Saturday, December 11, 2010
The Van Wilder Effect
This weekend, I went back to school. At the tail end of the semester when finals were only a week away. I know, I never did well transferring at the right time of the year ;)
My college experience was definitely different than most people I know. It was also a far cry from those commercials you see on TV of kids moving into their dorms. There was no direct entry from high school into a 4 year university, no parent co-signing my loans for me, no big move-in day with my entire family present.
What happened followed like this. I was enrolled in advanced college credit courses in high school. Originally, my plan was to attend a school on the East Coast until one autumn day when I received the postcard that would change everything, the tiny liberal arts college on the West Coast that my heart, mind, and soul knew was the one. When you consider the sheer amount of colleges in the United States alone, the rate of acceptance, and that receiving that postcard occurred by pure chance, it seems like only a crazy person would throw everything out to the side and place all of their gambles onto one school.
I call it fate. Crazy is as crazy do.
My acceptance arrived, but in order to go to school, I would have to pay my own way through. I was 2 years from being able to legally sign a private loan for myself, by myself and spent much of the rest of my senior year moaning about this fact to anyone who would listen. Then I applied to a local community college to get the general education courses out of the way and was accepted on the last day of high school (I DO NOT recommend anyone apply to school that late.)
Upon graduating, I had 22 credits to transfer over to any college of my choice. I took the semester off to work and rest and decide on what major I would study. At my community college, I majored in communications with an emphasis in PR and advertising and began attending school that spring. 1.5 years until I could go to the school of my dreams. At the community college, I studied hard, pushed myself with credits each semester (with full class loads in the summer- I was a year-round student), and worked hard too at my jobs as well as writing for my school newspaper The Montage where I wrote movie/book reviews and later on, a column that discussed a bevy of issues I found relevant to life.
I was still undoubtedly, and eerily, calm I would be accepted again to that little liberal arts school and once more, placed my bets against fate by having no safety school lined up. The summer of 2007 was when I reapplied to that West Coast school of my dreams again and was accepted. From then on, life began running at top speed to get arrangements made for the impending move. I signed off on loan documents, gathered together the transcripts from my 3 universities (including the schools from my advanced college credit honors courses) to send off, put in my two weeks notice at work, and began packing my world away to leave. The next two years went by quickly, as it seems all years do, and majoring in Journalism this time around, I began to discover that I genuinely enjoyed everything Communications had to offer. All of the little subdivisions of the major I genuinely enjoyed. They say you change your career up to 7-10 times in your lifetime. If I'm to change careers within the field of communications, at least I chose a field I would not mind picking a new job from.
And now here we are, the graduate who returns to her alma mater.
The word "nostalgia" is composed of two words. Nostos which means "return" and algos, "pain", so if you couple them together you get something along the lines of "painful return." Sometimes when I visit certain memories in my mind, no matter just how wonderful they were, they hurt to think about. If only because we were all different people then, some of us still children or on the brink of maturity. The best memories seem nearly Utopian to reflect back on, almost as though they were gently wrapped up in cotton candy pink cellophane. And the worst ones. Generally we wish we could erase them or try to shut our minds from conjuring up imagery.
I've returned to school a few times after graduating. The first two times made me ecstatic to return. I came back on the weekends, didn't tell many if any people aside from my old roommates, and would spend an afternoon wandering around campus, its familiar and small pathways being traced by my sure footing once more. Each of these times, I clung to the nostalgia in my heart, remembering when, trying to replay the college experience once more, and pretend I never graduated.
This time, the third time, was different. I was there for more days this time, one of which was a Friday. I got to see many of my old friends who were all stressed out over finals and behaved as such, keeping our visits short and sweet and hurrying out to the library to study. Meanwhile I strolled around campus (yes, I do stroll from time to time and additionally I languish on sofa couches), unburdened by homework and tests and projects and even my work day having taken the day off from work, feeling light and free and impossibly older. Kind of like Van Wilder. I tried to convince my roommates to go to the club with me on Friday night as a means of study break, but they needed to work. Maybe not like Van Wilder. I think he would have been resourceful enough to bring the party there.
This return, I didn't think of as being a painful one. I didn't reach into my heart and spread all of my memories out on the cement and try to re-enter them. I went around and told everyone what I did, where I worked, how I loved my work, and the aspirations I had for my future. In some small ways, it reminded me of when I was little and my Dad would parade me around at his office to everyone working there, listing off like clockwork my grade point average, the extracurricular activities I did, additional writing I was acknowledged for, etc. I remember these visits starting off okay and gradually growing more uncomfortable the more people I met and had to blush and smile very hard for. I'm a pretty modest person when it comes to discussing my accomplishments. Plus, back then I was just about to hit puberty and was on the cusp of being irritated with just about anything my parents did for me.
Back on campus, circa now, I didn't feel that way. I felt proud of everything I had done since graduating. I had gotten a job in the line of study which I graduated with a degree in. Not only did I have a job (which, is in of itself an accomplishment), I managed to get one in the highly competitive field of advertising. As a copywriter, I spend the majority of the day doing what I love: writing. And recently I had some success at work which paid off nicely for me and cemented my place solidly at the company, giving way to the dream I have to move up in the world of advertising and later work for different agencies, going through entry level, associate, junior, and finally senior copywriter. If ever was a time to brag about my success, it's now. I'm determined to not sacrifice my dreams and I know if I work hard, I can fulfill them.
I will have my cake and eat it too!
So I told everyone about my new life and the great things that have occurred in it. They were all very happy for me, as I was to hear about what they were up to. After the day was over, it dawned on me that my visits to this school were also (in essence) over. It was a time in my life that I worked for, grew as a person at, and had some of the best memories ever come from. It was a decision I will never, ever regret or look back on with much "painful return" because even from the sadness and occasional lonely moments, I learned. I grew. I became who I am now.
It was simply a time, a chapter in the book of my life. It ended, as they all do, but ended with a follow-up chapter not even I could predict coming. If the book of my life keeps moving at this pace, there will be more unpredictable chapters on the way, with some of them I'm carefully moving in place even right now. Even though much of my future looks blurred, I already know certain portions I want to be easier to see and will once more, gamble the highest stakes to go where my heart pulls me.
Fate, you've met your match.
Love to you all,