Friday, September 08, 2006
Playing Grown-Up Isn't As Fun As It Should Be.
I remember when I was in high school all I wanted to do was to graduate and move the heck out of my house. Not that I realized it, but I really didn't have it so bad there. I hated living at home because I hated having that extra level of approval to deal with before I did something. I hated going to school because I had to ride the bus and the students around me weren't exactly the most enlightened group of people I could hope to meet in my lifetime. They weren't bad, they just upset mighty easily, that's all. The bus itself was an extra thirty minutes I could spend sleeping while someone else got me where I was supposed to be going. I thought that surely in college it would be better--that I would have no one to answer to but myself and that my academic life would be absolutely bursting with brilliant, interesting people and compelling classes that actually had something to do with whichever magical major I chose.
Uh, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
First, I was wrong about the whole parent-thing. My dad called me three times a day, easily, for all four years. He could never quite decide if I was an equal to confide in or lean on or someone who had quite possibly lost every scrap of responsibility and maturity he had believed me to have in my younger years. Some of this was earned, like those times NSF slips showed up at the house, but the phone calls to me when I was at the library to demand if I were drunk were certainly not. In fact, I didn't touch a drop of alcohol until I was twenty-one, a little tidbit of information that I am fairly certain he will never believe.
Of course, now I am twenty-three, almost twenty-four, and living mostly on student loans though some still on his dime. I actually had the dean of my graduate/professional school offer to call him when she heard that he still called every day. This very day, in fact, he called and yelled at me for ten minutes about something that did not directly affect him and could not be fixed with screaming. It was just that he needed to scream. We never screamed in high school. Ever.
Then, there were my fellow students. I still keep up with a good number of my robust high school class of thirty-three students, and they are some of the most insightful, kind, and steady people that I know. I have met perhaps five such people in college and graduate/professional school combined. I never met such un-self-reliant people. I can probably count on one hand the number of peers I have met at my university that I have known to have moved out of a dorm or an apartment without their parents' help. Of course, at my university, this help really consists of a girl and her mother sitting on boxes in the air-conditioned room while the fathers, brothers, and boyfriends move all the stuff out to the S.U.V., or, in the case of a male student, his mother packing all of his stuff for him (including bringing the boxes up from whatever hometown,) and then everyone helps move out. I have had people sleep through private tutoring sessions for evaluations as important as the G.R.E., and then want to know what the big deal was and why I could not do it three hours later--on a Friday night.
Oh, and the classes, let us not forget those. Pertinent? I don't think so. I had to take more junk classes in order to get a B.A., than I thought would be possible to do a major with. For instance, along with my major, I had to have four phys. ed. type classes, some chapel, some Bible classes, three lab sciences, two histories, four English literatutre/writing classes, three social sciences, two arts, and goodness only knows what else, all in the name of making me a well-rounded human being. Some of this stuff, I actually liked before it became a required class, but in the hands of an old man tired of dealing with students, or a middle aged woman who wanted nothing to do with people who didn't drool at the thought of Willa Cather's latest post mortem development, it became sledge crowding out the information I needed for my chosen field. In the end, it almost felt like throwing a major in there was something of an afterthought.
The point of all that griping is to say this: I still don't consider myself what I like to call a bona fide adult, but from what I've experienced of it so far as a pseudo-adult, I've got nothing much to get all excited about. I could get excited at the prospect of getting a full-time job with an actual degree someday because it would mean my father and I would no longer have tension over how I lived on his dime, but I don't think the little prize of freedom will be at the bottom of that particular cereal box. Nor do I think that grown-up life will ever bring me more people worth being close to than I know what to do with or as much intellectual stimulation as I want. Because the older I get, the more I feel like I'm moving into my home for the first time, rather than out of it.
I think that the best that I could possibly hope to get out of all of it is a little decoder ring at the bottom of the box that'll help me figure out the puzzles on the back.