Friday, October 15, 2004

Going Home (sorta)

Okay, so my homecoming is this weekend. When I first started getting informational materials on homecoming a few months ago, I unceremoniously chucked them in the trash like I usually do with mail from my alma mater. But they're persistent, those alumni relations people, and eventually I opened one piece of mail and thought, "Maybe I will go this year...."

I called my friend Chad, who not only graduated from college with me but also from high school with me, and asked him if he was planning on going. This simply because I had absolutely no intention of going to the homecoming alone, not knowing if anyone else I remotely like was going too.

See, the problem is, I didn't really enjoy my college experience at all. I didn't make many friends there. I didn't even enjoy being on my own. I had spent the first 17 years of my life in cozy seclusion, not being spoiled by my parents per se, but not really left needing anything of any importance. At first going away to college was like an extended summer camp -- you got a room, you had activities, you spent 100% of your time away from your parents... oh yeah, and you had classes too. Those pesky classes.

I quickly came to realize that I simply did not have the discipline to smoothly make that transition from high school kid to quasi-independent kinda-adult. I could skip class and no one would know. I could not do my reading and no one would yell at me. I could stay up until 3 a.m. on Tuesday and sleep until 5 p.m. Wednesday and the world would not end.

And I was not used to this. Nor was I prepared for this.

Obviously I didn't actually do all of the things I could have done, but I did relish my new-found independence all too well. While my peers made a nightly ritual of dinner followed by a few hours studying at the library, I bummed around my student lounge because I simply didn't feel like studying. Come midterm season, and then again come finals time, I panicked like nobody's business and managed to keep my head above water, but ugh. I could have handled it better. I should have. Somehow I never quite learned after first year that studying was a pretty damned important part of the college process. Every semester I'd repeat the same vicious cycle of goofing off and cramming, goofing off and cramming. It's a wonder I got the grades I did; even more so that I got accepted into law school and then passed the bar.

See up until the day I moved to college my life goal had simply been to get into a good college. Having accomplished that, I had no idea what happened next. I had failed to make any life plans beyond application and admission. Sure, I'd go to college, but what would I do there? I didn't have a clue. I had a general thought that when I left there I'd have a degree, from a good school, which would lead to a good job. But a degree in what? A job in what? I was aimless and drifty; as long as someone else was paying the bills, I was happy to do whatever.

I was no better socially. I was a maladjust. No one really wanted to be my friend. I kind of imposed myself upon certain groups just because they were there, but we were never really great friends. Eventually after first year we all moved to different dorms, and my contact with them was sporadic at best, again mostly because I hadn't formed the friendship bonds with them necessary to actually consider them good friends.

It didn't help that I was starting to finally acknowledge sexuality as part of life. In high school I was so busy with academics and extracurriculars and being with my friends that, honestly, I didn't give sex much thought at all. I graduated from high school a virgin and seriously don't think it was that big of a deal. I had more imporant things to do, like prepare for a speech and debate tournament, or study for that pop quiz which you know is just coming up in U.S. History when you least expect it, or rent movies and hang out with my friends.

But in college it was inescapable. People all around me were having sex, and no one thought twice about it. A bunch of 18- to 20-year-olds all running around the dorms, it's a recipe for orgasm. But I knew that the people I was sexually attracted to were not the ones who I should be attracted to. I didn't think Amy was sexually appealling. She was cute, but certainly not someone I'd like to have sex with. Now Kurt. Kurt was cute, and I definitely would have loved to see him naked. And so was Bob. And Mark. And the other Mark. And Peter. And Chip. And his roommate, whose name escapes me at the moment. You get the picture.

They say coming out is a highly individualized process, and each person takes it at their own pace. That being said, I still think it took me much longer than it should have to own up to the fact that I like guys. For two years I continued to hang out with Janet, a girl from my home state whom I knew when we were in the fourth grade. We were never dating, but just having her around made me feel more normal, like I was hanging out with the "right" people -- that is, a person of the opposite sex. But there was always something else. In my second and third years, my next door neighbor, whom I would see from time to time leaving for class, was cute as all get out, and carried a book bag which prominently featured a pin with a pink triangle on it. Oh, how I wanted to get to know him, if only to talk. Sure, it might have been fun to experiment with him sexually, but what college fag is going to want to get it on with a newbie? I never got to talk to him, and eventually in my senior I took an off campus apartment instead. My neighbor across the hall was hot, and straight. The first time I met him he had his shirt off, and I almost gasped.

So now as I look back on my college years, I wonder what life would have been like if I had had the nerve to come out back then. If I had tapped into the available support networks on campus to let myself become more comfortable with guys-who-liked-guys. I like to think that I would much more socially developed now. I like to think that perhaps I'd have a bit more confidence in myself, that I would know myself better just because I would have had that much of a head start in the process of self-awareness, that I would have just been happier in general if I had met a boy or two in college.

Then again, had I come out in college, I could have simply turned into the bitter, jaded, and evil person I am now that much sooner.

So this weekend I'm heading back to campus just for the day to see what's changed, what hasn't, and maybe just by chance bump into people I may very well want to say hi to. But as a matter of my personal experience, it's a time for me to return to that time of not-so-innocence, where I can face some demons down, look them in the eye, and say, I lived through my own private hell here, and I made it out alive.


Dustin MacDonald said...

Oh my god...I loved that post! Everything you said about fits me to a Tee! Wow...

Dustin MacDonald said...

Well, everything but the part about you liking guys.

Dennis! said...

Thanks for clarifying that, Dustin. :P

p.p. said...

Dennis!, that was an enjoyable post to read -- personal and mind-opening. I doubt you're as jaded, bitter, and evil as you say you are.
Have a good time at homecoming.