On showing up and picking battles

Dear Coquette,

I’m a freshman junior college student in California’s floundering education system. I’ve done really well so far and I expect good grades after the first semester. My enrollment date is coming up and I found out that there are about 30 classes left, and most likely the worst. I’m going to try to add the best classes I can, but things aren’t looking so great. What other options are out there for someone who wants an education in a broken system?

One of the most important lessons you can learn from the enrollment process at the state college level is that you should never just take what’s handed to you. Broken systems have cracks. Exploit them.

Memorize every last detail of your school’s enrollment procedure. Study the course guide and schedule until it feels like you’re staring into the Matrix. Know all the drop/add deadlines by heart. Your class schedule is a chess game, and the one you have before the semester starts is just your opening move.

Pick the classes you want. Pick your second-tier choices. Pick backups. Go to all of them on the first day and talk your way in. Be passionate. Be enthusiastic. Be tenacious. Do whatever it takes for the professors to let you enroll in the classes you really want. Don’t give up, and prerequisites be damned. If a class is really important to you, just keep showing up for class. Eventually, someone will drop out and you’ll be right there to take the slot.

For the record, this is how you get ahead in the world. There’s always another system. It’s always broken, and if you want to be successful, you have to learn to manipulate it. It’s not about breaking the rules. It’s about learning how they bend. Most importantly, though, it’s about simply showing up.

My friend’s Southern father told me that being gay is not at all biological because it’s “classified as a mental disorder” (seriously?), an “unnatural genetic mutation” and asked: If we teach kids about homosexuality, why not teach them about polygamy and bestiality? As a recently out bisexual 20-year-old girl, I was really offended but too taken aback to form words. Got any comebacks for next time I encounter this kind of incredible ignorance?

Comebacks aren’t what you need, because they’re wasted on someone like that. Nothing you can say will ever penetrate his thick skull. As a 20-year-old girl, I doubt he even respects you enough to listen to your opinions when they mirror his, much less when they’re diametrically opposed to his worldview.

Sometimes the lesson is knowing when to pick your battles. Not every outrage deserves a reaction, and there’s a certain grace in swallowing your tongue in the face of incredible ignorance. Don’t be the one with a chip on your shoulder. Remember, he’s the idiot with something to prove, not you.

Besides, his small-minded belief system is dying a long, slow death of asphyxiation at the hands of progressive thought. There’s too much science in the world for his way of thinking to survive another generation, so don’t waste scorn on him. Pity him, because he’s a pathetic little man.


One thought on “On showing up and picking battles

  1. Pipe says:

    I’m reading this a solid decade later, and that first response is just fucking gold. It’s something I was lucky to learn from my parents early on, and showing up has truly gotten me so far. No bad attitudes, no griping, just beautiful forward movement. It’s nice to be reminded.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *