I am going to my twenty year college reunion this weekend.
As in, TWENTY YEARS AGO I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE.
Which would mean that I started college TWENTY FOUR years ago.
How did that happen? I don't feel that much older. I'm sure I don't LOOK that much older. My hair is still red*. I have no wrinkles**. I may have gained a little weight***, sure, but hasn't everyone?****
Fine, I probably look every day of my 42 years, but since I am an artist who lives in Granolaville, I don't even think about that most of the time. If I want to feel pretty, I just go to Walmart***** for twenty minutes.
But I honestly don't feel that much different than I did the day I graduated, or even the day my parents dropped me off at the Vassar farm and I realized I was alone in a state where I literally did not know one single person. I was a clueless 18-22 year old with very little idea of what I wanted out of life, and I spent the next five or six years going to school for a degree I finally realized I did not want. So I spent another year in school to get a degree in library science. With my MLS, I partially supported myself for the next decade and a half. Unless you are married, independently wealthy, or enjoy living in a wigwam made of empty packing crates, there is no way to support yourself on a public librarian's salary. But the nice thing about being a public librarian is that the whole time you are thinking about applying for food stamps, you can keep telling yourself "But My Job Is Important. I Am Helping People. I Am Making A Contribution To Society".
I was able to be a librarian Contributing To Society mainly because my parents were contributing to my bank account.
Being a librarian was possibly the only time in my life since I was 17 that I viewed the future without ongoing nameless dread. I hated college at first. I was homesick, I missed my family, my friends, and most of all my boyfriend. Eventually I settled in and by my sophomore year I loved it, had friends, was involved in activities, and was sorry when winter and summer breaks interrupted my life. Junior year was more of the same, but by senior year I realized, "Hey. This ENDS."
I had no idea what to do next. Hence, the misguided grad school years, and falling into my library career mostly by accident.
Now, packing for my 20 year reunion, I still don't know what to do next. I thought I'd have accomplished a lot more by now. I definitely did not think I would be living in my parents' basement without any appreciable income, single, childless, and somewhat crazy. My classmates all seem way more advanced in Life than me, but then, on some level, they always did. The whole time I was at Vassar I kept looking around me thinking "Who are these beautiful, self assured people? Has there been some kind of mistake? Why am I here? Did the admissions committee just need someone from the Midwest for this class?"
You'd think that someone who felt that way then, and still feels a lot like that now, wouldn't even bother to go to a reunion. And believe me, I've agonized about it plenty. Part of me is dreading it. But that's why I feel like I have to go. If I don't do, aren't I just admitting that I never did fit in at Vassar, and it was all a big mistake that ruined my life?
I do not believe "Things happen for a reason", in fact, I think that's one of the most offensive statements ever invented, and mostly amounts to blaming the victim.^* So I don't think that I Went To Vassar For a Reason, because if so, that reason might just as well have been to destroy any thoughts of a musical career and ruin my self confidence almost beyond repair as anything. And when people say that things happen for a reason, they usually don't mean something icky as the end point. They mean that something bad happens to clear the way for something good....well. Maybe it just hasn't happened yet, but I still think this concept is bullshit.
But I do feel the need to reconnect with my alma mater at least one last time, and see if I can figure out exactly how it fits....or doesn't.... into the rest of my life. After I lost my job and realized I'd have to sell my house and move home, I re-evaluated my life as harshly as possible, and I did not like most of what I found. It scared me to realize that most of my failures could possibly be traced back to Vassar. Such as quitting the cello, because of an asshole music professor with an inferiority complex. And quitting acting, because I wasn't pretty enough to be taken seriously. And never taking a studio art class, because the artsy things that interested me were sneered at as crafts. Giving up on singing, when I'd always wanted to be in an acapella group, because I had one bad audition and never tried out again. Never taking a writing class, because I was too scared.
College is supposed to be a time to expand your horizons, but I felt so insecure at Vassar that that the main expanding I experienced was that of my waistline. Which only made everything worse, since I now felt out of place, untalented, AND ugly. And, after years of being one of the top students in the class, suddenly I was near the middle at best. I'd never felt stupid before. I'd never written a paper longer than three or four pages, and had it not been for taking classes at I.U. my last semester of high school, I think the academic work load alone would have sent me home.
What I did do was develop a political consciousness, and I spent most of my time on some form of political activism, which I don't consider a complete waste.....except, I'm not sure if it's done anything except make me an angrier person. I did make wonderful friends who I treasure. But I wasn't much of a friend to myself during college. So I guess I'm going back to see if I can figure out what made me stop liking myself, and if its too late to start again.
*As red as the first time I dyed it...actually, probably redder now. Seeing as I used to put the color over dark brown hair instead of white.
**I highly recommend extremely oily skin and being fat if you want fewer wrinkles with no botox. Works like a fucking charm.
***Hey, at least I don't have wrinkles, haters.
****At least those of us who can't afford lipsuction, personal trainers, or surrogates to bear our three or four sets of twins
*****No, I don't buy anything. Not only do I hate Walmart and think they are the devil, I also don't have any money.
^* Yes, I do have a standard, full blown rant on this topic. Please contact me if you need the full version. Especially if you feel like getting smacked.