Opinion column: Hard(ly) working

By David Johnson

If you haven’t heard, I’m going to Cancun for spring break. I’d be surprised if you weren’t aware because I’ve been broadcasting my good fortune to all I encounter. It’s especially newsworthy because those who know me will recognize how ridiculously out of character this is of me. Most of my breaks consist of sitting in a cubicle working on a database, which, while exciting, doesn’t provide the same opportunities as Cancun. I probably won’t be one of those guys in the background of Girls Gone Wild or some MTV show while at the office, whereas in Mexico I have a chance of making it on screen before the bouncers come through to forcefully remove the riffraff. If I’m really lucky, I’ll run into one of those abominable celebrities; I can finally give Lindsay Lohan and Rob Schneider my two-word review of their careers.

I actually quite enjoy being an object of envy this time around. A typical conversation in the weeks before a break goes something like this:

Friend: “So what are you doing for break?”

Me: “I’ll be up in Chicago, working 8-4:30 every day. I’m hoping this internship can land me a full-time job. At least it’ll be a nice break from all these crappy tests, homework and group projects.”

Friend: “Oh, bummer. I’m going to [insert multi-hundred or multi-thousand dollar dream vacation typically involving some combination of beaches, high culture or wild monkeys].”

While in the past, I’ve gotten to gawk at my friends who spent their breaks doing such things as touring Europe or studying abroad with said wild monkeys, this time I’ve planned the perfect spring break in the perfect location, something anyone ages 18-22 should kill, or at least cry, for.

They should, right? An outside observer certainly wouldn’t have known that based on the first three and a half years of my college career. I haven’t traveled to paradise a million miles from school, let alone travel anywhere with friends. I’ve been a tad more career-focused.

This is one of the paradoxes of college. I can’t count how many times, ad nauseam, I’ve heard that our college years are the most fun of our lives. This has been an infectious mantra, embedded in our culture, which we hear from birth. But if we take this folk wisdom to its obvious conclusion and do our best to have fun these four years, common sense tells us the long-term consequences are, to say the very least, less gainful. We’ll call this way of thinking “School One.”

On the other hand is the more utilitarian view of higher education. We’re here to learn, specializing in an area of interest. This will expand our horizons and lead to greater success and fulfillment in life. “School Two” dictates that college is but a step on our long-term plan of life. Given that we know college kids must choose two among “school,” “sleep,” or “fun with friends,” we deduce that this positive end can only be achieved through hard work, which involves a distinct absence of hangovers or sleep. This conclusion is obviously less than conducive to the idea of spring break in Cancun. And in case you’ve forgotten what Cancun’s about and the fact that I’m going, I’ll remind you that this includes the all-day beach parties and the hottest all-night bars and clubs in the world.

As a senior who’s not in the Greek system and therefore one of the wisest men on campus (zing!), I’ll leave you with some advice. I subscribed to School two for most of my college career, and I daresay that I have some regrets. Graduation in May means this spring break is my last chance to go wild for a long time – if I succeed in my stated goal of getting a full-time job out of college. However, I can imagine that those who survive college in a drunken haze filled with STDs will have some regrets about their choices as well.

So strike a balance. This is my last chance to have fun on a college break. Don’t wait for the last minute.