Categorized | Letters

The Culture of Me

If I meet you in the night
You’re free to covet all you like
Don’t you try and stop me
I cling tightly to this life

-Neko Case, “Tightly”
I was having dinner at some friends’ apartment a few Sundays ago when, from the apartment above us, came a loud thud that could only be likened to the sound of a wrestling elephant performing a flying elbow drop. I was a little shaken by the interruption of what was an otherwise quiet meal, but my friends were enraged; apparently the rumble of the floor above occurs at all hours, regardless of the rumblers’ level of intoxication.
All this racket begged plenty of questions, for instance, WHAT THE HELL WERE THESE PEOPLE DOING? Why did they do it all the time? Who are they? What are they studying at MSU? Does their level of academic commitment allow them to stage this ongoing aural recreation of the Blitzkrieg? Only a flight of stairs, a door, and the willingness of the neighbors separated us from the answers. The mystery of the thumping would be solved, we would gain a better understanding of our fellow students, they could get back to whatever they were doing, and we could finish dinner.
Of course, none of that happened. We kept eating and hypothesizing about what was happening above our heads (Basketball? Sumo? Competitive weightlifting?). An air of apathy pervaded the entire situation, which raised a slightly frightening conclusion: here was a group of people that, in all likelihood, was of my same age, and I was 100 percent out of touch with them. It’s too early for me to be out of touch with a segment of youth culture; this shouldn’t happen until I’ve had at least one child and a mid-life crisis.
The upstairs noisemakers aren’t the only MSU students I don’t get; It’s probable that I can’t relate to at least 75 percent of the student body at this here university. This could be because, as of fall 2005, that student body is composed of 45,166 people, and as many “friends” as I accumulate on Facebook, knowing what makes that many people tick would be impossible. For the most part, I have only myself to blame. During my two-and-a-half years (and counting) of higher education, I’ve managed to carve out a comfy niche for myself, and everything I know, love and hold dear fits within that niche.
Before an ensemble of the world’s smallest violins strikes up, let me explain myself a little better: I live in what I have come to call (for the purposes of this letter) the culture of me. There is no greater meaning hidden in that moniker, it says what it means. Everything I listen to, read, watch, play, work on, write, buy or eat and everyone I associate with reflects (in some manner) a persona that I’ve perfected since my freshman year.
Even the courses I take have only my greater interests in mind. This semester, for instance, I am taking two journalism courses, a public relations course (a course within the College of Communication Arts and Sciences) and a literature course, which, while I maintain a legitimate interest in literature, am really taking because it’s a degree requirement.
There is little room for adventure, academic or otherwise, in this culture of me.
All too often, I spend time with myself (quite literally within the culture of me), sometimes accompanied by the likes of Rilo Kiley, Chuck Klosterman, or Rory and Lorelai Gilmore. When I do venture into the world, it’s usually with friends with whom I’ve developed such a rapport that it forces me to use the term “rapport”.
A wide vocabulary is highly valued in the culture of me.
When I make an effort to meet new people, they are soon absorbed into the culture of me. Those who are not (usually encountered via neighborly nuisances, intoxicated walks home and episodes of MTV’s “Room Raiders”) are either derided or forgotten. Maybe it’s not that I don’t get my fellow student, I just have little patience with him.
My last relationship was heavily invested in the culture of me. I was dumped when she realized all we had going were common tastes.
Can I really expect any courtesy? If anyone outside the culture of me reads this letter, I wouldn’t blame them for dismissing it as elitist within the first paragraph. For those of you who have made it thus far, allow me to welcome you to the culture of me. If this disrupts the culture of you, I apologize. We can return to our niches as if nothing happened.
My intention is by no means to unite the collegiate cliques; this is a Big Green letter, not “Mean Girls” (a reluctant favorite of the culture of me.) I guess I just want a better understanding of other people– and not just people at MSU– but people in general. I’ve taken sociology and psychology courses, but they didn’t enlighten me enough. And The State News crossword (official newsprint distraction of the culture of me) always got in the way.
Then again, I’m an outgoing person; I have an engaging enough personality to have formed an entire fake sub-culture around, maybe I’ll just start approaching strangers on the street to see if they’d be willing to tell me their life story. That’s a surefire way to understand people…but really creepy at the same time.
Besides, I’m too comfortable where I am right now to actually do that. I’ve got another three semesters to wallow in the solipsistic mud of the culture of me, because after that, I’d either turn into a misanthrope or a hermit.
Or maybe I’ll start jackhammering the apartment floor to see if anyone comes up.

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