The College Years

I get asked a lot how it is that I came to live the lifestyle that I do.  The one by which I’ve decided there is no one full-time job that will interest me and so I choose not to have one.   So I’m going to start a series of posts on how this all came to be.

I did what most people around me were expected to do – I did well in high school and went off to college.  I had the experience plenty of college students do: during my sophomore year, I didn’t like my major and wanted to switch.  The only problem was that, up until this point in my life, I had done everything my parents expected of me.  They did not expect me to switch majors.

As the oldest of five children, the plan was to go to community college for two years and then to a four year school.  I screwed up the plan by picking a major that was highly competitive to get into.  We knew I could get into a physical therapy program with my high school grades.  If I waited two years, to get into such a program as a transfer student was even more competitive.  So I went to a private school as a PT major.  In other words, if I wasn’t a PT major, there was no reason for me to be at this school.  The thought of transferring seemed even more intimidating than switching majors.

During my sophomore year,  I was dating an older man.  “Older” is a relative term.  I was 18.  He was 24.  At 18, 24 is definitely older.  I had only finished one year at college and he had already been out for two years.  It was a whole other world to me – the one in which you were out on your own, working, unsupported by your parents, no longer living under their roof.  The thing that, in hindsight, was really great for me was that he, unlike my parents, didn’t see any reason for me to stay in a program I didn’t like.  He was the first one to say to me, “Well, if you don’t want to do PT, what do you want to do?”

I knew the answer.  I wanted to study languages and go live in Europe for a year, if not longer.  I’d had a taste of it in high school.  I took French and spent six weeks one summer living with a french-speaking Swiss family on a farm with 10,000 chickens.  I thought about taking a year off between high school and college to study abroad, but didn’t have the nerve to just apply and do it.  I was still at the point in my life that if my parents didn’t suggest/encourage it, I didn’t do it.  Not that they discouraged it.  I just didn’t push so they probably figured I wasn’t that interested.

Or they thought I could study abroad in college.  So did I.  I should have known from that first day sitting in the auditorium.  All of us PT majors sat there with our parents.  The department chair finished her speech and asked if we had any questions.  I asked if we could study abroad.  She laughed.  (Dramatic pause to recognize the significance of this moment.) I had not, at this point in my life, learned to follow my heart.  If I had, I would have walked out the door right then and there.

So, with the boyfriend’s encouragement, I set up a meeting with the chair of the Foreign Language -Business department.  He graciously listened and then gave me his verdict: he didn’t recommend I switch.  He told me I would probably be disappointed by the major.  He explained that it was obvious that I loved languages and would love to do this, but that most of the students in the major just picked it because they didn’t know what else to do.  Coming from the PT program full of extremely driven, motivated students, he didn’t think it would suit me.

He did save me from one thing: I detest corporate America.  A business major would not have been the way to go.  I can still recall sitting in the cafeteria with a business major as she explained to me the importance of wearing pearls on an interview she was about to go on, and the emotion she showed when explaining to me the color suit it was imperative that she wear (blue, not black, though I don’t recall why).  I thought it was the craziest thing I ever heard.

So I stuck it out in the PT program.  But I started to go against the grain a little bit….

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