Monday, May 23, 2011

College Daze

Scripps College --
it's very pretty and all,
but I haven't been back once since I graduated.
There is a post I have been absolutely dreading to write, as it was such a dreary time in my life, but now that I have revealed and shared nearly every possible entertaining anecdote from my past, I suppose the time has come for me to get this one off my chest.  Maybe then I'll be able to start writing more stuff about my present life, although going to the grocery store and carpooling six kids around a time isn't all that fascinating, as much as it is exhausting, interspersed with occasional moments of ridiculousness (like when Teddy joyously and furtively pees in my water bottle).  And anyway, my poems do describe my present-day life, just from a more internal perspective.

Okay, I'm procrastinating now.  This is a post about when I went away to college, and why it was so very difficult and tumultuous for me.  I was a year young for my grade, as I have mentioned before, so when I graduated high school I was 17.  I had chosen to go to Scripps College, which is an all girls' (yes, I know -- what was I possibly thinking?!) liberal arts school in Claremont, California.  I arrived one day in late August and I pretty much knew immediately that it wasn't for me.  The girls were either all preppy, waspy and uptight, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, they were die-hard feminists, totally rigid in their outlook of men, femininity and politics.  Where did I fit in?  I wasn't preppy, waspy, a feminist or political.  I wasn't gay, which many of the girls were, and I craved being around boys, as well as girls.  I also think that by being a year younger than everyone else, I was probably emotionally immature, and unready for a college experience in general.  The school itself was beautiful to look at, but, during those first few days, I found myself aimlessly wandering around the campus thinking, "What the shit am I doing here?"  After two weeks, I called my mom, and begged to come home, I just wasn't happy.  She felt that I hadn't given it enough of a chance, and told me I needed to stick it out until Christmas.  Well, that was it.  In that moment, I shut down inside, and decided I was going to stick it out not only until Christmas, but until graduation, dammit.

In writing this, it is strange for me to realize that I was able to leave the preparatory academy I went to for my freshman year in high school after only one year, while in this situation I was pretty much paralyzed.  I think this must have been for two reasons: 1) I was supposed to be a grownup now, and therefore "make it" on my own, and not complain about it in the process, and 2) I was terrified to disappoint my parents, as well as the rest of the world.  I had always been so eager to do what I thought was expected of me, so it made sense that everything I had worked for thus far with grades and AP classes, etc. was supposed to culminate in this: the ultimate college experience.  College was meant to be BEST time in my life, as well as my academic triumph, but when reality hit and I saw that it wasn't at all like what I had expected it to be, I felt bereft, disappointed, and lost.

Halfway into my first semester at Scripps, I got terrible insomnia.  I wouldn't sleep for weeks on end, and this became a cycle that I didn't know how to handle on my own.  I was ashamed that I was troubled by such a silly issue, and I never really discussed the full extent of it with anyone, not even my parents.  I went to the school doctor, who gave me Xanax for anxiety.  That helped for a awhile, but it didn't address the underlying reason of why I couldn't sleep:  I was unhappy.  The insomnia only further contributed to my feelings of isolation while at college.  I was dealing with something that none of my friends ever even thought about, and thus I felt embarassed by it, and retreated into myself even more.  I felt so very different than everyone else, and when I would talk about it with my parents they were dismissive about the issue, probably because I never fully communicated to them how scared and lost I felt inside.  The truth is, I never wanted them to worry, and so I would pretend to be happy and having a simply grrrrreat! time at college.

I would wander down the halls of my dormitory at night, and often I would hear girls' moans coming out of various rooms, as girls would randomly hook up with other girls in the dorm on a nightly basis.  Again, this only served to make me feel more alone and isolated, especially since at the time I was too prudish to even consider hooking up with another girl.  But it sure seemed like everybody had somebody...everybody except me, that is.  Looking back, I can see now that I was simply stuck emotionally.  I was feeling alone and unhappy, and, what's worse, sorry for myself.  I needed somebody to shake me awake and help me get out of this godawful depressing rut.  My parents were no help, as I'd been pretty much lying to them, and there were no teachers to speak of that I really connected with.  In fact, most of my teachers were such die-hard feminists -- you know, the sack dress, frizzy hair, no makeup kinds -- that the rebellious part of me took to wearing tons of makeup and particularly high heels when I would go to their classes, simply for the shock value of it, and also probably to spite them, as I partially blamed them and their rigidity for my own feelings of isolation and differentiation.

I had a couple of good girlfriends while at Scripps, although I haven't really stayed in touch with them, and a few boyfriends from the neighboring colleges, but none of them very serious.  Excluding my junior year in Italy, after my four years there I literally wiped my hands of the place, and just felt so, so happy to finally be free.  I immediately went to work in public relations, and was a changed person the moment I got on my own.  I was doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, and surrounding myself with people I enjoyed being around.  It was like someone had flicked on a switch inside of me, and I couldn't have been happier.

It is strange and surreal to think about my experience at Scripps, almost as if it had been a fitful dream, and how very different it was from other peoples' college encounters.  Most people I know simply loved this period of time in their lives.  I used to feel envious of that fact, and wished that I could have had a similar experience, but I now realize that if I hadn't undergone all that I did, I would be a totally different person than I am today.  I know that I am particularly sensitive and evaluative as a result of what I have felt and seen, and so I do feel grateful for what I learned at Scripps, which is to listen to my gut, to communicate, and to never feel ashamed for feeling different from anyone else.  In fact, being unique is now one of the things I enjoy and pride most about myself and who I am.

And I still do have trouble sleeping sometimes, but who doesn't?  We live in a fast-paced world of technology and stresses and responsibilities, and if we weren't affected by those things, then we wouldn't be human.  I simply feel thankful that I can utilize all that I have learned about myself in writing this blog, and continue to grow in a way that works for me.

So that's it.  I think now you all pretty much know most of what there is to know about my past and my accompanying mulititudes of mistakes and learning curves.  Although I can guarantee I'll create plenty more mistakes and plenty more learning curves, and, that being said, thank God, because isn't that what makes life interesting anyhow?

1 comment:

  1. Another insightful, honest post. So refreshing to read. You inspire me to try and think of a way to write about my college experiences.

    BTW, I do find other mamas' writing about carpools, etc., quite interesting and entertaining!!