So far today, I’ve checked Google reader, had two cups of coffee, made glazed carrots, read over old story notes, used my new stamps, and now I’m writing this blog post, all in the name of avoiding work on my short story. Oh, and there’s a Golden Girls marathon on tv, which basically means I’m doomed.
The weather is disgusting. I’ve been advised by people I care about not to go outside today, and so I’m attempting to be productive at our crowded kitchen table. (On it right now: a rolling pin, a jar of peanut butter, a case of Toasted Lager, a pot, a salt shaker, a copy of the Economist, several coffee mugs, a salt shaker, a bag of cookies.)
Last week, I went to Amherst to speak on a panel at my alma mater. I have a lot of affection for Umass, but I didn’t always. I went to a public high school that desperately wanted to be a private one, where we stuffed ourselves silly with Advanced Placement classes and extracurricular activities in pursuit of a gpa above 4.0 and an Ivy League college. Ending up at a state school, especially our state school, was seen as a failure, even if you could justify it as a smart financial move or had been admittted to a special program. I felt ashamed to be going there, but as it turned out, I could not have made a better decision.
There is something difficult about the return to any place that was once a home. It was strange to see the people I lived with during freshman and sophomore year, because we’re so different, as we always have been, and because as we’ve grown and changed, so have our expectations of the world and each other. Since we’ve graduated, an enormous amount has happened to all of us, with mixed results. In case we didn’t already feel significantly battered and disillusioned by the world, it’s scary to feel as though we’re cut off from one another, but this is how it is. We were warned. We had to leave anyway.
I went home the next morning, missing Amherst like I always do, but feeling grateful that it’s still mine. My brain had not forgotten where to go, and so I ended up in the same places that I did then (coffee shop, then reading on a couch in the student union). I remember how worried I was that there wouldn’t be anyone like me at college, only to find that I don’t actually want anyone to be like me, not exactly, anyway. As the author and activist Eve Ensler says, “Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here.”