A Dorky Girl’s Trouble with College-A Cautionary Tale

I have got to let go. I have many decisions to make and I can’t hold onto the past. My angst this morning stems from the fact that I want to change colleges and degree, again. I am a perpetual student and at the same time I hate school. Let me explain.

As far back as I can remember I have idolized the thought of going to a university. In my adolescent mind college was a warmly tinted movie, with golden and brown hues like a scene from “The Dead Poets Society.”

The Dead Poets Society On the first day of school, my teacher would throw the recommended course curriculum out the window and we would erupt into a spontaneous cheer! Hurrah! He would teach in the fashion of Aristotle, our small group would sit semi-circle around our beloved professor. He would answer each and every inquiring question, goading us to dig deeper with kindness and humor. We would “Seize the Day!” Carpe Diem our motto for life.

I am sure you see where this is going. Somewhere dark and ugly.

I loved learning in High School and hung out with some of the dorkiest girls ever. We went to a book reading for fun. Practiced playing the intro to “Stairway to Heaven” on our flutes, of our own accord. When we said we were working late on the school newspaper our parents could actually find us in a classroom at 8 pm. But at the same time, I hated High School. I struggled with the social scene and horrible little humans who played football and flapped pom poms.

Apparently I was the only one who thought I was a good student with any potential. According to school officials, the number 2.76 and the rank of 227/385 indicated a student with average intellect and so-so prospects in life. I was better suited for a community college and maybe a part-time job. Nothing stellar here.

So, I struggled on my own to find a college, the advice I got was to try CSU as I might squeeze in if my SAT scores were high enough. I could get lucky. But I was warned, it wasn’t going to be easy. Of course, at 17 this advice just made me feel like crap and filled with shame. Going to college was going to be a very unlikely possibility and I was probably destined to fail anyhow.

But I did it, I worked hard and got decent enough SAT score to get into CSU, Fullerton. I opted for a practical degree in Journalism, advice I took from my parents and school. There was no need to pursue creative writing, what would anyone do with an English Degree? I relented and when I try to look back, I see a meek little kid with little fight in her. It was a sad time for me, I had dreamed of dorm life and going away to school. But my parents were sure I only wanted to party and “be bad”. Besides, Indian girls don’t live in dorms. My only choice was the nearest commuter school and living at home with my family.

Anyhow, I did get excited to sign up for classes. I loved the school bookstore and bought binders and stickers with the unrecognizable seal of CSUF. A few of my High School friends also chose CSUF so I had buddies, which was great because the campus was huge and the administration was uninviting.

And then it was the first day of school. A good kick in the gut.

I walked into a very impacted Journalism 101 class and the professor announced to a standing room only that students with less than 56 units should drop the class. They did not have space for incoming Freshmen. I am not sure how I was even allowed to register? Anyhow, all I could feel was utter sadness and disbelief.

The day only got worse, I trudged to my next class–Political Science, which was at least an undergraduate requirement so I allowed to take the class. I walked into the largest lecture hall I have ever seen in my life. I found a seat, where I could barely see the professor. I felt small and defeated and every second he droned on made me drift further away into my sadness.

I continued to drift through school. I made it through one semester, if I recall I probably got something like a 2.7 (my GPA for life). My parents were disappointed. I was depressed, probably clinically, but nobody knew (and I felt that nobody cared). I would drive to school and sleep in a warm car just so my parents thought I was at school. The second semester report card was filled with W’s and that was the end of my life at CSUF.

So here I am, 22 years later. I have continued school off and on throughout these years. I have an insane tally of schools and after CSUF I have attended a total of FIVE community colleges slowly trying to finish the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC). I still have a 2.7. I have straight up failed some courses, almost always math and science and I am nowhere near getting a B.A. If I attend school full-time I will graduate in 2 more years. Right now I am attending a degree mill type of business school and feel the same drudgery and sadness as before. I keep telling myself to get that piece of paper, just do it. But its not enough to motivate me past the drifts of melancholy.

This all seems so pathetic to me that I can barely write these words. (Deep breath taken here). I want so badly to erase this past. I hate that it exists in my mind. Yet I have held onto this identity for so long. Why?

Thinking about the decision to change schools, simply brings up doubts and stirs up unresolved issues. I can feel myself contracting, getting smaller, feeling less open and hardening. My body is used to this posture and it quickly begins to recoil. So as I write today, I feel like I am trying to save myself.

Part of the reason that I started this blog was to relinquish my attachment to past mistakes. I know I don’t need to share any of this with anyone, but I am finding that the simple act of opening up and being blunt about the truth gives me a distance from myself that is less painful. The less pain I have, the less attached I become to the little nugget of shame that I grasp so tightly. I also admit, that I share because I feel that we are all connected–so that maybe the act of healing will transfer to others. As I continue on this journey, I keep hearing good things from the voice inside and others around me. This is what is keeping me going. After all, my new journey is about listening.

I was reminded, that there is a sad little 17 year old girl still stuck inside. A girl that was not heard. Well, I am listening. Today I am listening hard. So hard, I feel like crying. If I listen she will take me on a different path, a smaller school perhaps, with a few people that could care about her well-being. A school that has focus on liberal arts. Someplace that is a haven for her to heal.

If I listen, my grip will soften

and what could happen?

Will I see a young girl

float safely away?

 

I can has no more cheezburgers!

I have some useless addictions that have cropped up over time, probably to fill the holes of past addictions. I am on the cusp of some bad behaviors taking hold of me and I need to share. I keep gobbling up horrible 24-hour cable news and starting today I am stepping away from the TV. I turn it on because its a kind of annoying form of white noise. But, I often catch myself popping up every few minutes, like a gulping whack-a-mole. Then I get annoyed, with unanswered questions and loop-de-loop answers and go back to my work. Of course this gives me good cause to berate myself, because I am also addicted to guilt and shame. Honestly, I am aware that this is a game of diminishing returns. This is why I am admitting my faults!

The other day, I heard a newscaster announce in a halting tone that raised in pitch with each word, reaching a crescendo of hyperbole that is so typical it has lost its effect. “You. Won’t. Believe. This. Next. Story. AND. IT. MAY. NOT. EVEN. BE. LEGAAALLLL!” But I still popped up to listen, this is crazy, it can’t be legal! Then, I was tricked into a calming nano-second of a moment by an official, someone with title and expertise, so he said and the broadcaster confirmed. Oh good, he will tell us this is dreadful, it should never be committed against the finest citizens of the world. The newscaster was frothing at the bit, asking leading questions loaded with innuendo. But the expert stayed on point, even acted responsibly and simply confirmed that it was all perfectly legal and constitutional as proven by the courts and in fact a very good thing. A pretty far cry from the screeching accusations of foul play. He was rushed off the air with more halting thank yous and fake platitudes. I felt so let down and completely annoyed that I had fallen for the trick–yet again. But the TV stayed on and I went back to my task, letting the blaring voices swirl around me providing a very artificial comfort.

This when I realized I had a problem.

I remembered reading “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” by John Irving. It’s funny, I do recall the story in bits and pieces but the strongest memory I have is finishing the books in tears, sad that the story was over and I had to say farewell to characters I had grown to adore.

Owen Meany was the star of course. But the narrator of the novel, John Wheelwright drove the story. One of his many obsessions was reading the news, particularly following the events of the Vietnam War. He ranted and raved about the coverage throughout the novel, keeping track of casualties and battles. I know I would have done the same thing and still find myself wanting to dig into accounts of our current wars, although the information is buried knee-deep in horse shit these days. Probably thanks to some of the more revealing coverage of the Vietnam War.

Anyhow, in Irving’s illustrious novel,  John Wheelwright said it best;

“Newspapers are a bad habit, the reading equivalent of junk food. What happens to me is that I seize upon an issue in the news—the issue is the moral/philosophical, political/intellectual equivalent of a cheeseburger with everything on it; but for the duration of my interest in it, all my other interests are consumed by it, and whatever appetites and capacities I may have had for detachment and reflection are suddenly subordinate to this cheeseburger in my life! I offer this as self-criticism; but what it means to be “political” is that you welcome these obsessions with cheeseburgers—at great cost to the rest of your life.”

John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

See my point! I am eating way too many cheeseburgers! Shoot, I am even super-sizing the meal and ordering extra fries and apple pie. Even John Wheelwright wouldn’t be able to remain political, not without clogging his arteries. I pay for this junk food with my logic and tranquility. I can feel the empty calories rattling around in my brain, raising my blood pressure with angst. My temper flaring at injustice and the obvious omission of detail, leading me down an endless pipeline searching for facts that more closely resemble the truth. Sometimes I find more muck than I can handle and other times the search is futile. I will always remain political and will have to live with the costs, because I am certain that the obstacles are put in our way to divert our attention. But I have to get better at avoiding the junk food and find more organic sources of news. I know, I know, I can listen to jazz or classical music for a higher standard of white noise. And I also know, turning off cable news is the first step to clarity.