COLUMN: Plot twist: I’m back at school to finish what I started


I consider myself to be an honest person. I don’t typically lie. That being said, I feel like there should be a big asterisk next to the word “typically.” There are obviously situations in which telling a white lie can save one a lot of headache and heartbreak. For instance, when my boyfriend asks me if what he is wearing is “cute,” I’ll tell him yes, regardless of if I think the outfit is stylish or absolutely heinous. The same goes for when people ask me where I graduated from college. I’ll say I went to USC, which is true, but if we’re going to get technical, no matter what I say is a lie because I never actually earned my diploma.

I’ve always been a sucker for nostalgia; it’s hard to find a millennial who isn’t keen on some era of the past. However, it doesn’t seem like too many people (or at least the ones I hang out with) have any desire to actually relive their past, like their college years. For most, the college years aren’t necessarily ones most are eager to relive. Who wants to go back to hall bathrooms, or walking into 8 a.m. lectures with dried semen from last night’s hookup whitewashed on your shirt?

The answer is: me. I would love to revel in these high points of my past life, like going to class so hungover I actually start seeing spots. But maybe that’s just my inner romantic, because it saddens me to think there are things I’ll never get to experience again, such as my first trip to the opera or the time I finally got to watch Morrissey perform live. But I think about the people I’ll never see again, or the things I’ll never hear again, and am reminded that I should never say never because of all the things I never thought I’d ever hear again, the phrase that tops the list just happened to reappear as the subject line of an email I received just last week.

“Welcome back, Trojans!” it read.

Like I said, I don’t find any point in lying. I prefer to skirt around situations with creative phrasing to prevent myself from uttering the dreaded fib. Perhaps that’s why I’ve felt so jaded for the past year and three months, because when I tell people that I “graduated,” it’s not the whole truth. In fact, there is no truth to it at all. Yes, I did walk during that year’s ceremony, but that’s the closest I got to my diploma. In reality, I was two classes short of earning my degree. However, I was also about to begin an internship that could define my entire professional career as a writer. So I had a decision to make: return in the fall to finish up, or pretend that I did and move on. I chose the latter.

My first year out of school into the world was a rollercoaster —literally. Really, I mean to say I peaked too soon. Within weeks of  “graduating,” I began an internship at a film & TV magazine, one that had promised me a job following my tenure as an intern. But, in what I can only assume to be karma, I was lied to. I had assumed I would be offered an editorial position, but was only offered a freelance writing position. Though I was given incredible opportunities for consistent work to support myself as a freelance writer, it came with none of the perks of a full-time position: no health insurance, no 401(k). Being able to afford an apartment is nice and all, but knowing that at any point I could be hit in the head by a slab of rogue plaster and have no way to pay for the medical expenses doesn’t really sit well with me. My  farce as “the graduate” went on for a little over a year, before I ultimately decided that the best thing for me is to return to school. So two weeks ago, I contacted my academic adviser and I was officially re-enrolled.

Those who know me well and had assumed I “graduated” on time were floored when I revealed the plot twist. I joked to my friends that the only other secret I kept was hiding in the closet for the first 15 years of my life. I had fooled just about everyone, my parents included, into thinking I graduated. Apart from my academic adviser and myself, no one knew. I had essentially scammed those in my life into thinking I had earned a sheet of stock paper estimated at over $200 grand.

In the end, it’s not even really about the diploma. I guess what I’m yearning for is to return to USC for one last hurrah. And for that matter, why does this fancy paper determine our worth in society? At risk of sounding like an elitist, it’s almost impossible to sustain a comfortable living without a college degree, especially in Los Angeles. In a way, I felt that leaving early was a giant middle finger to society. As students, we’re taught to learn from our mistakes. We’re also taught to never let our past define our future. So how are we expected to learn from said mistakes if we’re simultaneously supposed to forget about them as well? But I guess I’m not the most reliable person for life advice. At (almost) 26 years old, it’s taken seven and a half years for me to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

But I shouldn’t let my past define my character, because I’m redefining my future by finishing what I started. And I’m ready to go, from the top.

Arya Roshanian is a “senior” majoring in music. His column, “From The Top,” runs Tuesdays.