Monday, August 17, 2009

We need to talk about "Kevin."

(No, not the book.)

One of our last assignments in AP Lit was to list a handful of quotes that were meaningful to us and explain why. This was one of my entries... (all of my quotes were taken from Pixar movies)

“You know, once you muscle your way past the gag reflex, all kinds of possibilities open up.”
- Emile, Ratatouille (Brad Bird, screenwriter)

First semester of my senior year, I took a chemistry class at the University of Missouri. Part of this class was learning how to learn in a 500+ person lecture class. The other part of this class was my lab partner, quite possibly the most unbearable person I've had to deal with in a long time. I'll reference him as "Kevin."

Every Monday afternoon, I had to spend 3 painful hours with a pompous, stereotypically-frat-guy-ish jackass named Kevin. A lot of times, I would think to myself, "Okay, he's a good person deep down. He's doesn't actually mean the stuff he says. He's a decent person, he's just immature." I put up with him for a couple weeks. Hell, I even drove him back to his dorm after class. He told me of the girls he'd hooked up with, and when he said "I'm hardcore Catholic. I almost went into the priesthood, but I realized I liked sex too much," I restrained myself from barfing all over his face. I answered the last-night calls for help with the chemistry online quiz that was due in 10 minutes. I did the labs and told him to just copy what I'd written in my notebook.
It got to the point where I couldn’t suppress my disgust anymore -

This actually happened and my T.A. actually thought I was going to punch him. Our partnership gained a bit of notoriety amongst the class.

I stereotyped him as a lazy, chauvinistic, imbecilic frat guy. When I had to hear stories of his weekend sexcapades, I threw up in my mouth a little and cast him as a hypocritical cradle-Catholic. So after the first couple weeks of class, what did I do? I surprised myself and gave him a chance. I don't really know why. I think I was just sick of arguing. It was bizarre, I started to see someone who felt private remorse for his shortcomings, a person who sought forgiveness, but didn't really know how to go about getting it. In brief car rides, I learned that Kevin maybe wasn’t as hypocritical as I thought he was, but rather still a very young man who struggled to internally resolve his conflicts while his external environment of friends expected a guy very different from who he thought he should be. Does this mean we became BFFs? HELL NO. I bolted out of that lab room on the last day with sheer giddiness. But in retrospect, I think I more hated admitting that my original judgment of Kevin was unfair and continued to wallow in self-pity because I was so against admitting my fallacy. And it wasn’t until very recently that I started thinking that maybe – maybe – having Kevin as a lab partner wasn’t such a terrible thing. I hate it when people pre-judge me, but I realized about halfway through that I was doing that to Kevin. I also vowed to myself that I'd never compromise who I am to fit in as much as he did. I just had to muscle my way past my innate desire to barf every time I saw him in order to see this.


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