Dekita, 04

I graduated.

Graduating from university was something I doubted I would do. If I’m being completely honest with myself, there was a large portion of my life when I didn’t think I would even go to university, and during my time there a seemingly larger portion where I didn’t think I would finish. I wasn’t the best student, and I was more interested in things like sleeping with people and learning than doing well in my classes. I went through periods where I would blow off my more traditional academic responsibilities to do things like write. I would sit there, sure, but I wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t do especially well in more traditionally structured classes. I did mediocre with regular assignments and multiple choice tests. In all honesty, that’s probably why I gave up on science.

You see, I wanted to be a scientist. I wanted so hard to be a scientist. I wanted to explore and investigate and create things. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to muddle through the classes. I liked the lectures. I liked the discussions. I liked hearing about the “cutting edge” of biology research. I didn’t care about the exact order of steps in the Krebs Cycle. I couldn’t care less about how many carbon atoms are in a carbohydrate molecule or how to differentiate one from a protein.

The thing is, I was interested in what people could do with ideas rather than the ideas themselves.

At some point, I embraced the fact I was never going to be an engineer. I was never going to be a scientist. I took classes I did well in. I studied things I could read about and then talk about. I took classes where I could sit down for three hours and write a paper that would get me a B with minimal effort. I did all the things they tell you not to do. Luckily for me, my school was wonderful enough to give me an opportunity to study something that I, I learned, utterly loved and found totally interesting where I could still get Bs with minimal effort. But, I still didn’t do what I needed to to succeed.

I didn’t work hard.

I mean, I worked hard, but I didn’t work hard on the right things. Rather than focusing on my studies, I helped organize a conference. I worked. I was in clubs. The orchestra. I went swimming. I played games.

When I was in high school, my father asked me what I cared about. I rattled off some things, things I intellectually cared about. But, none of them were things I actually did with my time. Back then, I walked, read, wrote, and cooked. I played music with people. I played games and watched movies and talked about them. Some part of me thought that when you were young you did these things and at some point, you got older, and then you focused. They you started doing the things you thought were important. I mean, after all, at fifteen how could anyone “be a doctor” or “be an engineer” or “be a lawyer”?

But, since then, I’ve met the people who did these things. They were the people who, as kids, volunteered at hospitals, who built things, who read the newspaper and legal cases and followed what was happening. Kids who did mock trial and were volunteer firefighters. Kids who wrote for the school paper.

I used the excuse that I was home schooled for not having done things I said I wanted to do, but the fact is, the honest truth, is that I never really liked doing them. I liked the things they meant, I admired the things they were, but I wasn’t the kind of person able to do them.

In spite of everything else going on, no matter how much I denied it, even back then, I couldn’t admit it to myself, but I knew: I really just wanted to write.

My parents knew this, even though I didn’t, and suggested that perhaps traditional education wasn’t for me. They suggested this in the wake of a particularly bad semester–where I barely passed biology for the third time, almost failed Japanese, and actually failed a maths class I was perfectly capable of doing all the problems for but for some reason never did quite successfully. So rarely did they tell me what to do, that I hated it, resented it, when they–or anyone–did. But, I listened. I had to.

I took time off.

This was a struggle and a fight. Taking time off meant giving up and I hated to give up. I bit back against this and hated my parents, resented them. We stopped talking to one another and at the first opportunity I went back to school.

I wish I could say I came back reformed. That I did better and worked hard, but instead I declared a humanities major. History and Philosophy of Science is actually best compared to a person you meet and sort of like well enough. You find them generally attractive and easy enough to get along with. Then, one day you’re in love. They didn’t do anything special, but suddenly you realize how everything about them is perfect for you.

I threw myself into HPS and I loved it dearly, but I never loved it quite enough. It never drove me to push myself.

I was lucky, that’s the short of it. I graduated because I was lucky. The HPS classes were supplemented with anthropology, Asian culture, and writing classes I collected enough As in, picking up flowers off the ground rather than reaching, that I somehow found myself holding a 3.0 with the last of my final projects. By sheer stubbornness, I graduated. I just refused to give up not because I thought it was the right thing to do, but because other people wanted me to.

I walked with my friends and my parents beamed. My professors said nice things about me. Somehow, I didn’t feel like I really accomplished anything. I understand, conceptually, that my degree is proof that I did something, was able to do something, that about one-third of Americans have done. However, I feel much more accomplished when I pedal up a large hill than I did when, seven years after I first stepped into a college classroom, I graduated. It might have just been the moment–years of work is slow and hard to see while a hill is there and then you’re done with it.

However, getting a degree was a lot like biking up hill. It’s just one small part of what’s going on. There were things that happened after it that couldn’t have happened otherwise. I’ve had jobs that I wouldn’t have, experiences I wouldn’t have.

I would never say I regret a decision on my academic career because somehow it led me here. It led me to the people I care about the most. It led me to employment. It led me to looking out my window at the Charles, with a belly full of a lunch I shared with friends from out of town–all of whom I met because I graduated from university.

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I like someone.

This is very hard for me to say in any way. The first time I liked someone–liked them in that way people use the word in sixth grade, all nervous and concerned–I was about to tell my best friend when, out of no where, she said to me “Don’t you think [that person] is weird?”

I mutely agreed and shoved the fact I had a crush on that person down inside of me and tried to forget about it. It, in this case, being my feelings that had become, in my mind, “bad.”

With that idea squared away in my mind, I entered adolescence with a general inability to talk about people I was into. The end of my first relationship was met by private confessions from many of my friends that they never liked my new ex in the first place. What followed were crushes I viewed as inappropriate, bad or downright abusive relationships, and an overarching, ever growing discomfort with my own feelings.

Being able to say to someone “That Carly girl, I totally dig her” or “Kyle? Man, I have such a crush on Kyle,” might not be the most important of social skills. They’re not the content of conversations that really matter, in theory, but there is this cultural idea of the normality, the soft necessity, of being able to have these conversations. Every teen sitcom has some sort of open conversation about how into someone some other character is–usually with the bearer of the feelings being on screen at the time. Years of living with friends, open conversations, and a not insubstantial amount of alcohol got me to point where, through veiled discomfort and mumbling, I can admit to a friend that I like someone.

I can’t do this with my mom.

However, I’ve reached a point where, thanks to the advent of parents on IM, I can chat with my mom about such things. This is something else I feel I -ought- to be able to do, even if there isn’t justifiable utility behind it. I mean, justifiable utility beyond “My mom is interested in my life, loves me, and has way more experience than me so sometimes she has useful things to say or important notes of distinction to share.” I mean, having found my father, and successfully having managed twenty-seven years of marriage so far, counts for something.

(Ida–also known as my mom–on the right in Provincetown. That’s right, my mom liked P-town before it was cool.)

My mom, in case you don’t know, was ridiculously cool when she was younger. She went to Woodstock. She saw “Stop Making Sense” live. My mom once had Michael Bacon play guitar in her living room. Michael Bacon! She’s been through her share of crushes, dates, relationships, one night stands that become good stories when you’re older, and this aforementioned marriage thing.

(That sweet convertible in the background? It was my mom’s.)

I can’t actually stress enough how important the fact she is my mom factors into the equation of me telling her things. She loves me. She cares. She’s full of infinite understanding and forgiveness. I could tell her I was in a poly relationship with a straight drag queen, and dating a lesbian with a coke habit and she would be right there, reading articles about poly relationships, checking out the drag queen’s videos, and giving me advice on how to help my lesbian girlfriend overcome her coke problem.

Which ties in very well to my next point: Someone gave my mother the internet.

I talk to her on it, which is great and has made a huge difference in the openness and comfort of our relationship. However, she is not just armed with a screen name for instant messenger. My mom comes with a Facebook account, a blog, a linked in profile, and a twitter. She has great google skills and an uncanny ability to follow links and search across mediums and networks to find whatever she wants to find.

And my gods does she find things.

My nervous admittance to her that I like someone easily drops me into a world where she is commenting to me about things they say on twitter, her looking at photos, and her even going as far as to make up nicknames for this person she hasn’t even met yet. She asks me about how they’re doing, or tells me about what they’re doing.

A conversation with my mother might go like this:

Mom: I was watching this documentary with your father and they were talking about how plastic bottles are washing up on the shores of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area and causing some damage to the reefs there. Johnny McScubaface tweeted about a research trip they were going to go on out there, is their team still going to go?

Obviously, the above comment is a work of fiction. I mean, my mom’s nicknames for people aren’t like “Johnny McScubaface” at all. They’re more like “Kyle Kyle Crocadile” and “Carlotta.” (These are also fictional, but I could totally see my mom calling a Kyle or a Carly names like these.)

In one sense, this makes me regret opening up to my mom. On the rare occasions I see her, she’ll wait until we’re alone and then say “Tell me about that person you like. How did things work out with that? Did they not?” and I’ll cringe and mumble away the conversation. Some realistic part of me is recognizing that this is one of the few ways I let her into the personal aspects of my life. As a child, she was there for everything and it was inescapable. Now, she sees the public and gets the pieces I pass on to her. Now that she is no longer literally dressing me every day or comforting me when I cry, these bits about who I like are the most intimate details I can pass along. They’re secrets she gets to have and share that I don’t–and frankly wont–give to most anyone else. It’s a point she can connect to me with and something she can hold as her own, a rare thing even she gets to keep from my dad.

Plus, everyone loves gossip. And–I love you mom–her life isn’t exactly the non-stop party-fest it was when she was my age. My life isn’t the non-stop party-fest hers was when she was my age. In some sense, I assume that she gets a thrill when I proffer late night IM confessions or awkward mumbling. The excitement of meeting someone new, and coming to be attracted to them, has been replaced in her life with the commitment and love that comes from being married for twenty-seven years.

(My mom is the one wearing white.)

And even if it makes me feel a little awkward and embarrassed, lots of things do. I’m adjusting to being a person and learning to share is part of that. Besides, talking with her will probably never be as bad as the time NN turned to look at me and then, in a gleeful and accusatory tone: “Is that a hickey?” She cracked up while I turned bright red and people around us made noises about how they were “trying to be polite.”