By Blake Plante ‘19
By the time I get home from our small family business in the evening, the swelling buds on the cactus are all shriveled and dead. I check Facebook briefly. Another friend is going to France. I’m going to write a damn book, I tell myself.
In my second and last summer at Pomona, I’m home. I’ve left behind a life I’d made for myself during a semester in DC in the spring, and cushy internships if I’d had the money to continue living there. Day by day, I spend time in my family’s apartment, near where I went to community college. An intermittent cough sputters from my throat, the remnant of a depression that had me binge-reading Shakespeare’s tragedies.
College blog posts seem always to be about great accomplishments, internships, sojourns abroad. Rarely does a piece that has at its essence overwhelming feelings of irrevocable failure get published, though I hope they’re being written, because people ought to see college students doing more than living la vie en rose, even in Claremont.
If I told you I was spending the summer isolating myself, confronting myself and contending with my inner demons, trying to help my family find happiness, and compensating for my total failure to make the reality of this summer fit the idealized summer I’d dreamed of, you’d probably think something was wrong with me. You’d be right enough, because we’re all a little bit broken inside, even if we won’t admit it to others.
You might prefer to hear that I’ll have read fifty or so books by the end of summer; that I worked as an administrator conducting internal reviews of business practices, managing half a dozen teachers and a hundred-fifty students; and doing human resources and customer service work. These would be true, but I would feel an emptiness in my heart as I said them, as if my conscience felt unsatisfied, aware that I was trying to prove something, not only to you, but also to myself: that I am happy. I’m miserable. I don’t want to perform success to others to fuel my vanity.
Where does a post like this go? If it were a blues song, I’d repeat the refrain, and the droll line might become more luminous as new meanings came together with old, building a deeper sentimental feeling. Because we’re all a little bit broken inside, I’d say, and maybe we ought to write about that too.
If I could do it without feeling presumptuous or pretentious, I’d write without caveat a piece of advice from Aldous Huxley’s character Helmholtz in Brave New World: “I should like a thoroughly bad climate. I believe one would write better if the climate were bad.” Or I’d tell a story of the great rōnin Miyamoto Musashi living in a cave and writing in the last two years of his life; or of Zarathustra retreating to the mountains, seeing a snake coiled around an eagle’s neck in friendship and proclaiming, “It is my animals… may my animals lead me!” or Victor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning, asserting that “Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, though these are the things which cannot inspire envy.”
How would I end? One thing I’ve learned during my time at the Claremont Colleges is that we’re all a little bit broken inside, and while it can be great to hear about accomplishments, sometimes, we need to hear about failure too.