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Posts Tagged ‘wellesley’

College-Ruled

When I was getting ready to move out of my childhood home, I got rid of a lot of stuff. I was a panic about moving into a house with limited storage space (and moving with my sister, who keeps everything), that I purged a huge amount of stuff I had been holding onto for sentimental reasons.

One of the things I disposed of were my college notebooks. During college and grad school, I bought a brand new five-subject Five Star notebook for each semester. Each class got its own subject in the notebook. It was a beautiful way of organizing myself, and the end result was 11 thick notebooks, crammed full of quizzes and tests and papers, and pages covered in notes, written in complete sentences with a black ink pen, that stretched from one edge of the page to the other. We don’t need MARGINS in COLLEGE!

For classes that were too easy for me, there were notes written using my left hand. For classes that were taken with friends, there were notes written by others about how Eisenhower and Khrushchev were lovers during the Cold War. For blow-off classes (and I did take just a few), there were a handful of pages of notes, followed by blank sheets of paper. The notebooks were the story of my college experience.

Even at the time of my purge, I didn’t want to get rid of my notebooks. But I told myself it was silly to keep them. I had no use for pages of notes on the nineteenth century immigrant experience. I told myself that I was keeping all of my books, and papers I had written, to say nothing of my diplomas, so keeping all of my notes was excessive. I told myself that I was desperately trying to hold onto a part of my life that was over, and that even though it was the best part of my life so far, it was pathetic to keep hanging on to these pointless symbols of my glory days. I was like a worn-out, fortysomething football player and the notebooks were the high school letter jacket I still wore every day.

So, I not only got rid of the notebooks, I destroyed them. I ripped them to pieces, ostensibly so I could recycle the paper and throw away the non-recyclable materials. However, I think that if you wanted to read into my actions, it’s possible you could infer something about anxiety and anger regarding goodbyes to the joyous carefree days of young adulthood.

When it comes to personal life decisions, my gut is pretty reliable. It’s when I don’t listen to my instincts that I get myself in trouble. Last summer, my gut told me that I wasn’t ready to throw away those notebooks, and I should have listened. Those notebooks are at the top of the list of things I regret not bringing with me.

Increasingly, I feel like my brain is atrophying. I feel like I am getting stupider every day. This is tough, because for most of my life, my one point of self-esteem was that I have always felt fairly intelligent. These days, it doesn’t matter how many books by David Foster Wallace I read or how quickly I can recall detailed information at work or how many silly blog posts I write about The X-Files, I feel like all the cells that knew stuff good are melting.

Those notebooks represented the blood, sweat, and tears of my smarts. They were the work that came out of showing up to almost every single class and reading almost every page of the assignment. And as long as I had them, there was always the feeling that I could go back and re-read my notes and re-learn the things I had forgotten. All would not be lost!

Somehow, my gut knew that I was still going to need the security blanket of having my notebooks. If only I had been smart enough to listen to it!

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On Sunday, I came back from a trip I took to Boston, where I had a wonderful time. It was a mini-reunion with my friends from college, and I immediately felt like no time had passed since the days when I spent nearly all of my conscious hours of these people. I found within myself the person that I was when I lived with those people for three years. All the old dynamics were there, despite the fact that all of us have grown up a little bit more since the last time we saw each other.

Before the trip, I had agonized about whether or not I would still remember how to navigate the T–especially since the MBTA had gone to a fancy Charlie Card system since I had left. How dare Boston update their antiquated T system and expect me to readjust, after two long years of driving a car wherever I need to go?!

But I had no problems whatsoever. As soon as I walked into the airport T station, I said to myself, “I’ve got this shit. Why did I worry?” (The answer is because I am a first-class worrier, and why give up that piece of my identity?) It may have been two years, but Boston was still my city, and I could get to where I needed to go.

My friends and I spent one day on our college campus, Wellesley, which is just outside the city of Boston. I was truthfully a little worried about how I would react to being at Wellesley, because it is a place that represents to me, some of the most pure feelings of belonging and self-worth. I associate Wellesley with the happiest version of myself that I have ever experienced.

When I was getting my graduate degree at BU, trapped in a terrible living situation, and spending as much time as possible at Wellesley with my friends who still technically belonged there, when I had to leave campus, every time, I had an overwhelming urge to throw myself down on the ground, right there in the snow and dirt, and refuse to ever leave that spot.

But Wellesley, just as with Boston, and just as with my friends, it felt like I had never left. And when it was time to go, I didn’t feel like I needed to throw myself onto the ground and absorb the soil of that place into my skin, so that I could never be separated from it. It didn’t feel like I had ever left Wellesley. It felt like I continuum of where I had been and where I would continue to be. I mean, I actually took a nap in the student center. I can’t think of another public place where I’d feel completely comfortable and justified in sitting my ass down on a couch, putting my feet up on a table, and falling asleep.

My time in Boston and at Wellesley was incredibly comforting to me, because it told me that I could go away for years, and then come back, and I could still feel like I belonged there. Boston, and Wellesley especially, will always be a little bit of my home. This trip made me feel like I can go away, and I can come back, and it will all still be there waiting for me. That part of my life isn’t as over as I had thought it was. It’s still there, and I can have it back when I need it again.

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My brief time at Wellesley College was literally the happiest extended period of time in my life. It’s easy to attribute such joy to the rosy glow of hindsight, but this isn’t something I only recognize while looking back – I knew at the time that despite the stress of high academic standards – I was profoundly happy. It’s one reason why I took pictures so obsessively while I was in college. I knew how much I would always want to remember even the smallest and goofiest things I did with my friends. Like making peep pie or the lengths my friends went to to get me to stay away from the vending machine.

More than a few times at Wellesley, I would be sitting in a friend’s dorm room, doing nothing more consequential than watching an episode of “Scrubs” and pretending to study, and I would think to myself, “This moment is perfect. I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”

In many ways, Wellesley is an imperfect institution, but in almost every way, it was the perfect place for me. After a lifetime of feeling awkward and out of place, I absolutely belonged at Wellesley. At 5:30pm, waiting in line for dinner at Beebe dining hall, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Walking with friends to the student center in the cool night air, in search of brownies and bags of chips, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Walking back from the library with a backpack stuffed full of inter-library loan books for my history paper, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I wouldn’t say I’m unhappy now, but I’m not nearly as happy as I was then, and one of my greatest fears is that that was the happiest in my life that I’ll ever be. Though I love Louisville, and though I loving living here, there is nothing in my life that gives me the same sense of belonging as that place.

Two and a half years after moving back from Boston, my memories of Wellesley are growing increasingly fuzzy. My experiences there feel increasingly distant. It’s starting to feel like maybe Wellesley was never even something I had in my life at all, but maybe just a really great TV show I watched. Instead of feeling sad because I’ve left Wellesley, I feel disconnected from the idea that I was ever there and ever that happy.

I talked to a friend from Wellesley tonight, though, for over an hour. Though I still consider her a close friend, I hadn’t talked to her in a while. Talking to her made Wellesley a little more real again, which has made me a little more sad again, too. I can remember building a fort in my residence hall’s living room, and recognize that I own that memory, it is mine, and the lump in my throat is back.

Every year at Baccalaureate, my choir at Wellesley sang a song called “The Road Home.” Every year, the song made me cry, because of the line, “There is no such beauty as where you belong.” I knew then, and I know now, how true that is.

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