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Out of Your Element, with Donny Iler

Decked out in plaid shirts with a light drizzle hitting the windshield of the car, we were stuck behind a log truck taking it slow up the McKenzie river highway. I tapped the steering wheel in boredom and looked around the car to my friends who were all asleep. We were heading to Cougar Reservoir to find a place called Terwilliger hot springs for our reunion
All of us had been friends and roommates and gone to Iraq together and hadn’t seen each other in almost a year. The car smelt like beer farts and my belly hurt from all the laughing I had been doing during the trip, rekindling all the inside jokes and recounting tales that only we would understand. I was also showing my two friends Oregon for the
first time, a place I had talked up over five years and described as a paradise on earth; where the mountains were tall, the water clear and crisp and the beer the greatest on the planet. To complete the northwest moment, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came on the radio and woke my friends, who heard me singing along to one of the greatest and most overplayed
songs of all time.

We arrived at the hot springs and were greeted by a lady burning incense and tapping lightly on a drum. The level in the reservoir was lower than normal and exposed bare earth. The hot springs is located in a grove of old growth Douglas fir. The water emerges from a small grotto and then cascades down into a series of pools, with the hottest one closest to the grotto. After taking off our clothes we entered the pool and joined the other people already soaking. There was an eclectic mix of people there, from young couples to families with their children.

A slender man with long hair and a beard was talking to a couple at length about the power and wonder of musical healing. He then exited the pool and grabbed a didjeridoo that he had hidden away in the brush behind him. He took his it with him into the cramped grotto.
The drone of the didjeridoo helped me slip into a coma of relaxation. My naked body was floating in the sulfur water and I was about to fall asleep when an old man in the center of the pool began to speak loudly and recite poetry. Annoyed with the man reciting poetry but drunk with relaxation, we stumbled out of the hot tub, put our clothes back on and hit the road.

We then went up to Portland and stayed at a friend’s house that was out in the woods. We started
a fire and sat around making smores and staring into the flames.

“I got something to tell you guys,” said my friend Vijay, “I think I’m going to go back into the Marine Corps as an officer.”
“Why would you do something like that? Didn’t you learn your lesson the first time around?” I asked.
“I just don’t really like college. I’m surrounded by a bunch of selfish spoiled kids who are just out to make a name for themselves and don’t realize the consequences all their dumb theorizing has on the world.”
“Yep, I don’t really like college either. It’s a huge waste of time. I already know what I want to do with my life. I’m good at it too. But instead I have to waste a bunch of years going to school to get a dumb piece of paper saying I can do what I already know how to,” Mat said.
I threw on another log and stuck my marshmallow stick into the fire to stir up the embers. Sparks flew up and drifted off into the clear night sky.
“College is huge racket. $150 for a dumb book you look at once. Paying money for a class taught by a guy who’s never done anything with his life besides go to school. I really hate college. I think I wantto drop out,” I said.
“You can’t drop out, that’s throwing your future away,” Vijay said.
“Why? I’m tired of people telling me what to do with my life and giving me all sorts of advice that pretty much boils down to following your dreams and doing what makes you happy. I just don’t think I belong in college and I feel like I’m wasting time there dealing with nonsense that doesn’t matter. I don’t think I’m going back in the fall.”
I buttoned up my flannel shirt and went inside to get my jacket. I came back and resumed my place.
College was not the magical dream land of learning we thought it would be. It was more a land where time and energy is wasted on inconsequential ideas and full of kids who think they are going to change the world. It is a nice holding ground for people to ease into the real world. But if you’ve already had a taste of the real world, it is hard to believe anything teachers say.
We doused the fire and went inside, quickly falling into a deep sleep.

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  1. Quite frankly, you’re wrong. You sound like a whining adolescent. “Paying money for a class taught by a guy who’s never done anything with his life besides go to school.” I assume you have done something with your life. The military, honestly do you really think that is doing something with your life.
    I have nothing against the military, army, navy, or whatever you were apart of. However, just because you spent some time war mongering in another country doesn’t provide you with an excess of wisdom.
    I do hope you drop out, since you are the pinnacle of all knowledge, and educating yourself is somehow a form of stupidity.
    Nobody wants to really, “change the world.” They just simply want to affect it in a positive way. Just because you have given up, does not mean it is ridiculous for other people to keep trying. Your idea of the real world is a little misconstrued. The real world doesn’t consist of being in the army; your real world is a lot different than what is considered normal. Stop being pretentious, you walking version of Voltaire’s ‘Candide.’


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