When I was younger, the matter of going to college was not an “if”, it was a “when”. And since I lived about 10 minutes away from the University of British Columbia most of my life, there was not really much question of where I should go for my post-secondary education. I wasn’t one of those kids who was in a rush to get out of my parents house, fledge the nest and move far away to gain some much needed independence. My parents were pretty much the best and they gave my lots of space and freedom (although I feel like maybe 10 years ago while actually living at home and trying to balance “independent young adult” with a healthy dose of “helpless child” that my feelings about living at home might have been different… and that my parents are reading this rolling their eyes thinking ‘yeah right she thought we gave her space’) but despite our inevitable differences in opinion about what time I needed to come home at night, how often I needed to do the dishes, why the bathroom cleaning couldn’t wait until tomorrow when I didn’t have important social obligations, and what I should and should not do with the little money I had from my part time job (them = save it, me = spend it), I knew I had it pretty good and living at home made it possible for me to focus on school, part-time work at a place I loved, and spending time with friends, rather than having to devote all my time outside of class to slaving away at some lame job just so I could pay my living expenses (or worse, having to get student loans that I would be paying back until my mid 40’s).
But the point is, that going to college was just something that was going to happen in my life whether it was at UBC or somewhere else. I didn’t ever have much choice in that and luckily I was smart enough to fulfill this destiny without too much effort. And also, luckily, it is what I wanted to do.
Giraffe, on the other hand, had a very different destiny: to participate in the AZA’s Species Survival Plan at the Zoo. He had been born there through that program, and now that he was coming of age, he would soon be transferred (loaned, actually) to another zoo in a different state (or even a different country) far away from his friends and family. He had watched his older brothers and sisters go off in previous years, and the story was the same from each of them: it was amazing. The travel! The adventure! The new friends! And most of all, the personal reward that comes with helping ensure the future success of their species. Or so they said. Giraffe wasn’t so sure.
The Species Survival Program might be great for some, but he had a big secret (shhhhhhh!!). He had a secret desire that had been growing in him since he first learned of it from a masters student who was studying giraffe behavior. The student used to come visit a few times a week to do observations on giraffes, particularly him because he was the youngest of the group, and she would sometime talk to him as she sat in the shade on a rock within the exhibit. She would say “what a lucky little giraffe you are. No homework, no bills, no one telling you what to do. I love college, but sometimes I wish I lived in here with you and we could just do giraffe things all day together”. After she went home, he was left with so many questions: What is homework? What are bills? What is college??? The more Giraffe learned about this magical place, the more he wanted to go. It became a secret obsession and he started planning for the day he would leave the zoo to pursue his education.
BUSINESS! ASTRONOMY! APPLIED GENETICS! ART HISTORY! SEDIMENTOLOGY!
The possibilities were endless. It was exciting and he wanted to know about it all.
As they years went by and the reality of college grew closer, he became more worried about what the other giraffes would think… what his keepers would think… what his parents would think. Would everyone be disappointed? Would they think he didn’t appreciate his life at the zoo? Would they reject him? No giraffe he had ever heard of had left the zoo community, let alone go to college. He could hear his mother now: “what is a giraffe going to do with a science degree?! Go to your breeding program and make something of yourself”
Earlier this summer he stood in front of his mirrors and contemplated the future. Should he do what is expected and move to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo as scheduled? Or should he follow his dreams and take the train to San Francisco to start classes? I’m not sure what he decided as I haven’t heard from him in a few weeks, but I’ll keep you posted. I am not aware of any new additions to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s giraffe collection, but then again, I also haven’t heard of any giraffe sightings on the San Francisco State University’s campus. I guess we will find out soon enough! Good luck, Giraffe, on whatever adventure you chose.