The above quote comes from Charles Brockden Brown’s Alcuin (1798), in which a staid and stubborn school teacher engages in a radical conversation with an intellectual woman (Mrs. Carter) who thinks he’s full of shit. In this particular moment, he’s trying to explain why things are the way they are, while still seeming sympathetic to Mrs. Carter’s disappointment in the state of female education. Women could not possibly think to be great politicians or historians or physicians when all they can do is sew! A tragedy, of course, but it is, after all, just the way things are…
And, yet, forgive me for even slightly agreeing with him when I posit the notion that they who know naught but the liberal arts cannot be skillful at the real world.
Don’t get me wrong. I recently graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in History. My education, if I may say so, was absolute class. After four years at Oberlin College, I can find the personalities of badass historical women reflected in the personalities of my cats. I can navigate the night sky with a laser-pointer while identifying frogs by their calls. I can develop photos and write letters in Japanese. I studied in Ireland. I can read alto clef, filibuster about the importance of modified consensus and institutional memory, show you my 88-page undergraduate thesis, and talk extensively on Jusepe Ribera’s Blind Old Beggar (1632). Should the occasion arise, I can even bullshit about Kafka’s metaliterary genius in German, but please don’t ask me to do that.
The opportunities Oberlin provided me with are astounding and more than I probably deserved, considering my biggest achievement in the past week has been to lift up my bra and find a stick of gum. Oberlin prepared me for a lot of things (Jeopardy, here I come), but just…not this. Bubbles are bursting and I’m breathing in strong, healthy doses of reality now. When I call my friends, they’ve found jobs and have moved away. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I haven’t written a resume since before college, and I didn’t have much to put on it then. (Not that I do now. I think that “speaks fluent German” can be put right next to “wrote a thesis” in Useless Skills, Ahoy!.) A lot of people I used to know are getting engaged, married, becoming homeowners and parents. The last time I asked anyone out on a date was…I don’t know. (I’ll get back to you on that.) Some of my friends host dinner parties. If I’m not helping (key word: helping) cook a meal for 80+ people, my recipe repertoire consists of oatmeal, pasta, and mashed potatoes. Remarkably similar to the general health rule that if someone’s still coughing they’re not really choking in the danger-zone, when it comes to appliances I like to think it’s not broken until it stops making noise. My go-to word in awkward situations is “applesauce,” I’m goofy after 1/2 a pint, and I have a remarkable propensity to complain about everything except what’s really bothering me.
Dear lord, I’m the star of my own dysfunctional sitcom.
But, in all seriousness, this isn’t a my sitcom. It’s my life. I know I’m not prepared for anything, and I’m scared. As I fester in my parents’ house, as I feel my youthful skin slowly wrinkling and sagging from my increasingly brittle skeleton, all I want to do is complain and scream. Ideally, I’d like to clothe myself in specially designed sympathy magnets and then activate them by curling in a ball and moaning until other people make my life happen for me. It’d also be nice if someone could call the goddamn Wahmbulance and have them take care of everything, but that might be the stupidest thought I’ve had all day. That’s not how the world works! Those sympathy magnets I order always turn out to be friend repellent in the end, and I’ve been told that I sound like a old, tired donkey having sex when I moan woefully, so that’s out of the bargain. Basically, I know that nothing’s going to get me out of my impeccably formed ass print in the couch unless I get it for myself.
That’s ultimately what this blog is for. It’s not going to be about wallowing, though wallowing is inevitable. You’re also guaranteed historical rants, TV/movie/book reviews, and outdoor adventures. I’m gonna test recipes, read self-help books, make a budget, and find a job. I’m gonna explore my old home (Oberlin) in new ways when I move back and learn to love it differently. I don’t remember having dreams? Fine. I’ll find new ones. I’m on a mission, and I want to use this as a space to express and conquer my insecurities, to make my inadequacies adequacies, and to share the journey with others who may be experiencing the same thing. It’s high time I quit using my friends as a wall to throw my existential spaghetti at.
Listen, if you know me and you’ve made it this far, thank you for supporting me and my nonsense over the years. If you don’t know me, thank you for putting up with this privileged asshole bullshit of a post. I swear, this is going to be one of the most spoiled-brat-throwing-a-tantrum posts I ever make. I know I’m not special. I know the world’s not my oyster. Oysters are too expensive. But there might be some expired clam chowder in the pantry somewhere with my name on it, and I’m not going to find it by making excuses for myself. By parodying the title quote of this entry, I’m blaming my inability to advance past my life as an undergraduate on my alma mater for not providing me with life’s necessaries. That blame is misplaced. With a few exceptions, Oberlin did everything and provided everything it promised. I was the one who didn’t uphold that bargain, and now I’m lucky enough to have a second chance.
I’m not gonna blow it.