Nice going, IKEA boy

So, I made my first undergraduate cry today, when I told him he was failing my course without possibility of appeal. The worst part about it was that he started telling me about how much he worked to pay his school bills, and how he’d missed eight classes because of work.

On the one hand, I realize that he was also slacking off, and that other students facing similar burdens still manage to perform. But it does raise the question of reasonable expectations. Was I living a life like his as an undergraduate? Hell, no, and it was still all I could do to make my noon lecture. It drives me mad to be part of a system which is being squeezed to death by the governor.

I can’t even spend much time on this entry because it’s a quarter past four in the morning, and reasonably soon I’ve got to meet with two awful women and persuade them to let me teach a revised composition syllabus. My ability to teach Thompson and Tom Wolfe is on the line. I’ll do anything to achieve the right to explain, to a group of college freshmen, Benicio del Toro in the movie version.

One effect of pouring effort into making online doubles of myself is this: I take an awful lot of tests, and when I’m not answering multiple choice questions, I’m writing essays about myself. I have not worked this hard since my college applications were due.

The results come in quickly. It seems that I’m a Loverboy (thanks OK Cupid) and a Performer (Nerve, thanks much) and so on, and so forth, plus I try to remember that I like the Strokes and should give them a nice mention whenever I make a music list. Of course, these test results always come laden with all sorts of compliments that make you feel powerful, alive, and downright adorable. They also come with bittersweet remarks about the challenges which you will face, and may, with strength of character, overcome.

Well, I was going to write a swell little essay about how this proves that we don’t have a true authentic nature, particularly because most of these results speak to changes I’ve undergone since I moved to Irvine. But that sounds a little like deconstruction, and it misses something more interesting.

My best guess: Who we are is a function of what we’d like to do, and how we think we need to be perceived in order to do those things.

So, for example, it isn’t really “true” that I’m a Performer, any more than it’s true that I’m a Scorpio. All that the test is saying is that I can imagine myself in a particular way which corresponds somewhat to an archetype they’ve created. I imagine myself as a “performer” because I love parties and gatherings. And thanks to the smokescreens of the Net, I am exactly that dream unless I foolishly own up to an unique history of mistakes and contradictions, and say “Aw, shucks, them nice words were never meant for me, nor them conflicts neither.”

After all, even the Delphic prophecies about potential problems are there to make you feel better. They will never call you a ghost in the machine, but that remains the real right answer.