In college, I just ran the waffle machine in the dining hall. That was OK.

Tuesday was the kind of day that made me glad to have weekly therapy sessions. I’ve gone off the Abilify again, bolstered now by an extra 75mg of Effexor, so I don’t know if it was that or just the whim of the wind that swayed me from “great” to “feh”. Either way, I arrived home from work feeling very out of sorts. The dinner I’d planned involved a lot of chopping, and I used the time like a meditation on life. Asparagus cut into perfect 1-inch segments on the bias. All cannot be lost. We ate dinner around 8:30pm, and, just as I was finishing up, my phone started buzzing.

“Hello, this is Erin,” I answered, as always.

“Hi Erin, this is Natalie, I’m a freshman at Syracuse University,” replied a cheerful, carefully scripted voice.

OK. It’s like, I know where she’s going. I know they want money. And we all know I don’t have money. But I don’t want to be rude to the poor girl. So I let her go on. She told me all about some new website the University has for alumni networking, and a way for me to “stay in touch with what’s going on at SU”, as though that’s some kind of top priority for me. And as she’s yambling on, I’m thinking about what *I* was up to at 8:30pm on any given Tuesday as a college freshman, and how it sure as hell wasn’t working some targeted telemarketing gig on work study. I felt bad for her, actually, and wanted to tell her so.

Until her script got awkward. “Another reason why we’re calling is just to catch up on what you’ve been up to since graduation…!” she read, with awkward inflection. “So, what have you been up to since graduation?”

I graduated college in 2001. And what’s happened since then defies description. Like, I’ve been sitting here for ten minutes trying to come up with something, but I just can’t. Part of me really wanted to give it to her: the cold, hard truth about how life just turns around and slaps you in the face. How you really can work yourself to death, even if you love your job. How you can go from being a happily married woman with a nice, comfortable life to an unemployed would-be divorcee in what seems like the blink of an eye. How you can rise up again, in spite of it all.

All these thoughts vectored like time-lapse in my brain, until, after a slightly uncomfortable pause, I laughed. “A lot has happened since graduation,” I said. “A lot. Right now I work as project manager for a nonprofit company. Before that I worked in documentary film.” I left out the mental institution, I left out the complicated divorce, I left out how, at 26 years old, my name appeared on screens nationwide as co producer of a major PBS documentary. I left out how I can teach myself anything, how I HAVE taught myself everything, how, when *I* was a freshman in college, I had no idea what I was in for.

In the end, she asked me for $150, and I said no, sorry, I can’t afford that, but the five minutes I spent on the phone with her really made me think. I’ve done a lot since 2001. And that’s pretty cool.


2 responses to “In college, I just ran the waffle machine in the dining hall. That was OK.”

  1. It has been 15 years since I graduated from college and I had no idea when I got the piece of paper how different from my dream my life would be. Despite being flabbergasted at the thought of 15 years, I don’t know if I would have been happy with what I thought was good at 21.


  2. Great post!


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