These next few years are going to be hard, adventures in remaking yourself anew. Even having a job, I had a hell of a time. I landed in Venice Beach, California, renting a little house on a sunny day, only to learn that the neighborhood was very dangerous at night. My father once told me that he was never on the phone with me without a siren in the background. It was the only place I could afford that had a fenced yard and would take my dog. At Thanksgiving I flew home with that sweet dog and sadly turned her over to an older couple who wanted a vigorous, loving, loud dog to play with their grandson and scare away intruders. I moved into an apartment with my boyfriend in Van Nuys, at the middle of the flattest part of San Fernando Valley.
There I forgot—or hadn’t learned yet—to bring school home. I worked harder than I thought possible as a teacher, but when I had free time I lay on my back and read Harlequin novels—yes—and was lonely and miserable. Many weekends we walked in national parks, nearby and far away, even Death Valley twice. I couldn’t see ahead, and I couldn’t control each day, which seemed to pass without order and reason other than at school. Only there was I happy. I didn’t explore L.A., or read the newspaper, or join activist groups, or make many friends. The apartment had uncontrollable cockroaches.
It wasn’t until I’d pulled up my shallow stakes and drove back to New England for graduate school that some former self reemerged. What I’ve learned from the students in the past few years is that this is not an unusual pattern in the first years after college. Freed from the constant drive to learn, many graduates just decamp, fuzz out, sink back on the couch and become potatoes.
Leaving Sarah Lawrence, having mastered the short expository essay, or calculus, or an understanding of memory, being able to write a swift heart-breaking phrase, in prose or poetry, or visually depict it through printmaking or film or sculpture, or maybe act it out with flare or jazz drum it, you will be starting over, in a place where no one knows you as we do, or maybe values you as we do. Yet.