Things I DON’T Miss About College

I was reflecting on these things this morning for some reason.

  • Spelling “women” “womyn.” I wrote the editorial in the Mills paper during the anti-coed strike (I’m still not sure why, since I was not on staff, but my blockade was in the building where the paper’s office was and I must have just been in the right place at the right time). I spelled “women” correctly and it got edited. BAH.
  • Reflexive, non-thoughtful über-liberality. I would consider myself a liberal Democrat in most things and a moderate Democrat in just about everything else. (And, well, a fire-breathing conservative when it comes to langauge. But I digress.) I don’t think, though, that a person should just be a knee-jerk liberal or a knee-jerk conservative. For instance, one of the Mills feeds on Facebook linked to this story. And not in a “what the hell was he thinking?” kind of way either. I don’t care if you’re unarmed, if you’re in a car pulled over by the cops, you don’t run, and if you do, you take your chances. I mean, that’s ridiculously stupid. But in college I’d have been branded reactionary for saying so. I will add that being a moron doesn’t make you worthy of death or maiming, but if you’re stupid in the wrong situation (dealing with inner-city cops, a gang, the Mafia, or me when you’ve misused quotation marks or punctuation), then you’ve got to be prepared for the worst.
  • The flip side of being amongst intelligent people learning interesting things and having the time for long discussions is that people can be so intensely earnest. Just relax a little, okay? Or, rather, mix up the intense earnestness with some laid-back calm.
  • Living at home with my parents. Dear God. How I love living alone.
  • Not having much money. Dear God. How I love having an income.
  • That weird feeling when you have a class you hate and you realize you’re paying them for the experience.

So it’s a mixed bag I suppose. On the whole college was more enjoyable and interesting than adult life has been, although that’s only partly adulthood’s fault. I mean, from September-ish 1990 until April 2010 I was working at a job I loathed — four of them, in a twenty-year relay. And even after I got this job I didn’t stop being miserable until I’d passed my probation. Spending 40 hours a week in abject misery certainly doesn’t make one love life. Add to that a series of bad relationships before I realized I actually prefer being single, and years of despair over being fat before I realized diets never work, I will never be thin, and, seriously, who cares…yeah.

Not that I’m little Mary Sunshine here or anything, but it’s a start.

And now, I really have some knitting to do. It’s eight o’clock, and I have blanket squares to make, a baby blanket to start, a scarf to finish…having a collegiate schedule would be perfect right about now!


Where’d That Come From? and other thoughts today

I’m not a hot weather, sunshine-type person at all. I am always hot anyway and I burn to a crisp in minutes. But today, for some reason, I’m wishing I were in some sort of southern European seaside town. Me, who always heads for more northern European climes (the furthest south I’ve been is Paris, which isn’t south at all). I’ve actually been to the southernmost point in the US (the tip of the island of Hawai’i) but I’ve missed most of the continental south and have spent only hours in Mexico. I’ve never taken a cruise, gone to a resort, or spent much adult time on beaches.

Yet, on this mild-but-grey February Northern California day, I have this vision of sitting seaside at a café or restaurant on some kind of stone ramparts, having a drink and kicking back. It’s not a real place, it’s just a template, but it could be anywhere along the water in southern France, in Spain or Italy. (And probably other places, but that’s the vibe my daydream is giving off — a sultry Latin vibe but with an undercurrent of Romance-tinged buzz and culture. It’s very imprecise in my daydream but it’s there.)

I was listening to the BBC World Service on the  XM Radio in my new car (three months free and then I have to decide) and thinking that for those of us who admire European culture and daily life, there are a lot of things we can adopt into our American lives. One can listen to foreign and foreign-language news, buy interesting food at independent shops, cook food from the regions we’re interested in or feel the most pull toward, read books by folks from there or book about the place. One thing I tried upon my return from France was to integrate that whole walking thing — in Paris I’d go into a grocery store and buy a half-liter of (Tropicana!) clementine juice, which we don’t seem to have here, and chug the whole damn thing because I was so dehydrated from all the walking. And then I’d watch people walk blocks and blocks with a bunch of groceries, or trot briskly along miles of métro corridor and then hurry up the steps. It’s easy for me to say, “Oh, but they get to do this in Paris. If I could walk down lovely narrow streets with beautiful old buildings between my grocery store and my apartment, I’d happily do it too!” But that’s not true — I live in a relatively pretty area and I still don’t like walking the few blocks to the store, and for those Parisians that’s just home. They’re not marveling at its beauty every day as they schlep stuff.

Well, to be honest, it might help expatriate me do it for awhile, because I would be marveling, but after awhile I’d still be grumbling, “Six blocks to the store. Awesome. Grr.” (Although I would hope I’d be doing it in French by then.)

So, anyway, yes, the Europhile can surround herself with many things and activities to make her life a little more European, but there’s two things we can’t control: Our dearth of time off, and the whole health insurance mess we have here. If I had European-level vacation time, I’d be about a thousand times happier and I’d be in Europe a lot more. And while I have no intention of leaving my job before I retire and I have good insurance, it still hangs over my head — what if I somehow lose my job? What about when I retire? What about all those folks who have gone way into debt or gone bankrupt or gone without care? And it’s upsetting.

Still, I’m grateful to live in a time where one can and to have the wherewithal to be able to cocoon myself in a little bit of Europe anyway.

I’m also keenly aware that my car is BLOODY GARGANTUAN by European standards. If I lived there, especially in a city, I’d have a little Citroën or one of the mini-Rav4s or something. I am inconsistent, I admit. I suppose I take advantage of living in the US on certain topics — like things being open on Sundays and it being okay (sort of) to have a bigger car. I figure, I’m here, I may as well! (I will be buying a Terrapass for it, when I’ve figured out my finances/when the estate settles.)

So on the last Monday holiday until Memorial Day, I should be off to make some dinner. And fight Alexander, who is currently happily snoozing away on the bed but the nanosecond I even start to stir from this chair will leap up; then he will follow me to the kitchen and cry and jump onto the counter (to be plopped back down) until I am done with whatever I’m doing. I hope he grows out of this!


So on Sunday I took the new baby up to Mills to drive around. I parked behind the Fine Arts Annex like I used to when I was in college and walked around with a friend of mine. I wanted to go over and see the bookstore hours because I now need a new license plate holder (oddly, they’re closed Saturdays but open Sunday mornings). < — Actually,  no, that was a one-off. I’m going to have to find another way.

Oh my God. Such nostalgia and longing and wistfulness came over me. I was not happy that Lucie Stern, the building where the English department had their classes has now, apparently, been given over to computer labs and IT folk; I stood outside one classroom where I’d taken several classes and stared sadly at rows of screens. We had just walked along the creek path from the Tea Shop and I’d said, “I used to go to the Tea Shop, get a big cup of Bigelow Cinnamon Stick tea, and come over here to — hey waitaminute, what’s this!?” But the plants in the inner part of the building (it’s a ring with outdoor walkways) are probably the same ferns and fronds that were there then, and Lucie Stern 100 is still in the middle and I doubt they could do much to an ampitheatre-style classroom. (I hope; you can’t see into it.)

And although there’s now a big modern-looking business-school building (and my little humanities heart shudders at MBAs) and a few other things are externally different… still, it’s where I went to school and I can’t express how much I miss being a student.

The worst part was I didn’t get to live on campus at a time when probably 90% of the undergrads did, and I lived at home with my parents, like almost none of the other few commuting students. But otherwise — as a night person, I could stay up late and take non-early-morning classes. I could read and read and read and that was my job. I was expected to think about what I read and got to express my opinions and ideas about it. Along with most everyone else, I was full of energy and optimism and fire. It’s a women’s college and we were almost all committed feminists, with no football team or cheerleaders or things like that. I was among intelligent people who mostly shared my values, in general anyway.  We had time to talk over those cups of tea; even though in the second semester of my senior year I had three jobs in addition to my last classes, I still had time to think and discuss and ponder and dream.

Only now, in my 40s, do I have at least some of the confidence a lot of my classmates had then. I definitely had some issues related to courage, believing in myself and my ideas, and self-confidence. I stayed in a bad relationship because the key to my boyfriend’s apartment gave me an adult feeling that living at home with my parents didn’t. I was sometimes wishy-washy and easily cowed — and all of these things stayed with me through many years of adulthood. How I wish I could be 20 again with just a little of my current outlook and a little less of the outlook I had then — I could take so much better advantage of all the wonderful things about being in college.

I do wish, too, that I’d taken advantage of more extracurriculars. I don’t have the time now to do a lot of things, since the time from 6:40 AM to 5:50 PM is taken up with work and commuting. Yeah, I’ve got the few hours between 6 PM and bedtime, but it’s not the same as having maybe four hours of classes in a day and the rest of the time being mine to juggle as I saw fit.

Sure, part of my nostalgia is just that it would be cool to be physically in my early 20s again. But it’s not really that I want to relive my youth per se — I want to be in that milieu again. Yes, I could go to grad school, but I’d need to get in after years out of school (things like recommendations would be tough), and even then I’d have to go to evening or weekend classes only. The education part would be great. But I wouldn’t get the total experience like I would if I could go back full-time, or like I had the first time.

Sometimes I find I can’t even read things in the Mills Quarterly, the alumnae mag, because it’s too painful — like reading about the adventures of your ex-husband or something. Also, I feel like a comparative failure next to the women who have gone off to live abroad or have written five books or run a lab or are professors. I’m a civil servant and I am perfectly content in my job, but it has nothing to do with my degree and I know that one of the reasons I am content with my job is because I don’t have professional ambition. And I wish I did, at least a little.

But it is what it is. I’m so glad and grateful that I got to go to college — to a college I could never have afforded later, when tuitions went ballistic — that I have those memories and that some of them finally did help influence me in my quest to gain at least a little self-confidence. The Mills motto — “Remember who you are and what you represent”  — has sometimes stood me in good stead, at least when I’m not hating the “who I am” part. There’s no time machine that can return me to 1988-90, but I can daydream, just like I daydream about being in Paris.

Another new baby

I got a new car!


She lives with me now

They even gave me a thousand dollars for my literally falling-apart-before-your-eyes car, which shocked me. The new kid is Hyundai Santa Fe and I am stoked that I can do things like open my door from the inside of the car like a normal person, and also cool things like stream music from my iPhone through the sound system via Bluetooth and control things from the steering wheel. Plus it’s roomy, has a new car smell, and sits high so I can see things.

No, pretty much no one needs an SUV and a single childless woman certainly doesn’t. But I’m tired of asking other people to help me when I need/want to schlep things, and I really wanted to sit high.

And it makes me feel less huge, which is also nice.

Once my aunt’s bloody interminable estate settles I will pay it off, which will be good. It just wasn’t possible to wait any longer, especially since the dumbass attorney and the equally dumbass executor of said estate are possibly the most glacially slow people I have ever had the misfortune to know in all my life.

Meanwhile, the weather is grey and gloomy and it’s giving me a sinus headache, which isn’t good. I need to do laundry and change litter, and I feel Sunday gloom and dread hitting me. No funzies.

I wish I could take a day off and just drive around. 🙂


24 Hours in a Day

I know I have the same amount of time in my day as anyone else, but man, I feel like I get so little done.

Recently I read something about how you have the same time in your day as Insert a List of Famous Accomplished People Here. Someone pointed out that none of those people had children.

I have no children. I work 40 hours a week with an hour lunch and two mandated 15-minute breaks. My commute is less than an hour each way. I don’t have a husband, which is both a plus in the “no one else to worry about” column and a minus in the “no one to shoulder any of the burden” column, so I guess that’s a wash.

Still, I think about the list of things I want to do/should do/really really should do, and how I do so little of it, and I glare at myself. It’s true that after work I’m psychologically disinclined to do anything that is prefaced by “I have to,” since I’ve just spent from 6:20 AM (when I drag myself kicking and screaming from bed) until 5:45 PM (about when I walk in the door) doing one big “have to.” Nonetheless, it’s not particularly productive to surf the Internet all night, or watch NCIS or Untold Stories of the ER reruns all night while, possibly, knitting desultorily.

I have French to learn, things to seriously knit, stuff to write, walks I should probably take — and the list goes on and on. I do think the fact that my TV is not in my living room but some things are best knit on the couch where I have a coffee table and also a music stand to hold patterns and stuff is counterproductive. Because I feel sort of oddly lonely sitting in a silent living room knitting, whereas with the TV on it was sort of cozy. My deeper self recoils from “TV is cozy,” but it was indeed at least friendly and colorful and got me through the boring parts of knitting. I could listen to my iPod, I suppose, though, or watch DVDs on the laptop.

And that doesn’t excuse any of the other laziness!

I am a master procrastinator and I’ve already woken up and realized I’m 44 and relatively unaccomplished. I really do need to get off my ass and work on some of this.

At the moment, though, I am going to bed where Alexander is already curled up, taking my biography of Sarah Bernhardt with me. I have at least spent several evenings recently doing nothing but reading, which I count as productive . So there’s that.

ETA: His fixing went perfectly. By the time I got home from work my sister had had him home for about an hour and he was eating like a pig and bouncing off the walls. He has continued thus. You would never have known he had anything done. Whew. Today I took him to my vet for his second round of shots…and to pick up Zoe’s ashes. The receptionist gave me a big hug and said she was so, so sorry. The whole staff there was pretty horrified by my bad kitty luck recently. I love them.