Opportunity Costs

by Jordan

As I was twisting a Camel 99 between my index finger and thumb tonight (they were on sale for a dollar off at the store) to see how many rotations the Camel logo could make I was watching a girl stand almost stock still, her feet still, looking at someone else just out of view behind some leaves. And then I looked around and heard a movie and saw some most of these dorm windows lit up and I realized that college, the “time of exploration” is really the great shrinking of our choices. I have a vivid vision of different futures for myself branching off depending on what I do, the potential of my life leaving swiftly but indolently like a full exhale of tobacco smoke.

Economists call this phenomena opportunity cost but that has never really resonated with me—or at least maybe I wish it wasn’t so. But it seems that school is ready to push you toward some future, it concentrates your abilities toward one thing or the other. A teacher of mine is very firm on that. She mentioned working 40 hour weeks and studying all the time because she knew “there’s always time for socializing”. She of course, imagines if she could do it, and liked it, each student who takes her discipline seriously also would be able to do as she did.

This talk about my studies (I’m falling behind because my time is drawn tightly between my work, my attempts at leadership in the sailing team, and my habits—procrastination and partying and reading enough New Yorker, Politico, and Atlantic to keep me “informed”) was nervous inducing and the next day I damn near had a panic attack. The clutching at my chest had never imposed so forcibly before and I realized I had to do less or have other people do things for me.

These sorts of realizations are not pleasant things and I did not really handle it well. By not fully committing myself to school work I feel I’m leaving behind a future there—and if I were to forget those other things in my life I would lose my damn mind. It culminated in sitting against a short concrete wall and inspecting another cigarette as it slowly consumed itself while I inspected my own choices. The problem is both with time and cigarettes is that if you stop and think you find that you have less than when you started. It seems like college is slowly and brightly burning away and I am not entirely sure where I will belong when there’s nothing left.