Coming Out of the Closet about College

emersonimagesI am nervous making this post, might as well get that out of the way from the very beginning.

As I’ve talked about in previous blogs, I’m planning on returning to school next fall to finish my undergrad degree. I’m looking at some WA state schools, and also, as described in I Can’t Seem to Stop Stretching, widening my circles of where I’m looking. I’m not sure I want to stay in WA. I am sure it would be easier, especially financially, and that if I go somewhere else, everything will depend on financial aid. Still, that hasn’t stopped me from looking. I dream big, always. And I’m determined as shit, so if I want to make something happen that’s more of a stretch, I’ll find a way. Of that, I have no doubt.

*

On a different note, up until April, I was living with this guy. He doesn’t want to be written about (and almost definitely hasn’t seen my blog), and I want to respect that, but also be able to give bare bones background stuff when necessary, so I’m going to call him…Adrian (lol it doesn’t fit him at all but I have my reasons). You can pretty much assume that any names I use in this blog for people in my real life (aside from other writers who I want to link you to and such) are changed.

Wow, that’s pretty weird, calling someone I lived with a nickname like that, but anyway, so yes, Adrian and I were living together in my apartment with a big brown puppy. It was never really clear whether Adrian and I were roommates, friends, or more than friends (and that ambiguity drove me absolutely batty). It definitely started as more than friends, and that’s definitely what I wanted, but I can’t say either of us would win any gold stars for communication (read: that is the understatement of the millenium) so, things were unclear. And then he had to return to Boston to take care of some things. Who knows what’ll happen when he’s done taking care of things, in the next month or two. It’s been so long since April that I’m a little unsure what I want at this point, definitely unsure what he wants, but I am sure, definitely, that I love the guy. I promise you need to know this for the rest of the story to make sense, or at least for some of the dilemma to be clear.

*

Three weeks ago, I was talking to my friend Edie, who’s going to school in Boston, on the phone. We were having a grand discussion about schools I might look at, with the whole vast vista of the US open with possibility before me. We talked about schools out west, in the midwest, back east, schools we’d gone to, schools we visited, and so on. Then the following conversation ensued:

Edie: Emilia, you should look at schools in Boston.

Me: I can’t. Adrian’s there. That’d be like, wrong, like invading his territory or something.

Edie: But there’s so many schools here, and there’s like 250,000 college studens here. You’d probably never even run into him.

Me: I don’t know.

Edie: You can live in my tiny dorm room with me for free. Think about it.

Some idle daydreaming and joking about what it would be like to live in a small box together and rock the Northeast ensued.

Edie: Seriously, you should at least look into it. There’s so many schools here. There’s Suffolk, Boston College, Boston U… (she goes on to list a whole bunch and I brush them all off, having no particular inclination towards any) … There’s Emerson.

Emerson.

Oh, Emerson. I even love the name. But more importantly, I almost went there. Ten years ago, Emerson was THE school I wanted to go to. They have an amazingly awesome writing program. I met my high school boyfriend the summer before senior year at a blind kids’ program, and that’s how we started talking, we both wanted to go to Emerson. He went. I didn’t. Oh, I got in. I even got accepted into their Honors program, which is highly competitive and hard to get into. But I didn’t go. I didn’t go partly because my parents had a lot of reservations about Emerson, and I won’t go so far as to say they talked me out of it, but their concerns augmented my own.

And what concerns were those? I’m sure you’re dying to know. First was that Emerson focuses mostly on communications, performing arts and writing. What if, as sure as I felt that writing was my passion, I decided I wanted to major in something else? Psychology, philosophy, a foreign language, science? I was a well-rounded student, generally doing well in and enjoying many different areas of academics. I even loved math and science (still do). It seemed a valid concern. The bigger concern, however, was that it was in a city. As my mom always liked to say, “It just worries me that there isn’t any campus.”

It scared the shit out of me. I’d always lived in suburbia. My life was extremely sheltered and overprotected, almost comically so. Even in my small NJ town, I had a very limited adolescent experience. The only places I ever felt like I’d been a real teenager were at blind camp, and among my neighbors, who stopped hanging out with me in my early years of high school. I was pretty socially retarded, partly because of being teased and ostracized by the other kids at school, and partly because I wasn’t allowed to do anything. It seemed I was always in trouble, on some restriction for some report card indiscretion. My bedtime was earlier than anyone else’s that I knew, and even my pop culture intake (movies and TV mostly) was very restricted. In a lot of ways, socially, I was a lot younger than my peers.

Even though I totally wanted to get out of high school and my house, the thought of going to college, anywhere, with kids who’d been real teenagers and who might party, drink, do drugs, have sex, go on dates, talk about all the pop culture things I’d missed and treat me like an alien for missing them, flirt, and so on, scared me, a lot. Then add in the city factor, and I was downright quivering with fear. I didn’t know how to navigate a city. I’d never taken public transit alone in my life. I’d taken it a few times, with people who knew what they were doing, and it seemed confusing and scary and impossible to figure out. I was afraid of walking around my own hometown by myself because I’d been harassed while walking home from school before. I would never survive in a city.

So I didn’t go to Emerson. I went to a small school with less than a thousand students in a tiny town with no public transit and felt suffocated by its smallness. Adventures to get to concerts made me take seriously the idea that I *could* possibly travel, fly, etc. I started to want something else, something far. I transferred to school in Flagstaff, which did give me some experience with travel, flying, taking buses from the airport to the school, but was still a small town. I still felt stifled. I wanted to really, truly, irrevocably be independent. So I left school and traveled to organic farms all over the west coast, by greyhound bus. I got straned twice in Portland, OR, where, by virtue of necessity, I took public buses. I almost slept on the floor in the bathroom of the greyhound station. I got asked for drugs (repeatedly, actually, that stands out as one of my largest Portland memories, the number of people who asked me for drugs). I even survived being asked for sex on a street corner by some guy who offered me $200 to come home with him, lol.

And I had fun. I went to the Rose Festival, explored the city, spent a day in Powell’s bookstore, stayed at hostels and generally made the most of my crazy circumstances. It was one of the most stressful times in my life, but I learned so much. In the end I had to go home (by Greyhound of course).

Four months later I moved to Seattle, and that was THE most stressful four months in my life, ever. I was poor as shit, so were my roommates, and we lived in a seedy section of south Seattle where people asked us if we wanted to buy crack (once I was asked this with my roommate’s two-year-old daughter in my arms). We were all jobless. Our house had no heat. We ate food from the Food Bank for months. And looked for work. I walked around Seattle all the time. I took the buses to get to job interviews or fill out applications, or to attempt to donate plasma for money. I learned the city fast. I took buses all over the neighborhoods. I remember walking around Seattle well after midnight, after a Pearl Jam concert (I got tix way before I realized how hard it would be to find a job). I walked from the Key Arena by the Space Needle, to my bus stop, which was so many blocks away I couldn’t even count it. The whole walk through Seattle, I was alert but not afraid, and I realized I was really getting the hang of this city thing.

In time, I knew how to get just about anywhere on the metro system, knew how to orient myself if I was lost (which was somewhat common for me, at least in the beginning), and found myself telling strangers at bus stops how to get where and which bus to take. I got a seasonal job at Barnes and Noble and had to make a connecting bus under a bridge at First & Spokane, a lonely bus stop, often late at night. My bus only came once an hour, so I spent a large portion of time, waiting at that lonely stop, again alert but not afraid. By the time my four months were up and I was offered a job on this cozy island where I live now, I knew that I could handle urban survival.

But I learned that by doing, and didn’t know that back then when I was deciding between colleges as a senior in high school, and probably honestly wasn’t at all ready to handle something like that at the time. But now, years later, I’m not so worried about any of those old concerns.

Suffice to say, Edie had piqued my interest.

Me: But I couldn’t really go there. I mean, what if Adrian thought I was doing it to chase him or something? My pride couldn’t handle that.

Edie: I think you’re thinking about that way too much. I mean why let it influence you one way or the other?

Me: Yeah.

Edie: But I do have to tell you, Emilia, (giggles), if you do meet up with Adrian, and you do live in my tiny box with me (more giggles), you guys are not allowed to do it in my studio. I will not be sexiled!

We both laughed. Then we daydreamed some more about what fun we’d have going to school in the same city, revisited old inside jokes and memories, and talked about our futures. When we hung up, I told her I’d think about Emerson.

And I did. In fact, I haven’t stopped thinking about it ever since. I went to the college’s website, and nearly salivated over the writing classes. Fiction, poetry, non-fiction, screenwriting, magazine writing, humor writing, even writing for stand-up comedy (which sounds totally fun), book publishing, magazine publishing, layout and design classes. A lot of these classes are offered at all levels (intro, intermediate, advanced), which means there’s even more of them. I have looked at a lot of schools’ websites, and Emerson definitely offers the best suite of classes. They also talk about links with numerous for-credit internship possibilities in publishing, magazines, etc. Another plus is that one of the things I want to do with my writing is readings, spoken word performance, and Emerson is strong in the performing arts. I’m sure I could take a class or two to amp my abilities in that department and take part in some student readings. I also like that though its majors are in communication and the arts, the curriculum there includes a solid liberal arts base. I might even be able to take a bunch of science classes if I really felt like it. So, yes, I have been thinking about Emerson.

But I don’t want to admit it. What will my friends think? What will Adrian think if he finds out? How nicely coincidental is it that the school I’m thinking the most about just happens to be in his city? It seems a little too convenient, doesn’t it? It shouldn’t matter, really. For all I know, I may never hear from Adrian again. And there are hundreds of thousands of college students in Boston. And I was interested in this school before I knew Adrian existed. And it’s a great school with a program I’m looking for, a philosophy I can get behind, and a good rep, as far as if I want to go to grad school (which I strongly believe I do – If I could I’d go straight to grad school for writing). And if I do this, I won’t be going there until almost a full year from now, at which point, the Adrian issue could be completely null and void.

But still, there is a small but extremely strong-willed, prideful part of me that says no, I can’t go there, on principle. I can’t go anywhere that might, even in the slightest way, be motivated by a boy. I am afraid of him finding out I’m even considering this. I hate ever doing anything that could make it seem like I might want someone who might not want me back. I am an independent, strong woman and that would look pathetic. And there may be a small, tiny, miniscule iota of truth in it. I’m not even sure, so I say there may be. As much as intellectually I’m sort of distancing myself from him, because I’m unsure where things are with us, like I said, I love the guy and when I’m being disgustingly dreamy I sometimes do picture us together still and hope that things could end up that way for us, if I’m being completely honest. So maybe that is part of the motivation.

On the other hand, when I’m not in daydreamy land, I’m not even sure I want to be with Adrian anyway, even if we were in the same place. Our relationship was stressed, and his impending departure put pressure on it that both of us (and I have to say I was probably worse here, or more openly displaying it) didn’t handle it well. We very well may not be right for each other. I would like to work some things out and maintain the friendship we had at the least, because I thought that was always strong, but I think a lot would have to change, for both of us, for a real romantic relationship to even work between us. And I don’t know that he wants that and a lot times I’m no longer sure myself. Plus, with everything up in the air for so long between us, I keep thinking, well, if opportunity knocked in boyland, I just might answer the door. Lately I’ve even thought about actually, like, dating, wherever I end up going to school. I’ve always just hung out with people and ended up interested in someone or whatever, but I keep thinking, maybe I’d like to sample the online dating scene or whatever, try to get past some of my shyness. So, I’m ambivalent now about Adrian myself, and that ambivalence is what makes me say that I’m not even sure that he does factor into this picture at all. I mean, when I was writing up there all the things that make Emerson so enticing to me, it’s like the Adrian issue felt so….well, like a non-issue.

Another more clear-cut motivation that might be just as daydreamy and not down-to-earth is my childhood love of the Northeast and how I long for harsh winters, humid summers, fireflies, thunderstorms and the idea of New England (I was born in CT).

So, how does a person sort all this out? Might it be just as pathetic to not go somewhere because I’m afraid of how it would look? I’m sure it would.

So, I’m still thinking about it. Things have neatly fallen in place for me to visit the school. I got invited to possibly be part of a memoirists reading in NYC in November. It just happens that the big November weekend where I work (which most years, would be the same weekend as this NYC event) is the weekend before, leaving me free to go back east. It just happens that Edie has an extra day off that weekend I’ll be in NYC, and says we can go back up to her place that Monday, to check out the city, and so I can visit the school. It just happens that Emerson has an Open House a few days later. It’s all close enough to Thanksgiving that I could combine the NYC event and the school visit with a holiday with the family. Oh and yesterday, my boss said it’d be absolutely fine if I took all that time off, as we have almost no work at all while I’ll be gone. Plane tickets back east are even disgustingly reasonable.

This could all really happen. I would like it to. I just wish, for convenience sake, that Adrian was somewhere like Florida or Chicago, so his location wouldn’t enter into the equation and I wouldn’t have to worry about my pride.

*

As Chef on South Park would say, there’s a time for everything, and it’s called college.

~Emilia J

Currently Listening:
“Like A Prayer” – Tori Amos’ version

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5 thoughts on “Coming Out of the Closet about College

  1. Oh, just go… Emerson’s great. Who needs a campus when you have Boston as your backyard?

    And you know how I feel about Adrian… So go! And I’ll visit ya.

  2.  You know, you are like the third person that said that visiting part. I was talking to my friend Tara about schools, nothing in particular since I haven’t wanted to admit this whole Emerson thing, and she told me I should go to Boston, just like Edie did. She was all, “Go there and I’ll have another excuse to go up there and visit.” One of my best friends who lives outside Philly said a similar thing to me too.

    At least I won’t be lonely. Which is good because I might be one of the few Emerson undergrads over 23, lol.

    ~EJ

  3. wow, several things, i am so glad to hear that someone else has taken the greyhound, i get such a “are you off your rocker?” look from every (american) i tell. this (many asides in your current blog) also bizarrely parallels a blog i have brewing (like a good poo). i grew up in saudi arabia, so had never ridden public transport on my own before, and have always been somewhat “developmentally delayed” compared to my peers. it also sounds like you have some unfinished business- ross and rachel (im voting for the happy ending). regardless of adrian, you cant make decisions based on a boy (i totally get that), by the same token, you cant make decisions (turn down opportunities) based on a boy/what he/others may or may not think your motives are. YOU know your motives. and think of all the blogging mileage you will get out of this. im hooked!

  4. I agree with what disa said. My only question is this: Do you perhaps particularly WANT to go to Emerson BECAUSE Adrian might be there? If the answer is NO, then the dilemma is null and void. If the answer is YES, then you’re a romantic dreamer and should get on with your romantic adventure of a life by applying, getting accepted, moving, running into Adrian on the sidewalk outside a cute coffee shop where you write daily, and then see what happens from there…If the school’s a good fit. The school’s a good fit. Who knows about Adrian…but then, does it really matter? I think not.

    And by the way, can’t wait to hear how the NY memoirist visit goes…

  5. Sorry it took so long to get back to my replyers, lol. Disa, I loved your post, and I love your blog. Anyone who can say that a blog is brewing like a good poo, just totally wins me over.

    Ross and Rachel – sorry to say I never watched Friends, I’m lucky I even know what show you’re referring to. Hahaha.

    I loved what you said, Janna. Emerson is still my first choice, but I’m looking into other options too. I’ll just keep exploring and see what happens. I mean, there are so many options. I’m visiting Emerson next month, so I’ll have to feel it (and other schools) out and go from there.

    I have spoken to the mysterious Mr. Adrian, mostly about how to get his dog back to him, which I feel is for the best all around. Doesn’t mean there isn’t still a small part of me that wants him and wants him to want me, but I have an even stronger desire to just keep all my options open, try dating, etc, so maybe the non romantic, gushy happy ending, is a happy ending in itself.

    ~EJ

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