I’m, Like, Totally Profound: I’m dropping out of Stanford.

Opinion by Robin Thomas
March 9, 2011, 12:26 a.m.

I'm, Like, Totally Profound: I'm dropping out of Stanford.I’m leaving for Marine Corps Boot Camp on March 20th, sans college degree.

Originally I wanted to write deeply and personally about that decision for this last column, and include my joke about how I always used to tell people that I’d drop out of Stanford after two years and go make a million dollars, and hey, it’s coming halfway true, ha ha.

But now I’m thinking that since there’s a chance that this dropping out is a huge, horrible mistake, and/or that I’ll fail out of boot camp, and since coming back to Stanford with my tail between my legs would feel bad enough without having left after some big, noble “road less traveled by” kind of speech.

I actually don’t want to write about that…

Although, I would like to mention that one of the most valuable and least-known things about Stanford is its policy on Leaves of Absence. Long story short, Stanford makes them mind-blowingly easy to do. I offer this as evidence that our school really does give a darn about us as human beings. Against all traditional business sense, Stanford lets its students take time off to figure out who they are, and welcomes them back whenever they’re ready. I mean, a few weeks ago I was having a beer in the GCC with a woman who was originally in Dean Julie’s Class of 1989 and is just now finishing her B.A.

Don’t think you’re ready to stop being an undergrad? Don’t think you’re ready to start being an undergrad? Guess what! Your life doesn’t have rules! You really don’t have to go straight from high school to college and graduate in four years and then go right into a job! It was all just a dream!

You wouldn’t believe how often, when I mention to Stanford grads the concept of time off, they say, “Oh, man, I wish I’d done that!”

You might as well have your mid-life crisis now, while your knees are still good and your parents are still around, instead of convincing yourself to do the “responsible” and predictable thing and work until you’re fifty-five only to suddenly quit your job, sell your house, divorce your spouse, and buy a red convertible.

Or so I figure. But I digress…

What I really want to write about is the Westboro Baptist Church.

I have a theory about them. Remember when they came to Stanford and the whole campus turned out with bagpipes and costumes and ironic signs in unity against them? Everywhere the WBC goes, people come together to stand up for everything the WBC stands against — gay marriage, fallen soldiers, love and tolerance, and so on.

Get this: what if the WBC actually supported those things all along?

It would be brilliant, really, and so simple: make such obscene and hateful statements against Thing X that everyone else feels compelled to defend Thing X. Using only a tiny handful of brave and self-sacrificing people, you could polarize an entire nation into siding with your hidden agenda.

Think about it: if tomorrow the Westboro Baptist Church started holding signs that said “GOD HATES JAMBA JUICE,” how many people would go out and get a Mango-a-go-go in counter-protest? Sales would probably skyrocket.

Almost as easily as I can picture Fred Phelps being a hateful, ignorant bigot, I can also picture him going home after a protest and saying to his gay boyfriend, “I can’t believe people actually take our ‘God hates fags’ crap seriously!” He’s arguably made bigger strides in getting people to support issues like gay rights than many of those who protest against his church.

Along this same line of thinking, I have a solution to all the wars and famines and human rights abuses going on today. I think the governments of the world should get together to secretly create a fake arch-nemesis for all humanity; something inhuman and preferably located off the planet — hostile aliens on Mars, maybe — so that people don’t individually go trying to hunt it down.

Nothing brings people together like a common enemy; common joys are unfortunately not nearly as effective. If every human could somehow be convinced of some concrete, massive, yet not-insurmountable threat to the planet, think how hard we’d work to get along and protect each other. Just look at how well it worked in those pinnacles of filmmaking “Independence Day” and “Armageddon.”

Okay, sure, it could all go south in 1984-esque fashion. But it’s a fun idea.

So that’s my parting shot. Anyway, Stanford, you’re great. You have brains and beauty. But I did you the discourtesy of expecting you to be the solution to all my problems, and you’re not. I can’t change who you are, though; I can only work on figuring out who I am.

See you in four years, maybe?


Robin won’t be able to access his e-mail for several months after March 20th. So if you’re going to say something to him, say it now via [email protected].

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