Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Twenty Years Ago This Week

Twenty years ago this week, I was packing bags and boxes, staying up late with friends and classmates, journaling madly, loving Steve deeply, and counting down the days until my graduation from college - Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts to be more precise. Yup, it's been 20 years since I walked down that aisle, received my diploma, and said farewell to the footloose and fancy-free life of undergraduate studies.

Earlier today, I pulled out the journal I was keeping at the time.

So much has changed - I earn $17,500 less than I did way back when I took my first job working half time in the admissions office and the other half in alumni relations there at Williams. (What did I earn then? $17,500. What do I earn now? You do the math!) I paid one-third of $433/month to rent a three-bedroom Victorian house that two English professors had abandoned for a sabbatical year on foreign shores. I shared the house with two women who were seniors at Williams the year after I graduated. What fun we had!

Steve took a job at GE and worked an hour away in Schenectady, New York. Together, we spent nearly all of our salary on fast food, shopping at the mall in whatever town we visited on any given weekend, going to movies, and checking out dog and horse racing at local tracks. When he couldn't make the drive over the mountain, I took two buses and turned a one hour drive into a 3-hour trek. I did so with gusto because I was off to see the love of my life. On one of those bus rides, I got to know the driver, Mario. I know all this because I have the journal entries to prove it.

I was an emotional/relational wreck at the time. My most recent boyfriend, the one I'd met in Madrid and spent the first semester of my senior year falling head over heels in love with, didn't want to have any contact with me at all. There were two brothers that I'd fallen for before I left for Spain that were still in my life and causing me profound emotional anxiety. Did I mention that one of them was married at the time? Steve went through a phase (brief, I must say) when he wanted to be free to see other people. I told him he was free to see anyone else that he wanted, but he wouldn't also be able to see me. His feelings on the topic changed when a couple the aforementioned ex-boyfriends of mine reached out to me by telephone and snail mail. No, I haven't always been the level-headed, serious, and reasonable woman I am today.

There was no email at the time. No one had cell phones either. What a slow and quiet world we lived in then. I made regular notations in my journal about the number of letters and postcards I sent out to friends on what seemed like a daily basis. One day I sent out 13 in total! Thirteen pieces of snail mail, all written by hand, in one day. If I didn't know myself and how much I love to write to people, I would find that hard to believe.

These twenty years have flown by - and many things about me have stayed the same.

I still get infatuated quickly and easily. With men, women, children, babies (I held an 8-month-old for over an hour on Sunday night, and it started to feel like my milk ducts were filling up again, I was so happy!) the full moon, rose bushes, the sound of airplane tires on the runway, and acid-free journals.

I still miss that guy I met in Spain back in August of 1986, even though I haven't seen him in at least 15 years.

I still journal regularly. I send out hand-writen postcards and letters, as well as email and text messages. I have learned to straddle the 20th and 21st centuries quite comfortably.

I still travel to Spain as often as possible. Heck, I'll go just about anywhere just about anytime. If anyone wanted to pay me to travel, I'd pack my bag tonight and head for the airport.

Next Thursday, we will head up to Williamstown for our 20th year reunion. With our classmates, we will compare hairlines and waistlines, the heights of our children, and the depth of our intellects. We will tell the same stories over and over about where we live, how much we like or don't like our jobs, and secretly we will wonder if any of us are truly happy or if we are only putting up a front for the weekend.

When the small talk has faded to an awkward silence, I will sneak off for a solo jaunt through the Clark Art Institute and the Williams College Museum of Art in a cloud of art-inspired bliss.
I will eat a cheesy, mayonaiss-y sandwich at Pappa Charlies Deli.
I will climb into an overhead study carrel in Sawyer Library, read the graffiti etched into its cavernous wall by students, and fill a page or two of my journal with memories of my days as a Williams Eph (pronounced "eef" from the name of the college's founder, Ephraim Williams).
I will take my husband by the hand and kiss him full on the mouth on the front steps of the dorm where I lived when we were second semester seniors.
And together we will give thanks for what these twenty years have brought into our lives. Beginning with our two beautiful children... neither of whom will be able to attend our alma mater because it's insanely expensive!

I wonder where I will be twenty years from now. How much of my Williams experience will I remember 20 years from now? Thankfully, I will still have my journals.

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