thoughts on my harvard 10-year reunion.

01Dec09

When you graduate from Harvard, everyone becomes what you expected. The pre-meds are doctors. The Social Studies majors are lawyers. Natalie Portman is Natalie Portman. I received an e-mail today, asking me to update my profile for our 10-year reunion. Fill in the blanks with the higher degrees I’ve earned, my profession, my foreign fax number, if any. When our 5-year class report came out, it landed on my desk in Bulgaria. It was thick and contained a lot of informative paragraphs people had written about themselves and their awesome contributions to mankind. It was a very big book. I used it as kindling; I don’t remember whether it was winter. With today’s e-mail, also came a request for donations, which made me really angry—my usual resigned, I’m just going to eat a fudgicle sort of anger. The poor-as-shit kids in Sri Lanka didn’t even ask me for money. Girl Fest can ask me for money, Orphan Sponsorship International can ask me for money, my boyfriend can ask me for money–Harvard, you don’t get to ask me for money.

Dear Harvard:

Wasn’t $30K a year enough for a lifetime?

I can’t imagine going to a college reunion. I don’t actually understand why anyone would–but that’s another bullet point in my list of incomprehension, just after marriage and babies, and right before erotic asphyxiation. If I want to see my friends, my dear friends, I’ll see them in LA, Boston, or on television–wherever they are.

If Harvard was Kindergarten, and we drew our dreams on butcher paper, sealed them in time capsule-shoeboxes to dig up when we were supposed to be there, in the drawings, supposed to match the life we imagined–my Harvard drawing and my life 10 years later would be the same blank page. I don’t know what I want; I have spent 10 years standing in the cereal aisle, starving, wanting only pumpkin pie, knowing all I have to do is move, start walking, collect the ingredients, eat. Starving is easy, it’s the wanting that kills me.

The ruler I’m supposed to use to compare myself to others in the success contest is marked by random lines of Plath poetry, Kahlo’s broken bones, ingredients from non-existent recipes. It’s a mess, really. When I graduated from Harvard I knew what I was missing. The world was an ocean, I had a fucking badass fishing pole, but I just didn’t feel like catching fish, and everyone else was figuring out how to suck the ocean dry with an eco-friendly ocean vacuum cleaner powered by the exhalations of hamsters sprinting on their crazy little wheels.

I am all metaphor; I can’t follow to do lists.

Maybe I should go to my reunion, because I didn’t slut-out at Last Chance Dance and have always felt like that could have set my life in a better direction. Some of my best Harvard memories did come after I graduated—reunion might be fucking awesome. Maybe I’ll see people in their lifetime monogamous commitments with three children dangling off their appendages and feel wonderfully liberated and quietly superior. Still–at this point in my life, I view Harvard as the cellulite on the underside of my thigh–that I can’t see and therefore can ignore most of the time, but going back will be like having to face my ass, and that’s just not healthy for my self-esteem.

I haven’t thought a lot about this.

I leave America to find the places where Harvard and excrement have the same meaning—which is to say, they have no meaning, no expectation. I like to figure out who I am without Harvard. Not to say I am not glad I went there—I am. It increases the value of my eggs. I also have amazing genius friends who I’m proud of not because of their success, but because they seem happy with the lives they have worked so hard for. For me, here at home, it’s done more damage then good, because I feel like I’m accidentally wearing an elite runner number at the front of the race, but I’m overwhelmed by the futility of running, and just want to scream excuse me, there’s no finish line.

I don’t have a career, I’ve been rejected from graduate schools, I have no savings and no idea where my next income will come from—whether it’ll be a few bucks for a piece I’ve spent two weeks writing, or teaching creative writing, or from a film gig I can’t even imagine today. I wouldn’t have predicted this ten years ago. I would have predicted some semblance of shit being together. As scattered as the pieces are, my life feels whole. The past month I spent with kids in Sri Lanka was bliss. (I don’t do humanitarian work to make the world a better place—I do it to make the inside of my head a better place.) And the kids in Sri Lanka made me miss the kids in Bulgaria, which made me miss the kids from Iolani, who are grown up now, traveling their own worlds. I love Ryan, and today is the only day I have to love him, and if he still loves me tomorrow, then that is incredible, and I have my whole heart to be grateful with. I have someone to look at the world with through the same lens–a rare and kind of broken lens. I have a sweet Bulgarian street dog, who everyone thinks is psycho, but who I think is perfect. I have wonderful families that take care of me in ways I cannot take care of myself.

I don’t know what I want to with my life, but I know at night I fall asleep on a slanted twin futon, and spread myself out on my sheet like it’s butcher paper at summer fun, and imagine someone’s tracing my body, I’m 8 or I’m 30, I see the fine chalk outline between art and death. Every night I fill my head with clouds and chest with butterflies, because that’s all I know how to draw. There’s so much empty space, but it’s okay.

It’s okay.

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3 Responses to “thoughts on my harvard 10-year reunion.”

  1. Jenny,

    Wonderful description of life in the same-same ‘define me with a box-knife and a catalog dress-pattern’ train-wreck we all seem to riding these days. I found it useful to simply think of myself and my own journey as a ‘zig-zag cum laude’. D’na thrash th’self, as some old Scotsman must have said – in the end, a backbone will magically appear and all the ziggers and zaggers you’ve had to take will reveal their own reasons, to your credit — trust me. Meanwhile, don’t wait for the Great Outliner – just grab the nearest box of Crayolas (16-32-64-GIANT-ALL-THE-COLORS-THAT-EXIST, doesn’t matter) and draw yourself, anyway you want. That will be outline enough for the rest of us that enjoy the locus of events that is you. The reason some of us ‘seem’ to enjoy our lives is that there are people such as you whom we enjoy knowing, listening, feeling – the celebration continues, even if the party seems to progress in fits and starts. – go girl….

    • 2 jenn meleana

      wow red, thank you so much for your comment–a beautiful piece in and of itself. good thing there are no metaphor police out there… i might be stealing some of yours. i want a catalog dress that says: there is no such thing as one size fits all!

  2. This is, all of it, deeply delicious.


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