April 24, 2006

Kind of a Drag

I’m sorry I have been away. I’ve had a few things occupy my mind lately, none of which make for compelling entries. I have a bunch of petty little problems that just sort of eat at me until I hate myself passively, because I’m to tired to really work up a good mope.

Okay.
Here’s what happened.

On Saturday, I went over to my mother’s to do my annual gardening. My brother convinces me that I should go for a run before I attack the various weeds and tall grasses that have begun choking the front garden, and as we’re stretching in the back yard my mother calls me into the house.

“Do you know a ‘Doug’?” She asks.

“Um, I don’t think so.” I say, foot on the sink for a proper hamstring stretch.

“He says he graduated with you.”

I rack my brain. “When was all this?”

“Right now. He’s in the living room.”

So I sprint in there to find Doug, who I instantly recognize as a kid I knew in high school, who was on the Quiz Bowl team with me (dork!). He looks the exact same, only about a foot taller, and is all smiles to see me and my brother. He tells us he just dropped by because he was on leave (many people in my grade chose to join some branch of the military upon graduating), is still in the service and spent the last three years in Hawaii. As he goes on about what he’s done and all the places he’s been, I find that I’m terrified to have it be my turn to talk. I start to panic, like, what have I done? I have a worthless degree, no boyfriend, and a total lack of career path (and while not necessarily a loser by those standards, it sure takes away a lot of possible avenues for small talk). My brother goes first, and talks about his engagement, and working for the post office, and he’s thinking of going back to school. I’m glad he took over; I do not want to talk. I would love to just listen and not respond, and I suddenly sympathize with my stage-frightened mother. I hate giving people the five-minute “where I’ve been / where I’m going” rundown of my life. It makes me feel like I haven’t accomplished any goals, no matter how much I have actually done. Doug does recognize that I have lost a ton of weight (his words) since high school, which is the only tangible evidence I have that I’m not a complete slacker.

When he does ask me how I’ve been, and what I’ve been up to, a smart person would have mentioned her graduating from college, her three months in Europe, going to school anywhere but home, and her current well-paying job with free benefits. It seems I exist to show just how dumb a smart person can be. I acknowledge the weight bit (I’m getting better at it; I’m really bad with compliments) and tell him I graduated, and feel the slight embarrassment that all English majors have when telling someone what their degree was for (punchline: nothing), and he manages to turn my shame around with a story about how I used to edit his papers for him, not giving them back until they were covered in red ink. Which I have no doubt is true. He’s incredibly good-natured about it, and says it helped his papers a lot, and improved his grades, and I already feel like an asshole for never keeping in touch with him, since he’s obviously the nicest guy ever. He even joins me in pestering my brother to put on sunblock for our run, yelling things like ‘melanoma!’ and ‘skin grafts!’ until he leaves the room in a huff to find a bottle.

As we leave for the run, we walk Doug to his car, and although it was great to see him and I’d love to hang out again, I’m relieved that I never had to go into the finer details of my wants and dreams. I’d eventually have to say the words “I’m an aspiring writer.” It’s hard to explain, and even harder to do, and makes for uneasy conversation. I hate the inevitable conversations that follow. I either get pity or laughs, and neither in a jovial, well-intended way. I might as well tell people I go to clown college, for all the incredulous “Really?”s I get. It doesn’t help that I have a thin skin, either—I take rejection badly, and take criticism even worse. It’s something I need to work on, on my list of a billion others. All I have to say to long-lost school friends right now is this: I am trying. In a week or so, I hope to move up to ‘I am doing my best’.

But I can’t do my best today. Today I’m just going through the motions.
And visualizing my goal of being less of a bummer tomorrow.

1 comment:

Christine said...

More power to you in your dreams of being a writer and acknowledging that it is a goal of yours. There are many people who can't even articulate their goals, and more (myself included) who still aren't sure what they "want to be."

No worries.