“Matthew Hall: Graduate student, sometimes employed”

I’m reading Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman. Don’t let the scandalous title fool you: there are very little cocoa puffs in the book. At the end of his essay, “This Is Zodiac Speaking,” he has a quick one-page mini essay about the victims of the Oklahoma City Building bombing back in the 90s. “As I read and reread every little bio on the list,” Klosterman writes, “I found myself deflated by the realization that virtually everyon’s life is only remembered for one thing.” He ends the brief with the following:

The import of your existence can be validated by whoever you bring into the world. But this doesn’t always work. In fact, sometimes it makes things worse. Which is why the most depressing thing about the Oklahoma City bombing is that there’s now an innocent woman whose one-sentence newspaper bio will forever be, “She was Timothy McVeigh’s mother.”

Yikes. While I’m not afraid of how my children will affect how I am remembered, I’m sobered by the idea of what my bio would read. How would the newspaper immortalize me? I can only think it would be one of the following:

  • “Spent a lot of time in school, liked driving places.”
  • “Graduate student, sometimes employed but not in a career position.”
  • “Received his Eagle Scout once, then did school.”
  • “Kept a clean apartment and was an okay guy, for the most part.”

I know I’m facing the handicap of time, but I haven’t accomplished much in my life so far. Sure, not many 26 year-olds have done a lot, but I don’t think of myself as an average 26 year old.

Last week, on SNL, they had a skit that scared me in a similar way:

I get this grandiose ideas floating around in my head. I think, “I understand how the internet works! I just Internet for the rest of my life and make money doing that!” But how many people are doing the exact same thing? I see myself as a competent person, and I think I’m much more intelligent than the average person. That doesn’t mean much, though, when you don’t actually do¬†anything.

I think I can do better. I’ve got a project in the works (I always seem to have something on the backburner), and with my time as a graduate student quickly coming to an end, hopefully I’ll be able to dedicate more time to accomplishing something that matters to more people than me and my mom.

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