Oberlin Blogs


August 26, 2010

Will Mason ’10

Things are good. I've been back at Oberlin for a week, vacationing in my own house. I wake up, make some coffee, eat my raisin bran, and spend most of the rest of the day reading, listening to music, or annoying the neighbors (one of whom is the Dean of Students...) by practicing drums. This is the first extended period of down time I've had in at least four years, and so I'm trying to enjoy it.

I spent this summer working a job in which I grew up a great deal, which of course is the polite way of saying that I had an extravagantly tough time. I've worked at a summer camp on an island in Maine for four summers, driving the boat on and off the island all day. This past summer I helped run the place as one of two Assistant Directors. I've never had a job with any semblance of real responsibility before, and I don't think I quite prepared myself beforehand for what the job would require of me. Fortunately, my co-worker was older and much more prepared for the job, so he kindly shouldered an undue portion of the burden.

As far as the kids went, I was sort of like the "Vice Principal"--don't act out or you'll get sent to talk to Mason. Anyone who knows me can see the hilarity in this: I'm a pretty nice guy, and quite sheepish. The first time I had to really talk to a kid who was acting out, I went in the direction of the "New Age" high school teacher--"Tell me how you're feeling through all of this. Good. Now let's align your chakras." Not surprisingly it did not work, and I left realizing that I'd been utterly bested by a 10-year-old. That was when I knew I was in for a long summer. (I altered my discipline tack, by growing my beard out to a scarier length and replacing the F word ["Your Feelings"] with the far more effective P word ["Your Parents"].)

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More challenging and far more uncomfortable was the fact that I was now the boss for the staff, who had been my great friends last summer when I was a simple skipper. It was awkward and profoundly difficult and weighed on me a lot. It still does. That's all there is to it.

I'm really glad I worked this job; it's a valuable resume item and I learned a lot about myself and about being in a managerial position. Thinking back on it, there were many moments where I had real fun, too. That it took a year or two off my life is perhaps par for the course.

It had the unintended consequence of making me feel very old. I'm only 22, and just barely at that, but all summer I felt 45 years old (and the younger kids, unhelpfully, would ask me in earnest if I had any kids of my own). Unfortunately, this only compounded feelings I've had since May, when I sat and watched my friends and classmates for the past four years--people I've known since we were living on the first floor in Burton--graduate. At the time it felt like everyone had been invited to a sweet party except for me. Having since checked in with most of my friends, it sounds more like everyone was invited to a soul-crushing, poverty-stricken party, but I still can't help feeling a bit left behind. I suppose I offer this tangent in part to help incoming double-degree students; the program is invaluable, but brace yourself for the end of your 4th year. Senior year was probably the most fun I've ever had, anywhere, and I am really glad that I took full advantage of it. Part of what will make this year so difficult is going into it knowing that it cannot possibly compare.

If all goes as planned I'll graduate in December, a semester early. My intention is to apply for graduate school in music theory this fall. It's unclear what the spring holds: perhaps touring with a rock band, or finally hiking the Appalachian Trail, or just loafing around Oberlin playing more music. For now, my mind is on East of Eden, and a big tree in Tappan Square.

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