I always measure my experiences in life to how they would be portrayed on a sitcom. As you might expect, my own experiences often play out much differently than in TV Land. College would be one of these.
College sucked. On TV, everyone is always a joiner who participates in every student activity. They make friends they will have for the rest of their lives. They go to parties. They learn to be deep thinkers. They find their soul mate.
Me? Not so much. I was a commuter with no car for 3 out of my 4 years of college. While waiting for my ride home every day, I had to kill hours in the library. There are only two friends that I made in college that I still keep in touch with. I never went to a single party. I am not a natural-born joiner. I joined some sort of academic fraternity that never had any activities just so that I could get a sweatshirt with Greek letters on it. Then I felt self-conscious in it and never wore it. I submitted some of the depressing poetry I wrote while killing time in the library anonymously to the college literary magazine. They published a couple.
My two closest friends were at two other colleges in two different states. It made for a very lonely time in my life. My best friend came back home after her freshmen year (she HAD found the parties), which was better. But she was attending the university across town, so we never saw each other except at night.
I also had an undiagnosed, then diagnosed, stomach problem during this time as well. So I felt miserable physically as well as mentally!
It was overall the loneliest year of my life. I don’t really think I look forward to coming back in the fall. -JLF 4/27/95
My other friend, my asbestos friend, had an even worse college experience than me. I told her this week how I was going through my old college free-writes to get a true sense of the misery to work on my new story (and this blog post). Her reply?
“I don’t think I could relive that time. I’ve blocked much of it out & I think that’s for the best.”
She has told me a few of her great miserable stories, including being sick with mono and all alone, and donating so much blood for money that she passed out in the parking lot at the donation place. (Those are two separate occasions. I think.) But my favorite story is the one where she takes her life back into her own hands. It’s the story where during her last semester she realizes college is making her miserable and she is an adult. She has her own job and her own place to live. She just leaves the campus and never turns back. She is my hero:)
I did not leave. I stayed, hoping to get my MRS. degree. I only went to college because my mom told me I had to either do that or get a job. I had gone to school for K-12 years. I had never had a job. I picked the option I was familiar with. I should have got a job. Now I have a Bachelor’s Degree and I am applying to entry-level store jobs at Meijer, Cash Advance, and Family Video. And they are not hiring me.
I had my first boyfriend for a month my freshmen year. After it ended, from my old writings, I seemed to be lonelier than before.
When I was in high school, I had a few hours after school everyday before my mom got home from work that was my time to myself. In college, I had no privacy. My mom was my ride. If she was home I was home and she drove me nuts. (This is probably the only way my college experience was worse than my asbestos friend’s.) My bedroom didn’t even have a door. I would stay up late to do homework, and find myself watching Beavis & Butthead marathons on MTV instead. I always said that I could feel my brain cells rotting away as I watched that show. I think it helped numb my depression. Then my mom, who always slept on the couch in the living room where the only TV was, would wake up. (Yes, I went to college in the Dark Ages. My college had text-only Internet my freshmen year!) She would ask me,”Are you watching Beaver & Buttface?” I mostly watched it for the music videos, which sucks, because any version released on DVD has only limited music videos. How much did I watch them? Here are a poem and some fan artwork from that time:
Lovin’ the Boys
If I make a video
Can I get on that show?
First I would have to make
A really cool video
One with lots of guitars,
And riffs, and drums.
I would stumble around
In a really short dress
And scream all the words
Really, really loud.
I would put in some shots
Of farm animals and livestock,
And throw in a toilet
(To give them something to talk about).
Then I would send it to New York,
To that video channel,
And wait every day & every night
For them to put my video on that show.
They could sit there on their couch
In their dirty T-shirts & stinky shorts
And watch my video.
That dark-haired guy and his dumb-blond friend
Could belch and fart
And yell “Fire! Fire!”
Then they would deem my video
As “Cool” or “Sucks”,
By how short my dress was,
How loud I yelled,
And the fact my video had only one
Toilet in it.
But I would be happy
Because I got to see my video,
With one of those yellow, pointy
signs with their names in it
In the corner of the screen.
And that would make it worthwhile. . .
I ended up getting an on-campus job, so I started interacting with my classmates a little more. It also got me out of the library. I got paid (!) to wait for my ride. That helped a little.
Then I got a better boyfriend. I couldn’t find him at college, because he was still in high school. (I should have flunked!) Those who know me know he is now my husband.
Then I got an off-campus job too, in addition to those other things. My best friend worked at the convenience store too, and helped me get the job. People who know me know it was one of my favorite jobs. I liked it so well that I saved up my earnings over the summer so that I could buy a car so that in the fall I could keep the job while I finished college. (Most people get a job to get a car. I got a car to keep a job.)
I should become a writer like Erma Bombeck & just write about “stuff”. -JLF (found in an old college notebook)
So, ya, college sucked for me. I can enthusiastically say that not everyone enjoys themselves at college. Accept this post and the accompanying writings below as evidence. Probably the worst time of my life. When my son gets old enough, I don’t know how I will ever be able to keep from talking negatively about it. I kind of feel about it the way I do about the Lord of the Rings films. I want my time and money back. I want my four years and my $18,000 back (I got a lot of scholarships).
There’s a party tonight
General Admission – $2
There’s a party tonight
Are you going to the party tonight?
I don’t think they mean me
Are you going to the party tonight?
Everyone would be happier if I didn’t
But I am not
I’ll stay home and listen
to my own silence.
Sometimes a person
has to look through the thick, black
copier ink lettering
And realize that circumstances
and situations and history
are the things that really predict
who will attend the ball
and who will stay home.
The Driving Rain
It is 9:06PM. It’s raining. I have a half a tank of gas. Will this be the night. Will this be the night I keep going and don’t look back?
I could change my life right now. It would be just as easy as changing channels on the television. I can see all my different options spread out in front of me, and the television channels just keep going. There is the music video channel, blaring sounds and images. There is Channel 25. All Hitler, All the time. The third reicht of the Chicago area. Heil! Channel 25. Then the weather channel. Do I want rain or do I want sunshine? Which road will lead me to what type of weather?
Oh. I’m on the road back home. But I still don’t have to go there. This road is so boring, so familiar. A person could die on a road like this and the drivers who travel it every day would probably not notice the body for months. Was the light I just went through green or read, not that it would really mater. The slick road is completely vacant of other cars. The only tire marks I can see on the wet pavement are in my rear view mirror. I could slip out of town now, right out of the city limits. No one would see me, no one would be the wiser.
God, to just keep driving. To have no pre-planned destination, no over-analyzed goals—it all sounds like a dream. For the first time since I walked into Kindergarten on Experience Day and was assigned a seat and pencils and crayons, I would be in charge for myself. New mothers complain about not having handbooks to care for their new children. It is too bad they don’t make handbooks for the children, to help figure out what is right for themselves. I feel like I have never done anything I truly wanted to in my entire life.
One more road until home. Is this it? Well, a few times I have done what I wanted. There was the time I went to the carnival by myself, and I kept playing games until I won a stuffed animal. But I felt as though everyone was staring at me because I was by myself. (I am always by myself. I am at this very moment.) I got a stuffed animal that day. But it wasn’t from the guy I flirted with or the games I tried the hardest at. I got my little stuffed bear from a crooked game and, even though I know that, I still think of him as a lucky charm.
Should someone as naïve as I be roaming around the nation’s highways? Probably not.
Ahh—I just passed the drive to my house. But it wasn’t a brave, meaningful decision of symbolism as I had hoped. I simply got too caught up in my petty thoughts. But there is always a last refuge of a coward. I click on my turn signal for the next road, like reflex. I will turn around and make my way back to the same house and my same room.
Tonight—tonight I just couldn’t do it. Rain can be romantic, but it is also scary. A half a tank of gas, well, maybe I’ll try it when there is a full tank. Maybe I’ll try it when I have more courage, or more caffeine coursing through my veins. Maybe I just need something more to run away from than familiarity.
So, I pull in the same driveway, unlock the same door with the same key, and walk through the living rom. I flick on the TV without even turning on a lamp, enjoying the flashes of blue that light up the room instead. I turn on the Weather Channel and see what it will be like tomorrow.
I hate life.
I hate life. I hate life. Life sucks so bad. My life is just one f***ing blackhole, which I don’t know what that is because I am too lazy & distracted to bother to read my astronomy book to bother to find out what a f***ing blackhole is! And why do I have to come back to f***ing school, which I f***ing hate! I have only had panic attacks while I had to go to school since I was in, like Kindergarten. I HATE SCHOOL! It makes me feel all yucky inside. It makes me feel dark & gloomy inside. It makes me feel like I do when I think about death–> DEATH, how stiffling & cold & lonely & empty it will be. That is what every second at school feels like to me…
Well, I can’t “like” it because… you know… but it’s very powerful stuff. I’m glad that you made it through… that we both did. Let’s send our kids to Vo-tech.
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