Looking back on what should have been the best four years of his life, Leo Wiley ‘12 realized yesterday that he wasted all his time at college sitting around in a sperm whale’s cavernous stomach.
In a moment of clarity that came too late to be of use, Wiley became aware that he did not attend a single party while he was at Brown, ask a girl to a dance or even take a class. It dawned on Wiley that while all these things were happening on campus he was stuck inside a whale.
“Shit,” Wiley said, imagining eight semesters spent groping around in the dark for the ever-elusive handful of undigested squid meat. “I really should have signed up for a few clubs.”
Wiley says he has often wondered if he could be getting more out of Brown, but it was not until yesterday that he recognized exactly how much he has missed out on. “College is supposed to be a time of growth and self-discovery, and if I had left this whale for as little as an afternoon, I would have seen that,” he said. “All I learned about myself in here is that I taste good to whales.”
Around 4:00 p.m. yesterday, in an effort to cheer himself up, Wiley briefly tried to rationalize his decision to forgo the typical American college experience. “I was never much of a partier,” he said, leaning back against the slippery surface of the whale’s stomach wall. “Getting blackout drunk and having meaningless sex with some random girl just doesn’t appeal to me.”
Wiley soon recognized that this editorializing of the past was futile. “Who am I kidding?” he asked out loud. “The only thing that kept me from enjoying college was a fear of what would happen to me if I stepped out of my comfort zone: this whale’s belly.”
Hesitant and shy as a youth, Wiley promised himself when he was accepted to Brown that he would take advantage of every opportunity the school had to offer. Last night, Wiley saw that this promise was nothing more than self-deception: he had known even then that he would take the easy way out and dive headfirst into the mouth of the first animal he encountered that could offer him shelter from the pressures of college life.
“Sometimes it’s easier to keep yourself cooped up in a whale than it is to put yourself out there socially, even when the stomach acid starts to hurt your skin pretty bad,” Wiley said.
Looking back, Wiley says his only wish is that he could have discovered just a year or two earlier how he was cheating himself out of a good time at college. “It’s obvious to me now that the whale’s belly was a crutch,” he said. “But somehow I convinced myself that I wanted to spend my time at college this way, staving off starvation and hypothermia inside of a huge aquatic mammal.”
“Next time, I’ll do things right,” he said resolutely as he climbed out of the whale’s mouth. “There won’t be any opportunities to make a mistake like this one next year when I begin graduate in school in marine biology at Sea World.”