A professional student

David Busch

The conversation was innocent. She told me where she was from and what she was studying. She didn’t seem that interested in our conversation, though. I felt as if I was intruding in on her presence. But I was interested, so I continued to probe. As she continued to answer my cliché questions, she answered my last question so jokingly and nonchalantly that in the moment of awkward laughter I missed a chance at an intriguing conversation.

I’ve thought about that conversation — the missed chance, that is — and lately her answer has been dancing in between my apprehensive and optimistic thoughts of the future. I missed the opportunity to discuss it then, but perhaps it is better to discuss it now.

As finals week approaches, for some students this is the last hurray, the last project, the last essay and the last drink at Ray’s as a college student. For others, it’s year one done. The random flings, the vivacity of the unknown and the anxiety of finals. Finals are an end to another long year, long nights of homework and the flowing of alcohol, coffee at Scribble’s and discussions with professors.

In America, it is so easy to get caught up with accomplishments, accolades and “eras” in one’s life. We go to high school. If we have the money, we go to college. And if the job market is kind, we get the job (and hopefully the family and the house). This structure forms our narratives of life — who we are in relation to each period, to each moment. It defines us.

But underlying these narrative structures lays a pervading theme of life that tends to get lost and constricted within periods. This is a theme of constant learning, of constant questions, of answers and more questions. When graduation is over, does the process of learning cease? Before high school and college, how was learning defined? Was it the classroom or the back woods with your best friend?

Learning is the flowing river of life. Sometimes the river is calm and the answers one encounters settle the restless heart. At other times, the river is rough and the answers are disappointing and even naïve. The heart gets a little bit heavier.

Learning is a lesson in humility. Each individual is just a small part of this global narrative of the world, but nonetheless is a vital part, character and teaching of that global narrative.

Learning is seeking. As humans, we are creatures of habit — the comfort of our homes, the familiar beer and the close friends. But there is a gorgeous and glorious world out there, filled with contrasting ideas and beliefs, different flavors and different languages. Seek the learning. Don’t wait for it.

Learning is not stagnant. As a history major, I have discovered that the story of this world is open to constant debate and discussion. The formation of nations, cultures and peoples are rooted in ambiguous stories that still pervade in the present and characterize this tragically wonderful life.

Learning is absolutely beautiful. And that’s what I thought about months later after that innocent conversation. I can just picture her saying it again, her graceful smile, so tantalizing and real, as she answered my question. “I want to be a professional student,” she answered, her dazzling blue eyes hidden by her mischievous turn of her head.

I laughed then. But now, after months of thinking about this innocent comment, I believe she was on to something, whether she realized it or not. I want to be a professional student. College is not the end but is just part of the flowing river, the story and narrative of life. Seek questions, seek friendships and seek conversations and debates. Most of all, seek any opportunity to learn.

David Busch is a senior psychology and history major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at