Even Though I Don’t Like Cheesesteak

Posted on November 7, 2010


Big news this week, besides the fact that I am dying of bronchitis, is that I’ve been accepted into an accelerated bachelor’s degree completion program in Philadelphia, starting in January.  I’ll still be living in DC, but commuting to Philly every Friday night and attending class from 8-5 on Saturdays.  A good friend of mine who lives in Philly has offered up her spare room for the duration, a very generous offer that makes this whole thing possible.

Life is about to change, for sure.

I don’t always do so well with change, honestly.  My equilibrium is hard-won and anything that upsets it is threatening.  That being said, often a new challenge in one part of my life wakes up all of the other parts, too.  Bodies in motion, do, after all, tend to stay in motion.  My challenge is to stay calm, and not catastrophize every little thing.  It is okay for me to be tired sometimes.  I can live a week without acres of time alone, if there’s something I have to do on Sundays.  I can have a cold and still go to work on Fridays and get on the train and go to school on Saturdays.  Not feeling well is not the end of the world.  Being awake and productive when I’d rather be alone and napping is not grounds for suicidal despair.

As I have said, I’ve been single forever and it’s made me selfish.  I rarely do anything, aside from work, that I don’t want to do.  My entire life is an exercise in self-indulgence.  I fret terribly before I go stay with other people, or go on vacation with my family, because I might be compelled to keep to their schedule. The horror!  Or eat at my second-choice restaurant, at a time I do not prefer. Or, and I shudder even to type this, do something to please someone else when I am not in the mood to be placating.

I’m sure you are agape with horror by this point.  The funny thing is, in most of my relationships I am a total pleaser.  I get tremendous pleasure and fulfillment out of anticipating other people’s needs and meeting them.  I would love nothing more than to bring you soup and DVDs when you have a cold, or rush to be by your side when you are having a bad day.  I’ll pick you up when your car breaks down, and listen to you cry about your asshole ex until the sun comes up.  But my ability to do so is heavily dependent on ultimately being the master of my own time, and having my own inviolate space to which I can retreat whenever I want.  Woe betide the person who tries to make me do anything I don’t want to do when I am tired, or hungry, or–the good lord protect us–tired and hungry. Anything that poses an implied threat to my autonomy is met with daggers.

I mean, if I give up one inch today, who’s to say that the entire fabric of my life won’t suddenly unravel, leaving me living in Ohio and working for the family business tomorrow?  The trip really does seem that short sometimes.  So, do I mind waiting in line for a table at this crappy restaurant because you forgot to make reservations?  WHY DO YOU HATE ME AND MY HAPPINESS YOU INCONSIDERATE MONSTER????

But!  All that makes it sound like I’m not excited about school, and I am.  I’ve tried to work something out that would allow me to complete my degree for years to no avail, and everything fell together perfectly in this instance.  The program will cost me a third of what it would cost to do locally (as a DC resident.)  I’m borrowing the tuition money from my 401k, and get to pay it back under terms that will miraculously not even impact my paycheck in any noticeable way.  I have somewhere to stay in Philly.  I am definitely ripe for an intellectual challenge, and can’t wait to feel my brain stretch in new ways.  I can do this.

And who knows who I’ll meet?  I’m crossing my fingers that one of my professors falls in love with me and whisks me out of this life and into a new one.  Teachers like me, when I want them to.

But before I spin off into fantasy land, one more insecurity has been unearthed by this good news, and she’s a doozy.  This new schedule means I have to tell everyone that I don’t have my degree,  My bosses know, and my oldest friends, but casual acquaintances, newer colleagues, and all first dates don’t.  I agonize over who to tell, and when, and how, as though I’m confessing to a felony conviction.  What can I say, I’m terrified to be judged and found wanting.  I’m also afraid that once people know, every thing I do or say, the many books I read and my command of Jeopardy!, all look like bald overcompensation.  Because to a degree, all of those things are a way of overcompensating.  True story: I take geography quizzes online compulsively because I’m terrified of being stopped on the street by a news crew and asked to find Iraq or Afghanistan on a map and being unable to do so.  In this absurd fantasy, everyone I know catches the broadcast and thinks, Sure, she has a good vocabulary, but I forgot she never graduated from college. It must be because she’s stupid. Also, that shirt is very unflattering.

Besides pointless fretting, I have done one very important thing to prepare for this life change, and that is to get back on antidepressants.  So far, they don’t have the side effect that has ruined every other attempt I’ve made to find a regimen and stick with it.  I am scared to say that aloud lest I jinx it, but so far so good.  In related news, I’ve started looking at the profiles of Philly men on OKCupid.  Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but they seem more approachable than their DC counterparts.  The ones who mention work do it in the context of talking about how much they love their jobs.  Everyone is refreshingly enthusiastic about their city.  And, not to feed into any unfair stereotypes about the men of our fair metropolis, but I swear the men in Philly are an average of two inches taller across the board.

It’s going to be an interesting winter.