A Brief Introduction: “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here…”

If my dreamy, wanderlust Smithie self had any idea how she would end up after graduating, she would throw a serious tantrum.

Write this down in the new Smith college view book for prospective students: When I first set foot on the Smith College campus, took a few deep breaths of the fragrant air and peered across the rolling green hills lined with gorgeous Victorian “dorms,” watched heady, nervy and intellectually exciting students skip to class and crunch through red and orange leaves, I literally cried real, human tears at the thought of NOT getting into my dream college after searching for so long.

Roughly 3-4 years later, at the January graduate reception, The President herself practically had to pry the chocolate covered strawberries and tea out of my greedy hands, usher me out the door and whisper, “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” I left Smith kicking and screaming, dug in my nails and dragged my feet the entire way out.

Smith wasn’t perfect, of course, but I like to forget those parts of my narrative. That semester I was cripplingly anxious and received little sympathy from The Dean, who pushed a box of tissues my way and admonished, “Keep your chin up, young lady, for heaven’s sake”? No big deal. Those times I caught every cold, flu, communicable illness of that nature from every other sick student and sat in my room, alone, with stacks of books and tons of deadlines? Glory days. Feeling tremendously cramped and suffocated in the utterly provincial town of Northampton after spending a summer as an exploited, overworked and underpaid yet completely excited intern in NYC? Whatever. All I can think about now are the endlessly rewarding aspects of my Smith experience. Small town blues and common colds are downright ROMANTIC in the grand scheme of things. In my mind, Smith was one big sleepover party located at a country club and supervised by brainy, wonderful professors.

I think about the brisk, invigorating runs I took through hilly trails in the fall, stretching on the dock and taking in views of the pond. I remember how beautiful the first snow storms always were, and how we’d get caught in blizzards, sled until our cheeks were red and retreat inside to sip tea together. Summer lightening storms on rooftops with cheap beer, skinny-dipping in Paradise Pond, taking breaks for adventures and always counting on quality dinner-time conversation. I didn’t want any of it to end, but I hoped I’d find these experiences outside of college and form similar communities.

I’d kill for a Smith College cold right now and some stressful papers on top of it. I fear I’ve become the bitter, jaded recent graduate. But my life right now is so far from what I’d imagined at Smith, daydreaming in the Red Room or under a tree on Chapin lawn.

And so, I think about my “strategic exits.” I daydream endlessly about how I’ll walk away from these unfulfilling jobs. I plan elaborate “farewell” speeches and imagine the expression on everyone’s face when I share some horribly profound, albeit rude insight about the patriarchal nature of X company. “She was just too smart and socially aware for this job.” They’ll say. “How will he ever replace her?” Not my problem, I’ll think, giving a double-middle-finger salute to everyone as I jump into the elevator. And then the biggest miracle of all: my boss will remember my name.

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  1. absolutely brilliant. Except, you’re not making graduation seem any less scary…

    • wwjaneaustendo
    • May 26th, 2010

    So good and devastating! Do you watch Mad Men? I think you’d identify with the secretary and all the patriarchy at Sterling Cooper…I recommend it.

    • nickyenperu
    • May 27th, 2010

    “In my mind, Smith was one big sleepover party located at a country club and supervised by brainy, wonderful professors.”

    So perfect. Camp Smith forever, please.

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