This will be the last in the ” How it Began” series (I hope). It’s the story of how I dropped out of college–and the horror my mother manifested.
So I managed to get through high school with a good GPA. The plan was to go right to college and eventually get a master’s or a Ph.D.
I fell in love with Sigmund Freud and psychology when I was in the 9th grade, so I went into college as a psychology major. College was a much better atmosphere. Everybody there was there because they wanted to be, not because they were only clocking time until they were old enough to not have to go there anymore.
And there was psychology. I’ve always liked trying to understand why people do what they do, and what makes them the people they are, so this was a great fit for me. I loved every class I took (except statistics–math and I are mortal enemies who circle each other warily with weapons drawn and only engage when we absolutely must). I was really happy.
The Keeper of the Holograms was happy too; every time I turned around she would be telling people that I was a psychology major who was going to get a Ph. D. and thus “be rich and set for life”. Her exact words. I didn’t like how smug she sounded, but I was happy pursuing the study I wanted and tried not to pay much attention to her.
As my studies stretched into years, though, KotH got fidgety. She told me I was taking too long to finish, and asked me why I was taking so long. I told her that not every class is offered all the time, so I might have to wait a semester or so for a required class to come up. And even if a required class was up, sometimes there was only one being offered, and if you didn’t register for it in time, you were stuck until next time.
I was a full-time student, and so I took required courses as well as “just because” classes–those classes that I took just because they sounded interesting. It was college, and I love learning things, so I figured why not? I took religion classes and philosophy classes, classes on gender studies, mythology classes, even a class solely about the Puritans and the Salem Witch Trials.
KotH didn’t like the just because classes. She said they were unneeded and a waste of time and I should just concentrate on the classes I needed to take so I could graduate and start making money.
There were other ways she let me know she was unhappy. She would tell me about her coworkers kids, how they were graduating from college and they’d only been in for three years. Or she would mention Coworker Kid #251 who was only 20 and was getting ready to head to graduate school. Or she would mention an ex-boyfriend of the Bestower of Righteous Silliness, who went to Job Core and was working already, “and he’s younger than you, too!”
And then, in my sophomore year of college, came her ultimate salvo: I should change majors, go into nursing. Nurses were in very high demand, she said, and the program was short. I could be out in a couple years and be making money before I could say Jack Robinson. Psychology was good, but what could I really do with it? According to her, I couldn’t make any money with just a B.S. in psychology, and a master’s program would take too long.
I had never been into nursing. I didn’t like like the idea of dissecting things (in fact when I was in high school, I deliberately took chemistry as my science so I wouldn’t have to deal with biology, where I knew they dissected things). But once again, I thought that maybe she knew more about this than I did, and I thought that if I did become a nurse she would love me and stop pecking at me.
So I did it. I changed majors. It was the biggest mistake of my life.
The classes were boring, full of medical stuff that I didn’t really care about. The anatomy classes were boring, and yes I had to dissect many things, which I hated.
I wasn’t so happy about school anymore. I didn’t like my required classes and so I poured myself into the just because classes which still pleased me–at least for a while.
I gradually found myself wishing that classes got canceled, just so I wouldn’t have to go to them. I began wishing for massive traffic jams or other things that would delay me so much that I couldn’t get to class. I wished to be involved in a massive car crash just so I would have an excuse to not have to set foot in class.
I started to skip classes. I wasn’t looking too closely at why I was doing this, but I felt better if I wasn’t in class. This general unhappiness began to seep into my just because classes too, and I stopped going to those as well. I would go to school and sit in the university library until it was time to go home.
I would spend a lot of this sitting time talking to myself. “Come on girl,” I would say to myself. “You’re just sitting here. Do you know you’re probably in danger of flunking right now? Don’t you care about flunking?” Apparently I didn’t because I just sat there all day.
Then came the day I woke up and realized I had a problem. There was a midterm in one of the nursing classes, and I knew about it. Before this day, I would always go to take the tests, as I knew it was the tests that mattered. I would never skip a test day. But that day of the big nursing class midterm, I couldn’t move from that library. I literally could not make myself get up and go to class for the test.
The scary thing is that I couldn’t make myself care about the fact that I’d failed the class by missing the midterm. When I told myself that, I felt nothing. Just nothing.
I went to the counselor’s office the next day, sufficiently rattled to be worried that I was spiraling into a deep depression again.
Going to the counselor was too little too late. If I had woken up earlier, I might have been able to stop the downward spiral–and I might have actually finished college. That was my fault. The counselor helped a little–enough that I realized I was breaking down and had to stop. I withdrew from college. I’m sure that what was left of my sanity by that point thanked me for it.
But the hard part was yet to come: telling the Keeper of the Holograms. You’ve read enough of these by now to know how she reacted.
It was like I had barbequed her sacred cow. “Normal” people didn’t break down over something as small as school. There was really no “breakdown”; I was just using that as an excuse to cover my laziness. I was a disgrace. School was easy for me; why should I break down now, for God’s sake?
It didn’t matter to her that I told her that sitting in the library all day was not the action of a person who was healthy. It didn’t matter to her that I told her I wished for horrible accidents so I wouldn’t have to go to class. No, I was lazy and disgraceful, and what would her friends think about this when she told them?
All this happened some years ago, but I still feel the backlash from it. From that moment on, nothing I have ever done has been good enough in KotH’s eyes. She pushes me to go back to school, even though I don’t have enough money to finance it (and even if I did, I’d go back to finish my psychology degree, not nursing). I run her house for her, and that’s not good enough. I do my absolute best to make her and my father’s lives as stress-free as I can and that’s not good enough.
She dangles other people’s accomplishments in front of me, as if she expects me to be sorry that I haven’t done similar things. She expects me to lie to her bosses and coworkers when I see them.
I have spent my entire life trying to make her happy, trying to fit into the image she has of me. She even denies that, saying that I stopped trying to make her happy at 15. I wasn’t in college at 15, folks.
Maybe I shouldn’t be angry about it. It happened–is still happening–and perhaps I should try to deal with it.