So here I am, back in Michigan, writing from the dining room table in my very own house. It's weird. I've been dreaming of home - my big bed, a fridge of food that hallmates won't steal, the luxury of being able to lie on the couch all day watching Sex and the City - but it's been causing some serious separation anxiety. It dawned on me last Wednesday that I actually like more people at school than I do at home. I started crying, which made me feel pretty stupid, especially because I went on to cry about a zillion times more in the following days. And now I'm posting it on the internet, which is more embarrassing.
Actually though, Being Emotional was one of my big discoveries of this year. Not overly emotional (well, maybe a little), but honest-emotional, like laugh when you find something funny and cry when you find something sad, instead of just laugh when you find something anything because everyone likes laughing. And there can be absolutely no apologies - absolutely none. I've found that people at Oberlin are both refreshingly unapologetic and apologetically cautious. Political correctness is quite popular on campus, though I'm not sure how constructive that always is. Sometimes it seems like if you pull something ugly up into the open, you can address it a lot clearer than if everyone hedges around it and won't look at it straight. No one wants to offend anyone, but I wonder if that might be when some of the most important dialogues actually happen. These are such sticky issues though...that's another big discovery: Sticky Issues. Before this year, I had probably hardly thought much at all about gender politics, or white privilege, or language discrimination, or any of the things my classmates and I would have giant conversations about. Coming home with so much new awareness (and not nearly enough awareness) is like trying to squash all your new shirts from the Big Swap into the suitcase you'd finally forced shut the night before - there's this space you figured you understood and closed, and now you have to pull it apart to find room so you can re-see it.
The thing is, as apologetic as someone might want to be discussing those kinds of complicated things, most people at school seem to be wonderfully unapologetic about what and who they are. I don't think I met anyone who was visibly ashamed of their beliefs, or their causes, or their desires or their bodies...maybe that's partly why home feels slightly odd now, that my memories of it are so intertwined with high school and self-consciousness and some mad need to fit in with the things I didn't even like. At Oberlin there was such a current of confidence, you had to jump into it, or else it would just sweep you up at the ankles and pull you along.
Things that got easier this year: conversing, question-asking, nudity, solitude, dancing.
Things that got harder: shaving, hair-washing, upper classmen-fearing, heterosexuality.
Looking back over the year is terrifying. It's like trying to swallow an entire loaf of bread. For that I'm glad to be home, to decompress. I'm trying to ease my Oberlin-self into my Ann Arbor-self, which feels vaguely like matchmaking. Or animal husbandry. Ew. Maybe I'll just stop writing and go to sleep. In a big bed...mmmm. But such a lonely roommate-less room...
Responses to this Entry
I'm an Oberlin alum from 2000, and I just found your blog by accident through LinkedIn and really enjoyed reading this end-of-year reflection. I'm finishing up grad school now, and it's not at Oberlin, and I miss all the wonderfulness you mention. I'm so glad you're appreciating the unapologetic/awareness-raising community there. And I love your writing!
Posted by: Elizabeth Churchill on May 26, 2010 10:38 AM
So I'm a Chicago resident/student who is actively CHOOSING to stay in tonight, to not see Yo La Tengo for FIVE BUCKS, or go to her friends' bon voyage bbq... all because her voice is on the fritz, and she's a singer who needs it. And for whatever reason, I decided to google Oberlin blogs. And I'm still reading them. And yours, in this VERY instant, I found incredibly consoling. I don't know why, but you should be glad you wrote this.
Posted by: Alicia on June 25, 2011 10:52 PM
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