I was recently asked to write something about New College, and I decided to decline.
I’m sorry for being pokey with responding to your very generous offer to write something about New College. But, regrettably, I have to decline.
New College was such an amazing place for me. And, my time there continues to make an indelible mark on every aspect of my life to this day.
But, unfortunately for both of us, over the 30+ years since that time ended, I’ve done a woeful job of keeping up with how the joint has actually continued to evolve.
Apart from hearing the occasional scuttlebutt about fast growth and dramatic physical additions to the campus, I’ve had zero actual exposure to any goings-on related to New College.
Actually, I lied.
In April of 2008, my wife and I dragged our dumb baby to New College—I guess so the poor kid could get his dooky diaper changed in the fucking 2nd Court Lounge bathroom.
“Look, Bug! This is the cheap, ugly public college that Daddy barely got into. And this is an even more public toilet where Daddy would sometimes go to be a little sad when he was tripping. Or, sometimes, it’s where Daddy would commit an utterly ruinous DĀKA-induced shit during wall parties. Actually, honey, it’s kind of a long story. It was a whole thing.”
So, by way of apology, I hope you will enjoy this blurry photo of my wife, our dumb baby, and me, sitting on a couch in an inscrutable ziggurat of I.M. Pei’s least cohesive digestive fevers called “Hamilton Center.”
In retrospect, I can’t believe I sat on that couch in short pants. That thing’s had more stinky butts than your Pee Paw’s ashtray. With all due respect.
I also have exactly nothing probative to add to the discourse about what happens in Florida. Just broadly.
I still don’t really understand why any mammal has ever decided to go, be, or stay there.
Perhaps as with your disappointing author, some of Florida’s other fauna were also induced to relocate to The Sunshine State with shiny plastic oranges of wildly inaccurate folklore.
Problem was, many of us human fauna slowly realized we’d unintentionally integrated most of our peoples’ weirdest yarns and assurances about Florida (and the world) into who we were. My gosh, just so many Florida things.
Each of which deftly elided how very difficult it can be to be a person in Florida.
By which I mean: It is very difficult to be a person in Florida.
But, like I say, my shameful ignorance of any relevant or contemporary information about New College leaves me unqualified to offer you anything more than this bullshit:
New College took a flyer on a weird, torpid dingaling from Pasco County. A sarcastic waste of carbon who enjoyed Kurt Vonnegut and R.E.M.—but who had never actually tried all that hard at anything more ambitious than mostly learning the chords to Black Flag’s “Jealous Again” (the Chavo version, obviously). A real piece of shit.
And, just in case that was at all confusing, I was that dingaling.
That dingaling was me.
And, despite my caucasianly-underwhelming performance over four erratic years, in 1990, I somehow found myself emerging from New College in possession of a novel superpower that I quickly realized not everybody had—a power that most of my fellow Floridians had never even had the opportunity to seek:
I had learned how to learn.
Because, if you somehow survived the circuitous path from that parking lot across from the Shell station through your final baleful goodbye to “Mornin’ Bob,” then, you, my friend, probably picked up a thing or two.
And, pretty much no matter what you studied at New College, you had to have learned how to learn.
And, I feel like that’s a really precious thing.
It doesn’t make for fun headlines, it’s nearly impossible to explain, and all of that is precisely the fucking point.
New College finds smart dingalings and helps them learn how to learn.
That’s it. That’s what it is, and that’s why it’s so uniquely valuable. Perhaps even or especially for our friends in Florida.
Because education is—or in my opinion always should be—a challenging exploration of the things you never even knew you could learn how to know.
College is just a building. Education is a conduit for curiosity.
I mean. It’s not the water that flows through arbitrary pedagogical pipes; it’s an evolving and situational understanding that there are entire environments in which pipes and water and being a person can each be thoughtfully deployed.
I should have left that last part out. It was too much.
Anyhoo. Looks like this disappointing email has gotten kind of long, and I apologize. Both for declining your offer and for bending your ear.
But, New College remains a very special place to me. I look forward to the many great things we can expect to see from all the dingalings who get the unique opportunity to survive New College.