The Daily Californian Online

Little Plastic People and the Meaning of Life

By Matt Kawahara
Daily Cal Staff Writer
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Category: Extra


Want to know why I haven't been lying awake nights, chin resting on my palms and heels kicking in the air, gazing up at the stars and wondering what life after graduation is going to be like? (Because I haven't. Really.)

Because younger me had life laid out for him on the living room floor every in his more formative years. Mini representations of what lies ahead. Interactive scenarios. Typed directions. So yeah, I have a pretty good idea of what life is all about.

This does not, however, mean that I have been looking forward to it. Actually, let me relate to you what younger me observed. It sucks. For a lot of reasons. You do not, for example, get to be whatever you want, aspiring accountants and travel agents excepted. It is not a momentous occasion when you get married or buy a house - those things just kind of happen when you come to them. You do not have a choice of whether or not to buy several different types of insurance because your house will most certainly be leveled by a tornado. Midlife crises are extremely common.

Freaking babies fall out of the sky into the backseat of your station wagon. Seriously. You and your significant other may never once unclick your respective seatbelts, and you can still count on the fact that a color-coded kid is going to sprout up in your rear-view mirror like a blue or pink weed.

The only good thing about the whole ordeal is the stock market, which is really a lot less complex than people make it seem. Can you pick a card with a number on it between one and 10? So can I. So can a cat. That Wall Street movie made it seem way harder than it has to be.

Otherwise, what is there to like? The scenery speeds by and it's pretty monotonous, and you're not even sure that you're the one driving the car in the first place. And that thud you just heard? Baby dropping through your sunroof again.

All the time you're wondering, am I even making decisions anymore? You picked the college route over the career one, once upon a time. You remember that. You like to believe that you have some sway over what you do and that everything in life isn't left up to chance or some unseen determinant.

Still, that damn spinning sound seems to have a lot to do with where you're going. Are all the decisions that you make going to be rendered completely useless? Do you only think that you're making them?

And you find out pretty soon that everything is about money. You leave college and you're paying back your school loans, ever moving towards the next payday. You might do some awesome stuff during your life. You might climb Everest or cure the common cold, start a recycling program or build the really high-tech mousetrap. And what do they mean in the long run? You enjoy them for a second while they're commemorated on a tile for you and then, in the end, you look back at the tiles so you can total up how much money they made you, which is really the whole reason that you're playing in the first place. Parked for good at Millionaire Estates with more dollars than that guy next to you? You win the game.

At this point, though, graduation being days away, I have to believe that that cannot be all there is to it. There must be something more, because what is fascinating about climbing Everest or curing colds is that some person walking across the stage next week might actually do those things. And because Richard and Tara are going to China to teach English, while Bryan once picked up and moved to Washington, D.C., without a job or a place to live - routes, as I recall, that did not appear on younger me's version of the board.

Maybe they would have if there had been a bigger box, which could have fit a bigger board, which in turn could have included all the possible detours. Or maybe they would not have been included, the point being that life peaks at moments of randomness and creativity, these roads that stray from the established one and from the station wagons that, when you first saw them, did not appear to have doors.

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