With orientation going on at CC this week and last, I was startled to realize the other morning that it has been 20 years exactly since I was starting college, packing up my stuff and heading away from home the first real time to North Carolina, which was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. Granted I only stayed a semester (it didn't make financial and logistical sense once I'd ditched my marine biology plans to stay there when I could study writing and english anywhere). But it was the first time I'd ever really been away from my parents for an extended time, the first time I had to do everything for myself. I think there were several moments during the trip down (we drove down to Wilmington in a huge rental towncar with a giant trunk full of stuff) when I wondered if I could really do it. Do everything that grown-ups do.. On my own and so far away from the familiar. (There was also moment in a hotel when I freaked out over a big southern bug and thought about packing it in right there). We were in Wilmington almost a week before I was due to move into the dorms, so we did the family vacation thing--going to beach and the aquarium, strange tours of Civil War battlegrounds. All the while I was anxious and impatient to just get on with it.
Once I was on campus and the family had pulled up stakes and headed back to Illinois, there was this weird period of disorientation. I've always said that the season premier of Buffy in the fourth season has that experience down pat--that everything is so overwhelming, you seem to be behind everyone in terms of choosing classes, choosing friends, buying textbooks, even getting your school ID pic taken. That fall of 92 though was pretty much chaos from the get go, from the first night I spent at a frat party with my roommates (the only frat party I have ever attended thank god) to the day I left in December, throwing everything hurriedly into the car after my last final and driving to the beach for the last time. I have a hard time remembering my classes, though I know I went to them (well most of them) and got pretty decent grades--enough to get me a good scholarship at RC. In a film class we started with Birth of a Nation and watched a slew of and silent movies. I spent the night before my first American Government test at the beach til sunrise and still got an A. I skipped Algebra every chance I got, did really well in what was basically Freshman Comp, and loved my Oceanography class. Did stupid things like pile drunkenly into the back of a pick-up truck driven by one of my roommates back-home army friends. Played drinking games, went to cheesy dance clubs. Ate alot of Doritos and canned ravioli. Tried to run for freshman class president (this seemed like the thing to do, since I was still super over-achiever girl in those days) and lost. Drank alot of malibu rum and cheap beer . Played alot of gin rummy with my roommates. Discovered Pearl Jam and NIN. Fell for closeted hilarious actor types and long haired surfer types from Delaware. Mooned over someone else who who wound up dating my suitemate.
Everything was so fraught and emotional in those days. Or maybe I was just more unstable. I remember spending alot of weekends typing really bad stories on the electric typewriter I bought with my graduation money. I don't think there were many poems yet, those came later. I also remember spending time amongst the periodicals in the library, looking for places to send work, though I don't remember if I actually sent anything out during that time. I remember waiting for the mail, but that might have just been waiting for letters from friends, care packages from my mom, etc. Wilmington was beautiful, though, and practically winterless, and smelled like oleander and ocean air. Since I consider RC to be where I actually went to college, that span of time seems almost dreamlike. December came and it was back to the midwest, back to snow and icy roads and classes at the community college so I didn't fall behind while I applied to other schools. There were poems then though, lots of them, and submissions and general restlessness. By fall, I'd enrolled at RC and was ready to start the next chapter.
I mentioned to co-worker that I don't think I could handle starting everything like that. Being again at the beginning of things. How the future must look--both limitless and shiny bright, but also so very scary and uncertain. Also hard to know who you are or what you really want at that age..I think I wanted everything then, only later did I narrow and refine and get downt to what was important to me to spend my time doing.