I think this generation is the advice generation. People always seem to want to know, how did you do it? What did you do? How do you feel about it? Looking for that reinforcement, that sign, that reassurance. I went to coffee with my two WI friends this morning. I slept a lot. The latest I have in a while, like old times. And I was lying in my bed contemplating the day until I finally checked my phone and realized I had been invited to brunch. This is why I should check my phone more often; this is why I don’t like to make plans way in advance. I like spontaneity.
I had coffee and a green tea latte and a frenchie. (french toast bagel sandwich with eggs and cheese and bacon and syrup. Holy Shirt.)
I was chatting with my friends when someone noticed my FYE advisee in the corner with her science notes. I went over to say hello and ended up sitting with her for half an hour as she poured out her weekend to me; her worries; her stressors; her typical college concerns. It made me laugh a lot cause just like your teen years, your college years have that progression, but you feel so much more independent and grown up in college that you don’t realize everyone’s story is so similar, despite where you are or what kind of school you go to or your major. Or if you like to drink or if you study a lot or if you’re an athlete. But she did that thing that people do that catches me off guard. She looked at me directly and asked what I thought or what I did or if my experience could inform hers at all. I stuttered; I stammered; I looked away. Yes, yes, don’t worry, it’s all the same, but agh, don’t put me on the spot. I keep telling my students, you have lots of time, but maybe I should clarify: you do, as long as you don’t waste your time. “The only mistake is if you stand still.” If you’re not roaming about trying to figure it out, then you will run out of time, but if you’re actually managing your time and doing things, you will find yourself in the right place at the right time. I think.
On a totally unrelated tangential note, I realized the other day I’ve been suffering from culture shock my whole life. “I am a native of the North Pole, and that could mess up any kid.” My parents divorced when I was very young, and my brother and I stayed with my mother in Illinois but my dad moved back to Arizona. Every summer, we would pack a suitcase and drive to the St. Louis airport where we would depart for Phoenix. I was reading this book, The Art of Coming Home, somewhat out of boredom, but also due to work responsibilities, and even though it’s a book for ex-pats, I found myself shocked as I could relate to the different pieces I had never considered before and that hadn’t been pointed out to me. The book discussed exchange students and their experience returning to their family roles. Most of it I knew just from work and talking to students and having traveled a minuscule amount myself. But some of it I really hadn’t considered. For example, there was a bit on families and and re-adjusting to family life and your expected family role. I remembered the end of summer feeling of returning to Illinois and being expected to load and unload the dishwasher and clear the table and fold the bathroom towels and dust the living room and vacuum the stairs and help with the gardening and shucking the corn. It was a struggle, because in Tucson there were just the three of us and the chores were minimal, also my father is an ex-Marine and very particular about the way things are cleaned, so some things we were excused from just for that. Returning to Illinois to readjust to not only being a part of the foursome of sibs, but also the expected leader of the foursome, and as another member of a large, messy, functioning unit was always difficult for me and my brother. I remember feeling suffocated by the Illinois humidity and the attention of my younger brother and sister and the silence of the country roads and the coldness of my basement bedroom. And the greenness of it all. The smell of the cultivated summer earth. It can best be described as sensory overload. I remember always feeling like I couldn’t relate to my classmates who had spent the whole summer together, swimming, chasing crushes, playing ball, getting dizzy at the fair. I don’t know. It’s strange to imagine that the back and forth between Arizona and Illinois resulted in culture shock. I remember my godmother getting it though, before I could really articulate what I was experiencing or what was happening to my brain. She said once, “You’ll just be able to go wherever, Laina. You will never feel tied down or obligated to stay in one place. You will find comfort in the uncomfortable. You won’t feel held back.” I remember being so perplexed by that conversation, being unable to relate to it, because when I was younger I was kind of afraid of new places due to my introverted-ness. But I sense it now more. My advisee asked me today if I would stay here, and I couldn’t even lie or hesitate. “No. This is fine for now, but this is now.” I have too many worldly possessions to be a nomad.