery while I did my homework; I could study it when study of my textbooks grew tiresome. Every once in a while someone would walk in and say, “Oh, cool. A plant,” and I would agree and really, that was about it.

But it turns out that plants are boring. I ignore it; it ignores me. I stopped watering it for a couple weeks to see if it might do something interesting—nursing an ill plant back to health was significantly more appealing than just watching a healthy plant be a healthy plant—but all it did was get a little bit droopy, and so it has stayed even after I broke down and gave it water.

It’s at about this time every quarter when I begin to feel about classes the way I do about the plant. Sure, back in spring quarter Fundamentals of the Peruvian Light Bulb sounded good, but now, as I find myself inexplicably three books, nine problem sets, and two dozen insightful comments behind, I want out. But to my horror, I find that 5:01 p.m. on Friday of third week has come out of nowhere and stapled itself to my life without any form of a “drop” button: I bought the plant a pot, I enrolled in the classes, and now I’m stuck with both.

And it’s about now that I find myself experimenting with drought in classes, too. Do the reading every couple of days, you say? Well—maybe every week. Or every other week. Or never. Maybe never. When it all starts to wilt, then I guess I’ll chip in some water and spend a day with a highlighter, but until then perhaps just a rousing game of Gobi Desert. I can’t help myself.

I’ve been wondering for a while why it is that I’m tempted to do this. It could be that I’m just bad with commitment, or maybe I opted for things I wasn’t really interested in. But no, I like the plant, and the classes are definitely as entertaining and educational as the course catalog promised they would be. The professors are fine, and the flowers are still pretty, droopiness notwithstanding.

I think the problem is that neither the plant nor the class is very aware of where it stands in relation to me. They carry on, the pair of them, blissfully unaware that I am their maker. Sure, I learn and I breathe and both of them could do without me, but that just worsens the whole situation: On they go, sucking up water and appending syllabi, completely oblivious to me and to whether I’m coming or going or initiating a fatwa. The professors care and the T.A.s care, but the unending march toward midterms and finals is cold and unfeeling. The plant and its coursework counterpart are three holy battles deep in the great holy war and, so far as I can tell, they couldn’t care less.

Of course, there’s a lot to be said for learning and breathing for the sake of learning and breathing. Learning has an advantage here, given that it has more leverage than a common houseplant. (Leverage is something of a dirty word now that the business world has become a lava pit of words like “plummet” and feelings like “despair,” but the point stands.) Professor Q will, over the course of one quarter, have the power to mock me in front of my peers, express gross disappointment in my person, have one of his deputies scribble mean things in the margins of my papers and tests, and, worst of all, leave what my adviser has warned me will be the black mark on my record that boots me into the soup kitchen on the wrong side of Main Street for all time. Nonexistent job market be damned; I’m sure that Multivariable Complex Psychoanalyses of the 18th Century is going to determine my future.

Meanwhile, oxygen is an awful lot like voting. One plant’s oxygen doesn’t really matter, but the wrath of Professor Q and his GPA scythes is pivotal. If I don’t water my plant, it gets a little wilty; if I do the same with my class, I’m going to suffer more than just a pang of guilt every time I look at my desk and its withered potential. Or so I’m told.

So I keep going. I like them—the plant and the classes both. And even though they ignore me and are by and large indifferent to my existence beyond waterings and deadlines, I keep playing the game. Maybe I just like the battle.

Claire McNear is a second-year in the College majoring in international studies. She is a Maroon Viewpoints editor.