The Three Years That Changed My Life

I talk a lot of schitt about college. It is a bitter topic for me, and I try pretty hard to convince young people not to go because no one grabbed me and told me I shouldn’t go. It sounds odd because, for decades, adults have been grabbing young people and telling them why they should go to college. It’s just that I found first hand with both college and then graduate school that the things adults tell young people when they grab them aren’t quite true anymore. College dropouts become rich CEOs (or rich rappers with aptly-titled CDs, not to mention slut-wives) while people who see college through end up in debt for at least 10 years while getting a starting salary of maybe $25,000/yr or $30,000/yr…whenever they’re lucky enough to even find a job.

At the same time…I have a hard time reconciling this knowledge/experience with the other experiences I gained from attending college and grad school, not to mention how to reconcile it with the respect I have for education and academic institutions in general. In fact, I can honestly say that grad school had a profound effect on my life. It changed my life, for better and for worse.

I skipped out on work Monday, and my mother and I went several places. One of them was a store that sells all college gear, particularly for sports fans. I’m always up for buying schitt that reps the University of Michigan (I damn-near have Michigan everything), which was my grad school–the school that changed my life. After we returned home, my mother and I were talking about how she, my father and my oldest sister lived in the San Francisco area before I was born. It was interesting that this came up, because I had been thinking a lot about something recently. This led me to tell my mother something no one knows about me.

Everyone who has known me for long enough knows I love Michigan. Love Michigan.

But Stanford is my dream school. It was my dream school when I headed to Michigan. If I could think of a reason to go to Stanford and afford it right now, I would. And as much as I liked Michigan, had I gotten accepted to Stanford for law school as well, that’s where I would have gone. Of course, the three best law schools in the nation rejected me (Harvard, Yale, Stanford); I very nearly had my choice of top law schools aside from those. The only other school that felt “right” aside from Stanford was Michigan. So, despite the better scholarship offers from other schools and the questioning from fellow Southerners, I went to Michigan.

My mother’s response–to my mentioning that I didn’t get into Stanford and that was the only reason my parents didn’t end up taking trips back to the SF area for [at least] three years instead of to Ann Arbor for three years–was something along the lines, of course, of “everything happens for a reason.”

Oh, of course. I know Michigan happened for a reason. I wouldn’t trade my time at Michigan for Stanford. Would I trade it for less debt, to get back the debt it put me in? That’s a tougher question, it really is.

See, among many things, Michigan is, for me:

-Where I realized I could actually be friends with other women

-Where I fell in love with sports

-Where I truly accepted that I am, and started identifying as, a lesbian

-Where I learned that college towns–not suburbs, not the country and definitely not cities–are right for me

-Where I found the only “community” to which I 100% love belonging (um, sorry, blacks and LGBTs and women)

-Where I really began to recognize, love and appreciate the black or African-descent woman, as well as her beauty

And it’s not all positive experiences.

I suffered from depression for at least a semester while I was at Michigan, which led to my seeing a psychotherapist. The psychotherapist was one of my friends, but we still had real sessions. It’s interesting–for much of my life growing up, I wanted to be a psychologist…got my psych degree. Never once did I think that people could walk out of counseling sessions feeling worse than when they entered them, but that’s how I felt after every session with my friend/psychotherapist–every…single…one. Needless to say, that’s not how I recovered from depression…but that’s a story for another time. 😉

I also had a racial experience at Michigan that is the base reason for why I just don’t view white women in a romantic light/as a romantic option anymore and probably never will again. Obviously, you can’t make an entire race/sex carry the burden for something that happened with one person of that background, and that’s not really the case here…but it got the ball rolling, I learned a lot about the deep lack of understanding between black people and white people (of each other, not just white people not understanding blacks), and now I’m where I am. I must say that, although I wouldn’t quite say I’m glad the experience happened, it was good for me in some ways. Out of it grew the way I now see black women, which is a way in which I didn’t quite view them before. And I think it’s important for black women to completely see other black women’s worth, beauty, intelligence, attractiveness, etc. If we can’t see it, who can/will?

And obviously, it goes without saying that being in debt for the rest of my life is not anything positive that Michigan gave me.

But even out of these three negative experiences came a lot of learning, very important learning and experiences. I went through everything and then some at Michigan–really could have a TV series based off it…we’ll call it “Ann Arbor 48109” or “Michigan Law”–whereas my college experience was relatively uneventful.

I mentioned one of the things I gained from Michigan was a love of sports. I even did some sports writing on the side. Well…people who don’t understand sports or diehard fans or why fans and experts get so emotional…they often ask about it. One of the things I try to articulate, perhaps unsuccessfully most of the time, is my belief that love for a particular sport or team usually doesn’t develop from the sport/team. To me, there is usually something else–being from a particular city or state, the people around you, the school you attend. First and foremost, I love my school because of everything I went through there, everything it made me, everything it taught me. And that led me to support my school in whatever, be it sports or anything else. It’s the reason why I will watch garbage like baseball from time to time or softball (which…softball, for some reason, I actually like now)–if it’s Michigan playing, I will watch.

My favorite sports are football and basketball. I grew up playing basketball, and my family is a basketball family. My father has basketball championships. But I hated football growing up. After attending Michigan, a huge football school, football is my favorite sport. I didn’t suddenly become interested in guys running for three yards and passing for 15 yards just because it was interesting. It never was, originally. Truthfully, if it’s the NFL, it’s still not interesting greater than 50% of the time. I just don’t have that NFL equivalent to Michigan, no emotional connection. I hate where I’m from, so why would I root for my state’s NFL team?

Michigan is why I like college football and why that’s my favorite sport. And the love I have for my school is why losses are so painful–particularly certain ones. Any loss to Ohio State or Michigan State (rivals). The loss to Indiana in basketball earlier this year that cost Michigan a conference championship…that still brings tears to my eyes because of the way it happened. Even my father cursed and was angry after Michigan lost that game, and he, being an SEC guy, likes to pretend he is not a Michigan fan (he is). There are other Michigan losses I could reference using just two words, and [college] sports fans would know what I’m talking about–Appalachian State and Time Out. Horrific and horrific. We (Michigan) have the most legendary fails in college sports, for real, so you can’t blame me for feeling pain. But we are also among the most successful programs in college sports, so you can’t blame me for feeling pride, either.

So, would I want to give all of this back for, oh, $100,000? I don’t know who I’d be without all of this.

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