One of the pathetic stipulations I had for a college besides:
1) not advertised on television
2) offers stuff-n-things OTHER THAN A degree promised to allow me a career in an exciting technical field
was that I could access it by train.
See, for all the awesomeness that is St. Charles, it’s fucking impossible to get to or from. It’s not by any convenient highways or byways, but it’s not quiiittee far enough away from anything that whining loudly that ‘it’s too faaaarrr‘ will get you anywhere. Besides a hefty roll of the old eyeballs. The benefits from a cost/benefit analysis show that without a doubt, this is The Best Thing For Us All, so we deal with these minor annoyances.
Obviously using the haunting good grace that I am known to handle everything else with (read: no grace whatsoever).
But back then I also lived it St. Charles, only un-hipply (not un-hippIE because that would be weird) with my parents and my one-year-old son, The Benner. And I was in dire need of figuring out What To Do With My Life. After some teeth-gnashing and a good hard look at my future, I chose to get my undergrad in nursing at a college about 40 minutes away.
Also (and most importantly) it was on the train line. I’m not positive that if I’d been promised truckloads of cash driven to my front door by pursuing my undergraduate degree in underwater basket weaving, I’d have done so if I’d had to commute by car.
So, train it was! Hooray!! Bonus! Win-Win!!! Hooray!! Everyone wins!!! Yay!!!!
(note the flagrant use of exclamation points to really drive the point home. THAT’S how you know I’m serious.)
Except, hahaha, not so much. Turns out that wasn’t what I was going to do with the rest of my life. Because I’m still waiting to find out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. I’m not sure if this–like my ability to single-handedly lose my wallet 47 times an hour–is something to be proud of of.
I did ride the train every day, to and from school, and while I was initially irritated by that mandatory time stuck doing jack squat, I learned to love that part of my day. There’s something kind of romantic about being on a train. I guess it’s partially a throw back to The Olden Days–and let me assure you that most of the train cars in service today really are from those days–and partially just, I don’t know. I sort of feeling like I’m Really Traveling if I’m on a train.
And as time passed, I made a number of friends who rode the train with me. We’d study, or shoot the shit, or just be blessedly still for half an hour. These included some of the people in my classes and even a couple of my science professors. I’d gone from feeling like a total Failure At Life to having an identity of my own.
I was an over-achieving student, top of my ever-loving class. I became. TA for the upper level sciences. I had friends. I had something I could now identify myself as and be proud of.
I look back on that time and smile. A genuine smile, not an ironic or bitter one.
I took the train into the city on Wednesday at the ass crack of 6PM after I hadn’t been on one in at least three years. I can assure you that nothing, NOTHING has changed. Same strawberry-urine scented urinal cake smell, same entitled passengers*, same sweat-stained windows.
(*Back when I took the train 5 days a week, I was always sure to pick up a copy of their monthly newsletter. While I flagrantly ignored the boring stuff about safety and other stuff that I wouldn’t know what it was because I never read it, I always giddily ran for a copy when the new ones came out.
Because on the back of this, was a page of pure gems. The company would reprint some of the Letters To Someone Who Pretends To Give A Shit and they were comedy gold. Honestly. They really should come up with a book of these sorts of letters because seriously, they were that good.
Amidst the people complaining about delays and ice and those horrible rude people with suitcases who take! up! 2! seats! (this person, in her letter, referred to those people as “Piggy People.” Because how DARE someone need to use a SUITCASE!), was nestled my personal favorite. I will try to paraphrase it for you.
Here’s what makes me REALLY mad!!!! Those people who leave behind the newspapers after they’ve read them, so that other people can read them!!! That’s nice and all, but you know what? I am SO MAD when I see that they’ve completed the crossword puzzle!!!!!!
I Am The Most Entitledest Person Ever!!!!!!
I mean, the NERVE of someone who spent THEIR money on a paper to actually put INK to the paper! They obviously should have graciously left it blank for you, oh person who is too cheap to buy their own paper.
Bwahahahahaha! *wipes tears from eyes* Bwahahahahaha!
You just can’t make this shit up.)
Well, The Internet, it turns out you CAN go home again.
After I wrenched myself away from a screaming Alex, and hauled my bag up those stairs again, it was like stepping into my old life. I half expected to see my grody red suitcase (note to self: buy cooler suitcase) turn into an Organic Chem book, my iPod to gain 3 pounds, and the spare tire in my gut to melt away.
But there I was. Seeing myself back 6 years ago. When my son was my only baby. When I wasn’t married. When I had a job, a waistline, and a completely different life. I’d never heard of a blog. Never considered that I might actually house a wanna-be writer in my wanna-be scientist body.
And look at where I ended up. Never thought I’d be where I am, never in a zillion years. I’m not sure I’d have believed it if you told me. No, I take that back. I am absolutely CERTAIN I would have laughed in your face had you told me where I’d end up.
I stay home. I write. I have three fucking kids. I write. I fantasize about sleeping and about wearing pants without elastic bands. Although, I should add, I do not fantasize about sleeping WITH pants without elastic bands. I drive a mini-van. An UGLY GOLD mini-van.
Everything is different and somehow nothing has changed.
Et tu, Internet?