Sunday, November 7, 2010

Loving the Reader

When I share stories with other people, I'm most afraid that the readers will think the story is not important, or that I'm using false magnitude. My poetry professor told me that I need to love the reader if I want them to listen. This threw me at first, because I often harbor hostile feelings towards my readers. If I write a story about someone who lost a loved one to a drunk driver, I assume I'm writing to people who think drunk driving is okay. I sound very defensive, like the person I'm talking to is not on my side.

I discussed this with a close friend a few days ago, and we got on the topic of non-fiction books - my friend said that when he learns a new topic, he prefers to read books for people in the field rather than those intended for outsiders. I hadn't thought about this before, but introductory books and courses do treat people like outsiders sometimes. I read an introductory guide to acting in high school, and so much of the book was focused on the benefits of acting and how you can use the skills in other areas of life. The book was meant for readers who are deciding whether or not they want to act. As someone who was already immersed in acting, I wasn't interested in reading about why I should get involved. I found the same thing in many of my intro courses - professors tried to convince us of why we should be interested and care about their subjects. But in our seminar classes, it was assumed that we were already interested and already cared a lot about the subject. There was a strong sense of being an insider.

Maybe the way to create intimacy with the reader is to treat them like an insider; write for people who are already in the field instead of introducing them to the field. I don't mean using jargon or assuming knowledge of a given topic; I mean assuming that the reader is interested and cares about the story. I used to assume that understanding came entirely from explaining, that I could make the reader feel anything as long as they understood every detail of what a character had been through and why they acted the way they did. I still think this is true, to an extent, but it is not enough for everyone. When my mom and I watched the movie, Step Up,  my mom didn't feel any empathy for the girl who wanted to join a professional dance company, because her alternative was going to college (even though she didn't want to go to college). I have argued about this a lot with my mom, mainly because it's what I worry about the most in my own writing. I feel like no matter how clear I am, there will be some people who will just think that it's not serious conflict or the character is overreacting.

Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of meeting with an author who has sailed around the world and written about his travels, as well as other topics of interest such as tennis and poker. He sat down with me and walked me through his process from start to finish. I asked him about the issue of readers caring about what you say, and he said it's not something to worry about. A book about poker is for people who want to play poker. It would be silly to worry that people who don't play poker won't read the book. What I got out of this answer at the time was that nonfiction was easier to write, but now I think what this author said might be true in fiction as well. There will always be some people don't feel for that aspiring dancer, but plenty of people like the movie anyway because it was very popular. Some people will never be interested in playing poker, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have books on poker for people who want to learn.

While clarity of a character's history and motivations may be the key to understanding, I need to trust the reader to understand. I need to treat my readers as insiders, as people who are already interested and normally care about stories like the one I'm telling. I do think it is a great achievement to grab a reader who would not normally care about your story, but actually aiming the story towards them makes the narration sound defensive. It is important to grab the reader's attention and maintain their interest throughout the story, but confidence comes from accepting that every single person will not think your story is important, no matter what you do. And that's okay because I am committed to readers do care. If I treat all my readers like they care, then maybe they will.

Friday, October 29, 2010

How to Write the Truth

A few years ago, I was looking through some stories I had written when I was younger, and found one that was hard to understand.  It was one I wrote in 7th grade, based on a true story: A girl gets a substitute teacher who seems really mean at first, but the girl develops a special bond with her by the end.  The substitute has a keen sense of the kids' social dynamics and has a way of reducing relational bullying in the class without letting on that she's doing this on purpose. 

The problem with this story is that I was never clear about what was going on in the classroom before this teacher came along.  We get the sense that the main character has experienced relational bullying, but we never see it happening.  She's always referencing a conflict with certain classmates, but we have zero idea what the problem is. My guess is that I didn't want to get into the details because I was too close to it.  I was unfamiliar with the term "relational bullying" in middle school, and wasn't sure if what went on in my school would even be classified as bullying.  For these reasons, I circled my way around the central conflict and hoped the reader would know what was going on.

I did something similar in a semi-true story that I wrote for my college fiction writing class - I jumped around a lot, saying things like "We talked all night" without even saying what the characters were talking about.  I had the lead character hanging out with some people, and a moment later saying that they weren't really her friends, with no explanation of what the problem is or why she is hanging out with them in spite of this. My classmates pointed out these issues, an as I was editing and adding more detail, it became clear why I hadn't included those details in the first place - because everything I wrote about was still going on, and it hurt to relive everything and to create false conclusions for issues that had not been resolved.

I am almost finished editing my first novel and am beginning to outline my second one, which is based on a true story. And as I envision the scenes, I find myself doing what I did for that seventh grade story and for my first fiction writing class - I keep circling around the core issues, making references to things as if the reader already knows what I'm talking about. I thought I had learned better than that, but I guess I'm just afraid. I really wish certain parts would just write themselves so that I don't actually have to go back there.  

I have a lot of respect for people who tell their stories.  I was just rereading my professor Jenny Boylan's memoir, "I'm Looking Through You," and admiring how much courage it must have taken to become her real self and tell her story.  One of our earliest classes was a lecture on inspiration, which I assumed would mean learning how to observe things and write down people's conversations, but instead, Jenny told us that we each had something to say, something that only we could say, and that we shouldn't be afraid to tell our stories.  

So I'm going ahead with my second book, and I will be clear.  I'll be aware of my tendency to circle around things from the start.  Every time a person says how they feel about something, I will make sure the reader knows why.  Even if it means reliving everything.  I've seen so many classmates take on a heavy course load and say, "I'm gonna die this year," while their tone would indicate that this was ultimately okay, no matter how much they would complain later on.  I suppose I'm about to embark on similar journey.  For the next six months, or however long it takes me to complete my second book, I will constantly be screaming in caps lock about the past not leaving me alone.  And you can tell me I'm crazy to do something I don't have to do when it hurts, but people do it all the time. Passion trumps pain.  And sometimes we do things that hurt because not doing them would hurt even more.

**2012 Update: If you're wondering why I haven't been screaming in caps lock over this second novel, it's because I got a better story idea and decided to save this true story for my third novel. I will get to it, and when I do, it will be a lot less painful.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Why Correlation Is Not Causation

I've been thinking a lot about regrets lately, mainly in terms of my college choice.  I keep going back and analyzing what I was thinking at the time, how I could have ever thought that I would be happy with the choice I made.  A lot of people choose a school for its academic programs, but my choice was based entirely on where I would have the most fun, be the happiest, and feel like I belong.  With those priorities, it's hard to understand what went wrong.

Then I starting thinking about my psych stats class, which psychology majors were required to take.  Most students found this class a bit of a drag, but there were parts of the class that I had fun with, particularly correlation without causation.  For example: if a study shows that students who sit in the front of the class tend to do better in school than students who sit in the back, you can't tell for sure whether sitting up front causes students to do better, because there could be other reasons for the correlation (ex: maybe students who are more studious tend to sit in the front).  In stats class, we were often given homework problems in which someone would claim that A causes B, and we would have to explain why this wasn't necessarily true and come up with alternative explanations.  I loved thinking up alternative explanations.  There are only three basic types of correlations: A causes B, B causes A, or a third factor C causes both A and B.  But since that third factor could be anything, the explanations can be infinite.

But for a required class that was only supposed to teach us how to run a psych study, I realize now that it's really applicable to other things. Here are a couple of statements that might have appeared on our homework, statements we would be asked to challenge:

1. Students at school A have higher scores on a large number of positive, socially desirable things than students at school B.  Therefore, school A is better for everyone.

2. A student wants to go to the college where she'll have the most fun, be the happiest, and feel like she belongs.  The best college for her would be a place where students have the most fun, are the happiest, and feel a sense of belonging

It's obvious to me that these statements are not true, and I could list a ton of reasons why with alternative explanations.  But I didn't always get it.  There was a time when I believed these statements, back when I applied to college. Maybe I needed all those examples in statistics class to really understand.  I hope that I'll be less naive now, that I will no longer look at things and see the explanation that I want to see, when a million other explanations are possible.  And if I ever help someone look at colleges or jobs or anything, I will use my understanding of correlation explanations to help them make the right personal choice.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What Does Your Bedroom Reveal?

I have always loved seeing people's bedrooms because I feel like I'm peeking into the person's soul.  Last year I read about a study in which participants went into the dorm rooms of students that they didn't know and rated their personalities based only on the room.  For traits that were not centered around social interactions, the ratings were about the same as the ratings that the students' close friends gave them.  This made me realize just how intense it really is to enter someone else's bedroom.  It's normal to bring friends into your bedroom when they come over to your parents' house, but once people own an apartment or house, it becomes more normal to keep guests in the living room or some other visiting area that is separate from their bedroom.  Usually when you're visiting someone in a two-story house, you stay on the first floor, away from the bedrooms.  I do think that when people own the entire house, every part of it expresses them, but I always have a desire to see adults' bedrooms.  I'm always curious how the upstairs is different from the first floor, where they keep their visitors.  When I get my own apartment - even if I own a two-story house someday - I will always invite my friends into my bedroom and hope that they will do the same.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Language

As language evolves, words take on new meanings. Sometimes a word that used to cover a variety of things can start to mean something more specific, like the way that "partying" usually implies drinking now, but as the word evolved, we never got a new word that included other types of parties. It's like if strawberries get so popular that when we say "fruit," we're only talking about strawberries.  Good for strawberries, I guess, but what about all the other fruits?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why Do People Hate Math?

In my psych classes, we’ve talked a lot about the gender divide in math – the fact that girls are less likely to pursue math or science related careers than boys are. We read articles about stereotype threat, which means that people perform based on perceived stereotypes, like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The stereotype is that girls aren’t good at math, so when students are given a math test and told that gender differences were found, girls don’t score as high as boys on average. But when students aren’t told anything about gender differences, there are no gender differences. I’ve read that stereotype threat can also just be present in the classroom, in the way that teachers treat their students. If the teacher expects a student to succeed or fail at something, their expectation is likely to come true.  I do believe that this is where the math gap partially comes from, but I wonder if whether we perceive math as a favorable or unfavorable talent also plays a role.

I don’t actually know if this is related to the gender divide, if my experience is specific to girls or if everyone feels this way. Basically, I’ve noticed major differences in the way people react to other people’s skills. If I mention that I’m writing a novel to someone who doesn’t like writing, they’re usually really impressed by that. They say, “I could never do that,” with admiration, like what they really mean to say is, “That’s cool that you can do that.” I received the same reactions when talking about theatre or dance with someone who doesn’t like being on stage. However, if I mention that I like math to someone who doesn’t, they look at me like I must be crazy. They say, “I could never do that,” indicating that they’re a better person because they can’t do math. I’ve known people in the arts who glorify the fact that they aren’t good at math, and a few even implied that my interest in math or science would somehow corrupt my creativity. I have never had a math or science teacher indicate that being creative was a negative thing.

These attitudes could impact kids who struggle with math. If someone gets the vibe that math is overrated or unnecessary, they could become complacent and figure math isn’t their thing instead of getting help after school. And I think these attitudes about math can influence the way that good math students perceive their talent. Math was my best subject in high school and I was usually one of the best in my classes, but it never meant very much to me. Writing is a part of my identity and theatre used to be, but math was never like that. Maybe it was because I never got the same amount of praise for being good at math as I did for the other things. Excelling in math just wasn’t something that made me special the way that theatre and writing did. For people with multiple interests, this sense of importance and self-identity might have an impact on what they choose to pursue.

And when did math become the opposite of art, creativity, warmth, emotion, and sociability? Do we seriously think that a person who is good at math can’t also write poetry? That a math person can’t be a people person or be just as warm and caring as someone in a non-math profession? Perhaps the stereotype threat comes not only from the stereotype of girls not being good at math, but also from the stereotype that girls are more emotional or sensitive or whatever we’re considering to be the opposite of math. That's another issue, but why do we have to choose? Is it not possible to be more than one thing?

I understand that plenty of people just legitimately don’t like math and I don’t mean to pressure anyone into it. But I would encourage everyone to acknowledge that math is a skill and a talent, and being good at math is a positive thing. Excelling math is just as good as excelling in anything else. We should start to treat it as a serious passion, as something that makes a person special and makes them who they are. I don’t mean to say that a person who has multiple interests should automatically choose math over something else, but it would be great if math were just as favorable as whatever else a person liked so that they really could choose based on what they are better at or what interests them the most.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Caught in the Spiral

I always loved the holidays when I was growing up. Holidays to me were pure fun and I never understood why adults found them so stressful. As I got older, I figured adults must be stressed because they had so much to do, but in the past few years, I discovered another reason why holidays can be hard for people.

I once read a theory that time is not linear - time travels in a spiral. We live on a the cycle of a year, and while we are constantly moving forward, we continue going around in a circle, thus creating a spiral. This means that even as we move forward, we keep ending up in the same places. At any given moment, you're standing parallel to wherever you were on that same date last year, and the year before that, as far back as you can remember.

We probably don't think about this on ordinary days. When it comes to these parallel connections, the repeating rituals seem to have the most power; things like holidays, birthdays, and the school year cycle, can automatically link you to other memories you have of those times. I'm done with school now but I still love summer and cringe at the thought of September. Last year I felt really sick while room draw was going on even though I was a senior and wasn't participating. Holidays can be hard because they are a link to the past. They can remind people of horrible times that they don't want to relive, even if things are much better now. They make losses more salient because you remember being with people you lost at the holidays. Even crossing someone's name off your Christmas card list forces you to think about why you're not that close anymore.

The issue about spiraling is that it is not always a choice. You can decide that you'd like to celebrate your wedding anniversary or do something to remember a loved one who died every year, but what happens when you want to just go forward and the person's death starts haunting you because it's around that time of year? I know a lot of people who have experience this, and it seems like negative, unwanted memories seep in more easily when the anniversary dates roll around. It brings me to the question: is spiraling a good idea? We can always access our memories by choice when we want to; we don't need spiraling for that. What would happen if we stopped?

I understand that the earth revolves around the sun and that we can't control the cycle of the seasons. But why do we have to base our lives on that revolution cycle? What if we had weeks, and only weeks, and we just continued on like that forever. (We don't even have to have weeks - just any short cycle of days that would give us days off). We'd still have vacation time, but it would just be a pattern, like one week off every four weeks, or something like that. There would be really long vacations too, but they wouldn't be linked to the summer or holidays - there would just be a pattern that we would have those long vacations after a certain number of days.

I understand that this would still be a cycle and that the week itself is a cycle, but it's a smaller cycle. The smaller the spiral is, the closer it is to just being linear. If something horrible happened on a Tuesday, it's unlikely that you would relive it every Tuesday of your life because there are so many Tuesdays that it's not really significant what day of the week the horrible event happened. With a smaller spiral, we wouldn't have those force links to the past that come from linking an event to a time of year. People would have their own rituals like, "every five weeks we'll have a special date to celebrate our marriage," but it would be everyone's choice. We would always have access to our memories, but we would really feel as far away from things as we are, and it would be easier to keep that distance if we wanted to. Maybe then, time would feel linear and no one would get caught in the spiral.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How We Define Thinking and Feeling

Do you make decisions based on logic or your feelings? For most of my life, this was an easy question. When we say, "follow your heart," it means do what you really want to do. I always assumed that logic was based more on what you should do and feelings were based more on what you wanted to. By this definition, I decide things based on feelings.

In psychology, we talked about feelings as intuition. Logic meant that you analyzed the situation and results of each choice, and intuition meant that you just had a gut feeling about the right thing to do without any real explanation. Whether you use logic or feelings (or some of both) to make a decision, these things are processes. You shouldn't be able to label someone as thinking or feelings based only on their final decisions. But sometimes, we label someone as more logical or more emotional based on whether or not their priorities match the standard priorities of their culture or society.

Let's say that a person gets two similar job offers, except that one has a much higher salary. The one with the higher salary is far away, whereas the lower-paying job is close to home. I predict that we would classify someone who takes the higher paying job as logical and someone who takes the close-to-home job as feeling. This decision has to do with personal priorities, but since our society values the salary and expects people to be willing to move for a job, we assume that the person who acts in accordance with these values must be more logical.

But thinking is a process. If two people list the pros and cons of each option and make different decisions because they have different priorities, they both used thinking. If two people had a gut feeling about which job was right for them and both chose different jobs, they both used feeling. We can't decide whether someone is thinking or feelings based on what they decide.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Writing a Story: To Outline or Not to Outline?

People ask about the writing process a lot - whether it is better to outline a story first or to just start writing and see what happens. I've heard about an equal number of arguments for careful planning and for seeing where you end up as you're going. Here's what I think:

The other day, I told a friend that I had spent the whole afternoon just running scenarios in my head. My friend said that she wouldn't be able to do that - that she would need to write the story down in order to figure out which scenario would work best. But I have a very hard time writing something with no idea where I'll end up. Then I read an article about personality differences in the way that people answer questions: some people start answering right away because the act of talking helps them figure out the answer, whereas others formulate an answer in their head before saying anything out loud. Either method works - it just depends on how you process your thoughts. I think that same principle could be true for writing - for some people, the act of writing might help them to figure out where the story is going, while other people might find it easier to map it out in their head before starting.

What you should do might depend on the way the story enters your mind, and the speed of your thoughts in relation to the speed of your writing. If you're sitting at the computer deciding what should come next, you can either choose a direction and type it out to see if it will work, or you can run the scenario in your head to see if it will work. Whichever way works better for you will probably tell you whether you're more of a planner or if you'd rather just see where the writing takes you. But it is possible that whichever method works better for you is related to your personality, in which case, either way would be correct.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Colby College Secrets

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March 21, 2013

I originally wrote this list as a series of Facebook notes over the course of a few days at the start of September 2010. It was the first fall that I would not be returning to school, but after 4 years of leaving my life behind come September, and after seeing all the Facebook statuses about how happy everyone was to go back to Colby, the flashbacks wouldn't go away. I decided to tell everyone exactly what I was feeling.

I posted this list to my blog in March 2013 and backdated it to this date. These notes weren't actually on my blog on this day because I was trying to keep it "nice."

If you've read the rest of my blog, you'll find that some of these topics are repetitive. This is actually the first time that I wrote about any of these topics, but I have since discussed many of them in more detail.

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Since I've graduated, I have decided to spill all my secrets that I didn't say while I was in school.

Secret #1: I think that reasoning is everything.  For example: Let’s say a person hates gym class because they are required to wear sneakers with laces and they have a really hard time tying their shoelaces.  You might say that they’re not alone because a lot of people hate gym class, but most of those people hate it for different reasons.  Until this person finds someone else who has the same problem tying shoelaces, they’re all alone.

People often tell me that I’m not alone, that a lot of people don’t/didn’t like Colby, or college in general.  But I don’t consider it something we have in common unless some of our reasons are the same.

Secret #2: When someone tells me that another person has changed for the better, I really want to meet that other person and ask them if they are happier now.  I feel the same way when someone tells me that someone else is going down the wrong path.  I just need to hear how the person involved feels about it - I can't trust an outside source.  I feel this way especially if the person is talking about their own child.

Secret #3: I never wanted to study abroad (study abroad was big at Colby) When I changed my major at the end of sophomore year, I realized that I would not be able to study abroad because of a two-part class I had to take my junior year.  I was relieved because now I would have a reason to give people and I would never have to say that I didn't want to.

Secret #4: I much preferred the food in Foss and Bob’s, but I ate in Dana because I felt most comfortable with the social atmosphere there. It was the closest to my high school.

Secret #5: I don’t like to read while I eat.  I brought my binder to the dining halls because it made me feel more comfortable to have something with me since everyone else reads when they’re eating alone, but I didn't actually look at it while I was eating.  I mean, that’s college right there – everyone engaged in a social or intellectual activity.  Dana was the only place I felt comfortable because it was the only place I ever saw anyone else sitting alone and just eating.

Secret #6: Something died inside me when I realized that no one loved summer vacation as much as I did anymore and I would be alone in my plight to cram a year’s worth of awesomeness into three months.

Secret #7: I usually print things double-sided, but there have been a few things that I needed to print single-sided, such as flyers.  I used to print things like this at odd times when no one else would be in the library.  It wasn’t personal guilt – I was just afraid of getting caught.

Secret #8: I still think a B is a good grade, even more so at the college level.  It's nothing that a person needs an excuse or explanation for.  No one will ever convince me otherwise.

Secret #9: I always used to congratulate people on their accomplishments.  In my early days of college, I noticed that people seemed less excited about their own achievements.  People would say, "I got an A on that test" in a casual, matter-of-fact-tone.  I still felt really psyched for them, so ignoring my better judgment of social cues, I would say, "Congratulations! That's awesome!"  Instead of saying "thank you," the person would give me a strange look, as if I had just congratulated them for tying their shoelaces.  This happened a lot.  And I felt really bad.  

A lot of people say that people get angry or jealous about other people's accomplishments, but the truth is that I actually still feel happy for other people.  But I will never say so out loud because we have different ideas about what is praiseworthy and what is not, I will not take the risk of being wrong and feeling inadequate. 

Secret #10: You know when you click on an internet offer or quiz and you have to go through a million other offers to reach the end result and after a while you decide it's not worth it anymore?  That's how I felt when I went to talks and events on campus - it was never good enough to just go to that one event.  There was always pressure to go to more events or join clubs associated with event.  Events are for people who love to be involved and like to go to a lot of events.  It's not really true to say that everyone is welcome. 

Secret #11: I often wish I had been part of the drinking culture even though I don’t like to drink.  My number one priority in choosing a college was that it would be a really fun experience.  I loved the focus on “playing hard” and putting so much value on having fun.  People who drink have entire days devoted to fun, like doghead, where that time is off-limits for scheduling other things.   As a chem-free student, people assume that you don’t have the same concept of that non-productive fun.  We’re more expected to want to integrate academics into our fun (which I never wanted to do).  We’re expected to be more willing to work on weekends or give up our free time in other ways.  I should have just learned to love drinking because it was really where I belonged in terms of my values.

Secret #12:
1. Some people are satisfied with their lifestyles and search for situations that will allow them to continue living that way.

2. Some people want to change certain things about their lifestyles and search for situations that will help them to make those changes.

3. Some people do not put their lifestyle as a priority when making a decision.  Other aspects of the situation are more important to them, and they are willing to make changes if necessary.

I’m the first type and it seems like everyone I know is the third type, or pretends to be.  It’s clear that the third type is the most desirable.  A lot of my relationships were damaged because of this difference.  The last time I had had friends telling me how to feel was back in middle school.  But once I started college and I expressed my problems with the new lifestyle, so many people told me, “that’s good because it forces you to…”  And I told them that I didn’t want to be forced and I wasn’t interested in making those changes and that it was absolutely not okay.  But they kept at it.  I couldn’t get anyone to understand that it was not okay because it wasn’t okay with me even if it was okay with everyone else.

I’m sure people think that I came to accept the things I once complained about, but I was actually able to improve my situation a little each year so that I was better able to live the way I wanted to at school.  But my experience taught me that no one wants to help you out of a situation like this – they just want to convince you that you should be okay with it.  If I’m ever in a situation like this again, I will know not to talk to anyone.  There are certain things that I will never trust anyone to understand.

Secret #13: My professors had so much respect for my choices.  If I were talking about my schedule assuming that I was taking four classes each semester, they would assume the same thing and not bring up the possibility of taking five classes.  They assumed that if I were willing to so that, I would have mentioned it myself.  Even if they’d just talked to someone who was taking six classes at once, they never acted like there was anything wrong or weird about my choice.

Herein lies the difference between professors and peers, and why I stopped talking to other students about schedule plans.

Secret #14: I really miss our conversations about nothing and the days of meaningless fun.  College destroyed that life.  We can never get it back.

Secret #15: People often say "You can learn a lot about a person from..." Sometimes it's a simple thing, like seeing someone's music collection or walking in their home unexpected.  Other times it's more intense, like actually living in the same dorm as the person.  But either way, there's always a focus on the other person; you'll get to see sides of them that you wouldn't see otherwise and you'll know what they're really like and things that they wouldn't have otherwise revealed to you.  And that's considered a good thing.  I never liked that idea - I like learning people's secrets but I'd rather that they tell me themselves.  It would be invasive for me to try to figure them out by purposely walking into their room unannounced or something. The thought of that always scared me because there is a very small portion of the day that I'm willing to act all friendly, but the rest of the time I want to be left alone and I knew that if people saw what I'm like most of the time I wouldn't have any friends.  But since everyone else seems to have the time of their life living at college and being their real selves and whatnot, I brushed it off and figured that everything would be fine.  Needless to say, it wasn't.    

Secret #16: I was about six years old when I learned that college came after high school, and it did not seem optional to me.  So I informed my parents that I would be going to a "drop-off college", meaning that my parents would drop me off and pick me up each day.  In other words, I did not want to go away to college and live there.  Whenever I said this to my parents or other adults, they would always tell me that I would change my mind when the time came.  Or else they would look at each other and smile, like they shared a secret that I would find out about later on in life. As the time for college grew closer, I became more open to the possibility of going a little farther away to college and living on campus since everyone else seemed to be psyched about it.  I went along with it even though based on my past and what I knew about myself, it was just not logical that I would enjoy it.  And while I didn't understand all the complexities of the situation when I was six, my basic reasons for not wanting to live at school are what held true for the last four years.  None of this would have happened if I had only trusted myself.

The subject of having kids often arises, and I really don't appreciate it when everyone tells me that I'll change my mind about not wanting kids.  (No one's ever too young to know that they do want kids, but that's another story).  I always expect adults to question whether or not we'll change our minds about stuff later on, but come on.  Whatever happened to that peer connection we had in elementary school where someone said what they were going to do when they were older and the rest of us accepted it as fact?  Of course a person can always change their mind, but what difference does it make?  I have friends who've told me they want to have ten or twelve kids and I assume that they will, yet everyone tells me that I'm too young to know what I want.  Apparently I wasn't too young when I was six years old. 

There is nothing wrong with changing your mind a lot, but that doesn't mean that everyone will.  I am not too young to know what I want.  If anything I'm too old to know because I've influenced by too many people already.  

Secret #17: I don't have any guilty pleasures because I don't feel guilty about doing things that I enjoy.  The term "guilty pleasure" was one I had only really heard older adults using until I went to college.

Secret #18: If you've ever purchased a round-trip ticket, you got ripped off.  Anytime you leave, you have no idea whether or not you'll be coming back.  Things can change while you're gone and you can change while you're gone and no matter how badly you want to return, you just can't.  You can go back physically and stand in the same place you stood before you left but not really be back where you were.  I think we assume that everywhere we go, we can always come back and everything will be the same again.  We think about what we will gain from an experience, but not what we might lose.  The stakes are different for everyone - some people have a stronger desire to leave than others.  Some people don't actually want to return to their current situation, or do not care very much about doing so.  What's important is to understand your own stakes and risks and priorities every time you make a choice.  I never would have left had I known that I didn't really have a round-trip ticket to college.

Secret #19: Everyone assumes that New Englanders love snow and don't really mind the cold.  But for a lot of us, winter means running from a heated car to a heated building and stocking our houses with junk food when we're about to be snowed in.  I look forward to a nice, non-Colby winter.

Secret #20: Back in high school, I was sick of all the focus on college and decided to write an anti-college essay, which would include everything I couldn't say in my college essay. 

This is one of those stories that people say you'll look back on and laugh about.  Well, I still love the idea of my essay - I would do that again in a second.  What I'm laughing about is just how mild everything was compared to what I would put in an anti-college essay now.

Secret #21: Never in a million years would I have imagined that my peers would be telling me what to talk about with my own friends on my own time.  Words like "dialogue" and "conversation" will always make me cringe.  
           
Secret #22: I do not believe in positive pressure; I think pressuring anyone to do something that they don't want to do is wrong, even if the thing itself is good.  I make no distinction between pressuring someone to get wasted or join a club or try a drug or get a haircut if the person has made it clear that they don't want to do it.

The only positive pressure I see is if someone actually wants to do something - if a friend really wants to try out for the track team but they're afraid they won't be good enough, and you encourage them to go for it anyway.  It's positive not because the track team is an objectively positive thing, but because you're helping someone to do something that they wanted to do.  If you asked a friend if they wanted to join the track team with you and they said they weren't interested because they'd rather go home right after school and watch TV, I'd consider that a done deal and any further pressure would be negative because it's not what your friend wants to do.

When I first learned about peer pressure back in elementary school, we went through scenarios in which one kid was pressuring another kid to do something wrong, such as stealing.  Once we reached high school, peer pressure was all about drugs, alcohol, and sex (which are important issues - I don't mean to downplay that).  So peer pressure has been long associated with pressure to do things that are wrong or that our teachers considered wrong, but we all get a lot of pressure to do all kinds of things, most of which aren't wrong and some of which are even positive.  How about running a scenario with one kid pressuring another kid to join a club that does volunteer work, which the other kid doesn't want to join.  Why not teach kids how to say no in a situation like that?  

Secret #23: I once read that when you’re dating someone, it’s a good idea to live together for a full year before deciding to get married.  This lets you see if you really enjoy day-to-day life together once the infatuation period has worn off.  It also allows you to go through a full cycle together – you get to see how things will be different once you’re living together: holidays, your birthday, your best and worst times.  You get a glimpse of what it will really be like and can decide if the new life is really what both of you want.

I think this idea can be applied to things other than marriage.  I know that freshman year of college is a hard adjustment for most people, but I also think that most people can tell whether it is just the adjustment or whether they actually don’t like it.  Once my fabricated infatuation with the school wore off, I got that glimpse of how everything would be different – holidays, my birthday, my best and worst times, and I was not okay with any of it.  It was toxic relationship.  That was the time to cut and run.

Secret #24: I have read that when people get out of a relationship and start dating again, they sometimes look for people who will have what the last person they dated was missing, and those qualities become the highest priority.  If you had just dated someone who was freeloading off you and didn’t want to get a job, having job and being financially stable might rise to the top of your priority list for a potential partner, even if it wasn’t as important to you before. 

Most people I met in college told me what to do and how I should feel, more than anyone I’ve met at any other stage of my life.  Now I find people who don’t care about anything most attractive because I know they won’t put any pressure on me.  

Secret #25: Choosing four hours as my maximum college distance was kind of like looking at a mountain from the ground: it doesn’t seem as far up as it really is until you’re at the top.  Almost every time someone asked how far away I was and I said four hours, they responded with, “Oh. Well, that’s just the right distance.”  A statement, not a question.  And I would correct them and say no, I should have gone closer.  I don’t use comparative values – I won’t say that my distance was okay because other people had to travel farther.

When I was at home and I told someone that I went to school four hours away – whether it was a co-worker, friend-of-a-friend, or even someone I barely knew – nine times out of ten they would respond with, “Wow!  That’s so far away!”  Each time, I wanted to give them a hug and say, “Thank you for validating me!” but instead I just smiled and said, “Yeah.  It is.”

Secret #26: You know those people in word problems?  People who need to fence in their 20 x 30 yards or buy as many shirts as they can at the 50% off sale and apparently never had math class in school so it becomes our homework to help them?  I'm kind of jealous of them.

Mary wants to bake a cake for 100 people and has 1 cup of sugar in her house.  How many cups of sugar does she need to buy?  

Okay, I know that's not enough information, but if you were going to try to solve this problem, you would assume the facts given cannot be changed.  You wouldn't question why Mary wants to bake this cake.  You wouldn't tell her that it would be easier to feed 100 people with cookies.  You just answer the question as it is asked and assume that the other details are fixed factors - things that Mary is not interested in changing.

I am jealous of people like Mary because questions like this are never as simple in real life.  If you ask for that kind of help, people will ask you why you really need to fence in your entire yard or whether you'll actually wear all those clothes you buy on sale.  With any question you ask, you must be prepared to defend your position.  In the world of word problems, everyone respects your decisions. 

Secret #27: In Avenue Q, Kate Monster sings, "You'll never know till you reach the top if it was worth the uphill climb."  Then we've got Miley Cyrus singing "It's all about the climb."  I'm not sure who to believe on this one.  Four years ago I would have sided with Miley Cyrus, but times have changed.  All I have to say about the matter now is that if everyone's all gung-ho about climbing Mount Everest, their excitement is irrelevant to how YOU will feel once you're on the mountain.  What is relevant is how you felt the last time you climbed a smaller mountain, and if you actually thought you'd like climbing higher.

Secret #28: My graduation song is "Because of You."

Secret #29: My high school did three plays every year and our director usually chose plays with a lot of parts so a lot of people could be in them.  Getting to perform more was one of the main things I was looking forward to about college, one of the main reasons that I wanted to actually go to college and be part of the campus life.  My plan was to choose a school that did a lot of plays but didn't specialize in theatre so that it wouldn't be too competitive.  Once I realized that it was competitive and that unlike my high school director, college kids don't care about trying to include everyone who wants to do it, my interest in being at college was basically gone.  

We have a new tradition now of doing a big musical in the first two weeks of the school year that everyone can be in.  At first I liked this idea, but then I realized that if I were a freshman, it would really lure me in and make me think that there would be tons of shows like this for everyone, when in reality I would probably not get into anything else throughout the year.

Secret #30: When I tried out for stuff and didn't get in, I just felt so alone afterwards.  In high school, we could all commiserate about not getting into the play or getting a good part, and I could even commiserate with friends who didn't care as much about it because at some point, something similar would happen to them in something that they did care about, and then they could talk to me about it.  But at college no one seemed to care that much.  Anyone who really cared about anything was good enough to get in.  People who weren't good enough would just do something else instead and it was no big deal.  It was with the simple things like first auditions when I began to realize that I would no longer have the same support system we did in high school because now I was expected not to care about things that really mattered to me a lot.  

Secret #31: When something is bothering me, I will often avoid talking about the problem itself and focus on the fact that I can’t discuss it with anyone else, especially if it’s really taking a toll on me.  I’m just scared that if I actually say what the problem is, people will think that it’s not enough to be as upset as I am about it. 

When someone indicates to me that something is of a certain importance, I try to accept that at face value even if the same thing wouldn’t matter as much to me.  I don’t trust many people to give me that same level of respect in return.

Secret #32: I know plenty of people who would have liked to transfer or wish they had gone somewhere else either on the same level as Colby or more prestigious.  I think I am the only one who wishes I had gone to a state university.

Secret #33: Being sick is a million times worse in college, and not just because you're away from home.  Like most people, I am happy when I feel in control of the situation.  When I was in high school and I went to school when I was sick, it was a choice.  i could have stayed home and had an extra day to make up my homework, but it was my decision to go.   I used to like the idea of continuing on and not letting the illness get me down, but it didn't feel like I was making that choice in college.  I know I could have skipped classes in college, but wasn't the same.  I felt like I was dragged out of bed and forced to function.  Well, I'm not into the functioning thing anymore.  The next time I have the slightest cold I will skip work and stay in bed for a week.

Secret #34: There was always this assumption that we have all these friends who we can ask to do all this stuff.  One of my psych class projects involved covering the campus with flyers and our professor kept telling us that we had friends who could help.  Telling.  As if she knew this for a fact.  In another psych class, our group of four needed to get 60 participants for a study.  I was fine asking random people to do it, but I felt an underlying assumption among the group members that we each had 15 people who would come if we asked them to.  Our professor indicated this as well.  Last fall we were told that if we got the flu we should have a friend pick up food for us so we wouldn't infect everyone.  Under the assumption that everyone had someone they were comfortable asking to do this.  I decided that if I got the flu I was just not going to eat.  But I didn't.

Secret #35: There is a difference between worrying and caring.  People who worry about you don't necessarily care about you.  Worrying implies that you're concerned that something bad might happen in the future or that a situation will worsen.  Caring, on the other hand, does not have to refer to the future.  When you care about someone, you just care about how they feel at a given moment.  If something is wrong, you want to resolve the problem even if you know that it won't turn into a major issue if left alone.  The fact that it won't matter in 10 or 20 years is irrelevant because you care about how the person feels at this exact moment, right now.

Secret #36: I thought everyone had regrets.  I thought having regrets was a common human experience.  I never had serious regrets until I went to college, but it was there that I realized it wasn't such a common experience after all.  Everyone I talked to who didn't like the experience seemed to be ultimately okay with the way things turned out, or at least accepted it as learning experience even if it wasn't what they wanted.  My counselor said to me at the end of the year, "I hope you don't regret it."  Hello?  What have we been talking about all year?  Yes, I actually regret it.  I would undo it all in an instant.

Secret #37: If I didn't know how to swim and someone pushed me into a lake because they thought I would learn how to swim from that experience, we would be done.  Whatever relationship I had with them would be over and I wouldn't trust them again.  Intentions wouldn't matter.  If it did make me learn how to swim, that wouldn't matter either.  For me, the end result of something does not make it okay if the thing itself was not okay to begin with.

Secret #38: In one of our freshman orientation workshops, the subject of sleep came up.  Now, I never supported the idea of staying up really late to finish school work and feeling bad the next day.  I did it sometimes in high school, but it was against my values.  I had other things that I was willing to stay up late for, like talking or working on a personal project, but feeling good was more important to me than schoolwork.  I assumed that a play-hard school would have similar values.  I actually made sure not to choose a school with a 24/7 library.  But when the subject actually came up at orientation, the upperclassmen basically said that all-nighters aren't the best thing in the world, but you do what you need to do.  I had a huge problem with that.  

People often talked about how much sleep they needed to function, but I don't care about functioning.  I care about feeling good and for me that takes 8-10 hours of sleep.  It's not just about sleep - it's the whole functioning thing in general.  What happened to just feeling good for its own sake?  Functioning is sort of the psychological definition of being okay - the way you determine if a person's problem is actually serious is whether or not it affects their ability to function.  So you could be completely miserable but if you're somehow able to get good grades or have a job anyway, it's all good.  So much for real support.

Secret #39: Do you guys remember those anti-drug PSAs where a kid would say, "They told me this drug would..." and then we'd see some images of all the horrible things that actually happened as a result of the drug, then the kid would come back on and say, "They told me it would...They lied.  Find out the truth."  I saw one recently and I realized that I could make a PSA about college using the same formula.  

They told me college would be the best four years of my life.  They lied.  Find out the truth about college.

Secret #40: I went to a private K-8 school that I hated and then I transferred to a public high school.  When I walked into my high school, I felt like, this is me.  This is exactly where I belong.  I was the happiest I had ever been in high school - it was an absolute dream come true.  To this day, it is still the happiest I've ever been.

Secret #41: We didn't have a lot of choices for activities at my old school, so I was eager to try a lot of things in high school.  Theatre was my number one thing, but I was in some other clubs as well.  At first I loved everything, but as time went by I began to get sick of some of my non-theatre activities.  By the time I was a senior, I realized that I just didn't like being busy.  It was fun for a while but I'm just not the kind of person who wants to be involved in a lot of stuff.  I would have liked to just be in the school plays and nothing else.  I didn't want to quit my other clubs because I felt like I had made a commitment to them.  Also, a lot of people only join stuff in order to get into college, which I never did, but dropping out of them right after I sent in my college applications would have made it look that way.  I figured that once I got to college I might like to be in a lot of activities again once I had some new choices, but in the end, I never wanted to go back to that.  It was a one-time thing I wanted to try in high school and realized I didn't want to do again.  I was always busier than I wanted to be in college with my four classes alone, without any organized activities or events or even doing stuff with my friends.  I guess I just picked the wrong time to try some new things - every college had the impression that I'd be really involved once I got there.  I've never actually told anyone what I was involved in in high school because I knew I'd be pressured to do the same things in college.  I really wish it had happened differently - that I had chosen middle school to do a ton of activities and entered high school knowing that I only wanted to be in the plays and nothing else.  Maybe then I would have gotten rejected from schools like Colby and gotten into places where being involved in stuff isn't such a big deal.

Secret #42: I applied to Colby early decision.  I wish I could say that I was drunk or high or had a fever or something, but I was in my right state of mind.  After my experience of being so happy with my public high school, I became such a huge advocate of doing what was best for you personally instead of what was commonly considered the best choice.  I talked this way a lot when applying to college - I thought everyone should go to the place that suited them best.  I never believed that you should just go to the best school that you can get into.  There were plenty of schools I didn't apply to because the environment seemed competitive or cut-throat, which I didn't want.  But looking back on it now, I realize that the signs were there - my whole experience with high school should have taught me that I'd be happiest at a state university.  I never wanted to admit it, but I wanted the glory.  Colby was my A list school - a reach school, not a safety school.  I had accomplished a lot in high school and I think I just wanted everyone to know that I got into a good school.  Only a few students from my high school go to schools like Colby each year, and I guess I just wanted to feel special.  Even though I claimed not to care about prestige at all, I guess in the end I just wanted to feel special when I walked across the stage and got my high school diploma and they said where I was going to college. 

It's that same feeling that made me not want to transfer early on.  A lot of kids from my high school go to school somewhere and then transfer to Fitchburg State, which is in our hometown.  I should have gone there, but I guess I felt like I'd be giving up if I transferred there.  There's nothing wrong with Fitchburg State, but because it's at home for us, there's this perception that it's not as good as going to a state school somewhere else.  It was the end of sophomore year when I decided that I really did want to go to Fitchburg State and I didn't care what anyone else thought about it.  But I realized then that I didn't have the grades to transfer, and it was the end of junior year by the time I did.

I have changed a lot from this experience because I no longer have that sense of wanting to finish something because I started it.  Last year I realized that my only reason for not walking out was the money that my parents would have wasted, but in terms of the work I had put in and what I had gone through, I didn't have a sense that I'd be throwing that all away because I still feel like I did it all for nothing even though I have a diploma now.  I don't have that natural aversion I once had against quitting something I started.  If I don't like something, I get out.  I'm quick to encourage other people to get out of situations they don't like instead of trying to make them work.  I would never tell someone to tough it out - if you don't like it, just leave.  If I were talking to someone who wanted to drop out of school, I would encourage them to do what was right for them - I would not walk into the situation thinking, I'm gonna convince this person to stay in school.  I don't support all that stay-in-school stuff anymore.  It's your life and if you don't like something just drop it and don't worry about what everyone else thinks.  It's harder than it sounds. I was scared to get out.  Don't make the same mistakes I did.

Secret #43: Last year I got dinner from the spa and ate in my room about once a week.  I really think the fact that we weren't allowed to eat there everyday was a conspiracy to prevent people like me from eating in our rooms every day and forcing people to go out and socialize if they don't want to cook their own food.  

Secret #44: When someone knocked on my dorm room door, I would usually get up to answer it (even if the door was unlocked) instead of saying, "Come in."  I wasn't sure why I did this, but last year I realized that you actually put yourself in vulnerable position by staying on your bed or at your desk and letting the other person walk in - you're in a much better position to stand up and go to the door.  I wasn't worried about someone attacking me - I got up to answer because that's what I would do if someone came to visit me at home, whereas "Come in" is more like what I'd say to my parents if they knocked on my bedroom door.

I kept my door locked not because I was afraid of someone breaking in, but because I know plenty of students who think that if you knock and don't hear an answer, it's okay to open the door and see if the person is actually there.  I didn't trust anyone to respect my privacy. I never wanted that whole dorm community where people leave their doors open and you have to socialize just to go to the bathroom.  I assumed a dorm would be more like an apartment complex and everyone could just do their own thing and not be bothered.  I moved out of chem-free because there is less pressure to socialize and have your door open in regular dorms.

Secret #45: "No" is a complete sentence.  I wish it really were that way.  It's something that needs to be taught at a young age.  When someone asks you if you're doing something, and you say yes, that's usually the end of it.  You don't have to explain why you're doing it.  But if the answer is no, you automatically feel like you're supposed to give a reason.  I can understand if a friend is inviting you to do something and feel it would be rude to say no, but I'm not talking about personal plans.  I mean when there's event or talk or something going on that you're not planning to attend - there's this social standard that you can't just say no.  You have to say that you have too much homework or something.  I noticed this more so in college because at my high school it wasn't such a big issue to not want to do stuff - if you asked everyone at my lunch table if they were going to an event, about half of them would have said no and felt perfectly comfortable doing so, whereas at school everyone would act like they really would go if only they didn't have so much homework.  I just want to go back to that world I used to live in where it was okay to just not do stuff, where no really was a complete sentence.

Secret #46: I don't like pizza anymore.  I have some strange associations with it now.  We always ordered pizza the night before leaving for school because we didn't have time to cook anything after all the packing.  Then there's that "free pizza" that's always offered on the digest.  FYI: it's not really free if you have to talk about something to get it.  There are late study nights and nights when I really didn't want to go to the dining halls.  The few times I got pizza with friends, we were studying.  Pizza used to be a fun food, but I can't remember the last time some friends and I got pizza just for fun.

Secret #47: If the only people who go to something are people who want to be there, that, to me, is as it should be.  I would not want to go to a school where that was not the case.

It makes perfect sense to me that it's always the same people doing the same kinds of things because those are the things that they like to do.  Again, I would never wish for that to be different.

Secret #48: Almost everyone who's given me the advice to do what's right for me was lying.  Once I did it, you had a problem.  Once I started doing my own thing and living my life the way I wanted to, you tried to pull me away from it and get me to do the things I had finally gotten away from.  I don't trust people anymore.  Now if someone tells me to do what's right for me, I just laugh at them and walk away.

Secret #49: I never realized that by entering college I was signing away my right to be an introvert.  Everyone talks about how it's good to get out of your comfort zone, but when you drag me out of mine, I'm just entering yours.  If you're extroverted, you LIKE meeting new people.  You enjoy being around people - it stimulates you rather than draining you.  I'm sick of people trying to drag me out of my own comfort zone so that I can be in theirs.

How would you like it if I told you to stay in your room by yourself and you couldn't talk to anyone?  Would you like it?  I love being alone so I think I'll drag you out of your social life so you can broaden your horizon.  And, no, you can't tell me that you wouldn't like that because you haven't tried it yet.  How about this: all your organized activities and plans are cancelled this week as well, and all your friends are out of town.  I'd be fine with that.  I'd actually love that.  You should really learn to love it and get out of your comfort zone.  And if you tell me you tried it and you didn't like it I won't take no for an answer and I'll keep pestering you to try it over and over again until you love being alone just as much as I do because I believe that that's the better way to be and that you're missing out on life if you don't like the same things that I do.

How do you like that?

Secret #50: I object to the term "commencement" because it indicates that what we're celebrating is the beginning of whatever we're doing after school, that the end of school itself is not the thing to celebrate.  All I wanted out of life was to not be in school anymore.  I called it graduation because that indicates that it is actually the end we are celebrating, not the next beginning.

Secret #51: The only people who know the details of my plan to change the world (the one involving cognitive dissonance) are two of my psych professors and everyone in the Colby health center who read my proposal.  I have mentioned it briefly to my friends but never explained it in full.  I guess I felt like there are these general set standards of what Colby kids want to do to change the world, and I didn't think anyone else would think my plan is important.  That's okay because I plan to write a self-help book on the matter and you can buy it if you're interested.

Secret #52: I think the hardest thing about driving at night is not the darkness, but the headlights of cars in the other lane, coming towards you.  They can be really blinding sometimes.  When I was learning how to drive and experienced this for the first time, I found it interesting that more light doesn't always help you see.  Once you've decided where you're going, the only way someone else can help you is to stand where you are and shine more light forward, onto your path.  Shining the light in any other direction will throw you off from your goal.

I understand that we miss our targets and our aim isn't always perfect when we're trying to help someone else, but I've had plenty of people hop in my car and start shining their flashlights into the woods and off of cliffs.  And I've crashed on more than one occasion.

Secret #53: I was once in the car when my dad got stopped for speeding and the police officer asked him where we were going.  I asked my dad why the officer needed to know that, and my dad said it was just an assessment.  In other words, the police officer could tell by the way my dad spoke to him that he wasn't drunk or high or trying to hide anything.  

I know about assessments because that's all the help I've gotten at Colby.  When I went to people for help or when they came to me, it was all an assessment.  People acted like they cared, they gave off that you-can-tell-me-anything vibe, and I fell for it.  I spilled my guts because I thought these people cared about me, but in the end all they had to say was that they weren't worried about me because they could tell that I wasn't about to do anything extreme.  And that made it okay.  It was all an assessment and no one wanted to actually help me solve the problem.  What was wrong remained wrong and I never felt any better.  It was my final year when this happened and I sincerely believe that I might have gotten more attention if I were a freshman and they still had time to mold my impression of the school.  But they could tell that I was too far gone for that.  I think they understood that too much had happened already and that nothing that happened that year would make me give money to the school or say good things about the school later on.  And with that knowledge, I do not believe that anyone actually cared whether I had a good senior year or not.

Secret #54: When I went to theatre camp in the summer (not overnight), the kids usually divided into groups: kids who were really serious about theatre and wanted to pursue it as a career, and kids who did it as more of extra-curricular activity for fun.  Even though I was very serious about it at the time, I just naturally bonded better with the kids who were there just for fun.  I guess I felt better in the group because there were no standards - it was more of a free, anything-goes environment.

I loved my public high school more than anything.  I felt like I could be anything I wanted to be there.  In terms of cliques, I hung out with the anything-goes group, all the kids who just didn't fit into any other group.  Of course I was friends with the honors kids and the theatre kids as well, but in my main group of friends, there were no standards.  We didn't have that common bond over one particular thing, and that was why I loved the group so much.  There were no standards: it was never weird not to know something.  It was never weird to be into something that other people weren't into.  There weren't conditions.  I could have stopped caring about school or theatre or anything and nothing would have changed with my friends.  If I was really psyched about getting a good grade on a test, my friends who didn't care at all about their own schoolwork would be happy for me, the same way you'd probably be happy if your friend won a soccer game even if you don't play soccer yourself.

My real friends are people I can bond with over nothing.  We have interests in common, but they aren't the basis of our friendship.  We would still be friends if one of us decided we didn't care about that thing anymore.  I do have some true, unconditional friends at Colby, but I never did find that group to belong to.  I tried hard, but every group I fell into had standards - like if people were all into plays, they probably each knew a lot more plays than I did.  Standards.  I'm not willing to adhere to any standards like that.  I want to just be friends over nothing.  I searched Colby high and low for that "nothing" group but never found it.  I was fine if I was alone with  one of my close friends, but the minute we were joined by a few of their other friends, it became a group that I didn't feel like I was part of because I didn't share what they shared.

That high school group was the one group I ever really felt like I belonged to.  There was no place for me at college.

Secret #55: I was always close with my teachers in high school because I liked talking to adults.  I didn't need to have a special interest in their subject or want to have an intellectual conversation about it - we could just talk about anything and bond over nothing, the same as my high school friends.  Choosing a college where students are close with their professors was important to me - I assumed I would have the same kind of relationships.  Needless to say, things were different in college.  Those relationships were for students who loved school and participated in class and wanted to talk about the subject more outside of class.  No more striking up casual conversations without a bond over the subject.

I do have some professors who I'm friends with in few subjects that I actually liked enough to talk about outside of class.  But these relationships feel conditional, based on standards just like most of my peer group relationships at college.  I'm still in touch with  my high school chem teacher and a few years ago I was worried what he would think when he learned that I was no longer majoring in bio, but he didn't care at all and was glad I had found what I loved to do.  I liked chemistry in high school but our relationship wasn't based on that - we really just bonded over nothing.  I often wonder what would happen with my professors if I just didn't do anything related to the subject we bonded over.  I don't mean career-wise, I mean if I just stopped caring about it altogether and what we bonded over would not longer have a place in my life.  It would change nothing with my high school teachers, but with my professors, I really have to wonder.

Secret #56: I've seen and read about so many therapy programs that supposedly help troubled kids find themselves, which usually leads to them excelling at school.  Here's my question: not everyone likes school or considers it their number one thing.  If these kids really were finding themselves, I would not expect them all to be more focused on school.  I'd expect them to be directing their focuses in all different directions.  I don't trust anyone who talks to kids who aren't doing well in school about finding themselves because it's really all about making them do well in school.  I were going to be a therapist, which I very well might, I would not address the issue of school at all unless a kid actually told me that they wanted to improve their grades.

Secret #57: It's not that I was ever really against quitting - if someone had made up their mind to quit something, I would accept their decision and not try to stop them.  But if they were still wavering, I would normally discourage quitting.  If someone was complaining about how much they hate their basketball coach and that practice wasn't fun anymore, I wouldn't consider quitting the team a possibility until they brought it up.  And if they did, I would lean towards not quitting because they still love basketball in spite of the coach. 

If the same situation came up now, I would definitely put quitting on the table as a possibility - I would ask them if they had considered quitting if they didn't bring it up.  And the bottom line would be, is it still worth it?  Do you still enjoy basketball in spite of the coach, or has the coach really ruined it for you?  And I would consider each choice to be perfectly fine - I would especially emphasize the fact that quitting was okay in spite of what other people would think of it.

So I'm the one to come to if you need validation for quitting something - school, your job, your marriage, anything.  Just don't expect me to talk you out of it.

Secret #58: So I've taken tons of quizzes over the years, and one question I always found strange was when you're asked what you would do to for a friend when they were feeling bad.  There was usually a choice of staying in and talking about it, going out dancing to forget about it, and a few other choices in between.  It seemed like a weird question because the answer should have more to do with my friend than with me.  Depending on which friend I had thought of, what they would make them feel better might be different from what would make me feel better.

When I imagined living so close to everyone in college, I pictured a lot of warm-and-fuzzy nights of eating cookie dough, watching chick flicks, and talking about our feelings (personal, not academic).  Needless to say, that's not what college is like at all.  Basically, the solution was to go out - go to more events, join more activities, etc.  So many people say "do what's right for you" but then when I want to be left alone they try to drag me out and I'd hide what I was doing and pretend to be doing homework.  Yes, I wasn't doing homework as constantly as you thought - I just wanted you all to leave me alone.  And for the most part, I did just want to be left alone because having a friend just hang out and talk all night when I wasn't feeling well didn't happen until the second half of senior year.  

But what's more annoying about this is that I've gone to so many things for other people.  I understand that some people would much rather go out and keep busy when they're upset, so I go out with them.  I have never liked bars or drinking parties, but I've gone to so many because my friends wanted to go and I figured I should do some of the things that they like to do.  So when is it my turn?  How come I go out with other people when they're feeling bad but when I feel bad and say that I just want to stay home and talk, no one can ever accept that”  Everyone tries to convince me that I'd be happier if I went out drinking or went to see some speaker or something.  From now on, I am DONE going to stuff I don't like just to make other people happy.  I didn't get a turn in four years and I doubt that I ever will.

Secret #59: I reject the Big Five personality traits because the test is so judgmental and makes it clear what you're supposed to be.  Myers-Briggs, on the other hand, makes it seem like any one of the sixteen types is just as good as the next.  I think that the Big Five traits can still be used, but presented in a way that feels nonjudgmental like Myers-Briggs.  Instead of the traits being presented on a bar graph, they could be shown as a spectrum of opposite traits.  The word choices are mostly positive or negative, so I'm in the process of finding 70 neutral words to replace the words we're using right now for the 5 traits and 30 facets.  My plan is to actually change the way the Big Five information is presented so that there really are no right or wrong answers.

Secret #60: I lost my confidence in college.  I used to be comfortable with what I said or wrote, but now I feel like everyone's going to judge me.  It's not so much what I say, but what I choose to say.  Do you remember that 25 random facts trend?  When I wrote mine, it occurred to me that I wasn't so concerned what people would think about the facts themselves.  I think the first thing I said was that I liked to dip M&Ms in peanut butter, and while people might think that's weird, it's really not a big a deal and I wouldn't expect anyone to really put me down for something like that.  But I did think that people would judge me for the fact that I chose to say that - that of all the intelligent, meaningful things a person could say in a list like that, I wanted to tell people how I eat candy.  Back in high school, I felt no standards.  There would have nothing in the world wrong with writing an entire blog post about why M&Ms taste better with peanut butter.  That was where I belonged.  Now with everything I write, I feel like maybe I shouldn't be writing it because some people won't think it's important.  

I remember when I told everyone at college that I had decided to turn emo and everyone's response was, "what good will that do?"  What ever happened to doing something just because you want to?  It seems like everything needs to pass a test of whether or not it will accomplish anything or have a big enough impact to be worth doing.  The last secret I posted - the one about finding 70 new words for the Big Five personality test - should fall into the category of intelligent conversation.  But I would never have told anyone that plan in college because I don't think it meets the standards of what Colby kids think is worth doing.  The response I'd expect would be, "what good will that do?" because it's not okay to have that as a goal just because it's something I want to change.

I am so sick of this.  I was so confident before.  Now I think twice about saying everything even if something is really important to me.  I'm three months out of college and it hasn't faded one bit. This secret list is the first thing I've done where I've forced myself not to care what other people think.  

Secret #61: I want to do nothing with my life.  Here's why:

Friends are usually happy for each other - that was true in high school as well as college.  The difference was that in high school, it was more like "I'm happy that you're happy."  If someone got accepted to the school that they really wanted to go to, I'd be psyched for them because it was what they really wanted, not because getting into college is an objectively good thing.  Of course I'd congratulate them on their hard work and all, especially if it was a hard school to get into, but at the end of the day it wouldn't make any difference to me whether they actually went to school or not.  And I liked the feeling - I loved knowing that it wouldn't make any difference to my friends what I did as long as I was happy.

I know that the love itself is unconditional - my parents would have still loved me if I had dropped out of school.  but they would have been upset and disappointed.  And one thing that's nice about friends is that they're not like that - you don't have worry that they'll care about something like that or think any less of you.  That's what I thought in high school.  I love a lot of people from my college and I'm sure they love me as well, but I can't help thinking that things aren't quite as unconditional as they were in high school.  If a friend is telling me about their plans for the future, I might get really excited and think that their plans are amazing, but at the end of the day, I'm really just happy because they're happy.  That's all there is to it for me.  I would feel disappointed if something happened and my friend was no longer able to carry out their plans, but I wouldn't be disappointed if they decided not to do it anymore.  Sometimes when I talked about my plans with friends at college, I just wondered if maybe it wasn't all about being happy, if maybe they wouldn't really be okay with it if I decided not to do any of those things.  I know the love in unconditional, but I wonder if they'd be disappointed, the same way my parents would be, if I decided to do nothing with my life.  I don't want our relationship to be that way. I don't want to push anyone or be pushed - I was always going to just support what my friends decide to do even if what they do is nothing.  

In my high school health class, we were reading a list of qualities that make a good friend, and one of them was someone who encouraged you to do your best in school.  That was not on my personal list.  To me, a friend is someone who will still be your friend when you stop doing your best in school and not try to pressure you caring about something that you really don't care about.  I can't honestly say that I want to do nothing with my life, but sometimes I want to because I want to know that that's okay.  I want to see who from my college would still stand by me and be okay with that and not try to push me to do something productive.  I want to do nothing because I don't want any of my relationships to be dependent on my doing something good.

Secret #62: What I really want out of this life:
1. To love pizza again.
2. To laugh about nothing.
3. To have deep conversations about why gummy worm colors are paired the way they are.
4. To not feel pressured to strive for anything more.

Secret #63: "Wanna come over and study?" 
"Um, no.  I want to come over and hang out or do something fun."  I don't like to study with other people and school is separate from my life.  Yet in college it gets all mixed together and everything feels so contaminated.  I can't think of many times I was with friends where someone wasn't studying at the same time.  I don't consider studying to be fun or more acceptable with friends.  I would say I divided my time in college between real studying and fake studying.  The fake studying was done in situations where I was asked "Wanna come over and study?" and I figured I might as well go pretend to because when else would I get to see the person?  

Secret #64: The definition of "supportive."

Colby:
Me: "I want to get a symbolic exorcism so that the part of me that's touched this school will be gone."
Supportive person: "Oh...okay.  You do that.  I won't say anything bad about it."

High School:
Me: "I want to get a symbolic exorcism so that the part of me that's touched this school will be gone."
Supportive person: "Oh my god that's so cool!  How are you gonna do it?  Can I get one?  I want one too!"

Of course I would never say such a thing about my beloved high school anyway.

Secret #65: Why is it not okay for me to say what something really means to me?  It's okay that you like to exfoliate because it makes your skin feel smooth, but it's not okay that I like to exfoliate because I want to remove my dead skin cells.  Hello?  Your skin feels smooth BECAUSE you took the dead skin cells off!  It's the same thing!!!

Secret #66: I've never been a huge fan of FML because abbreviating it really reduces the intensity.  Things like that, I need to spell out.

Secret #67: Sometimes when people ask what you're up to, they mainly want to know if what you're doing is better than what they're doing or what their kids are doing.  When I suspect this is the motive, I don't provide them with any real information.  I'm not the most perceptive when it comes to detecting ulterior motives, but I hope to improve.

Secret #68: Here are some really interesting facts about Maine for people who don't live there:
1. Maine is part of the Eastern Standard Time Zone, which is the same as Massachusetts.
2. Maine is part of the United States.  Calls made between Maine and other states are therefore not considered international calls.
3. Maine is part of civilization; it is not a remote location without cell phone service.

Here are some helpful pointers about cell phones for my family members who don't have them:
1. If you're calling someone on their cell phone within the same country, you get charged the same whether they're on the opposite coast or sitting right next to you because the number you are calling doesn't change.  The area code on my phone remains the same no matter where I go and will always be a local call from your land line phones.
2. Unlike land line phones, people often turn their cell phones off in places like classrooms.  You need not worry about calling me while I'm in class - if my phone goes off in class, it's my mistake for leaving it on, not yours.
3. Because I'm in and out of classes and the library, I normally leave my phone on vibrate.  Vibrate means that it will not ring loudly and will not be as much of a problem if it rings when I cannot answer it.
4. When I say that I'll be free and you can call me right back, I mean it.  I would not say that if I were about to walk into class, jump in a lake, or do anything else that would prevent me from answering my phone.
5. When I was home, before college began, I wasn't at my house all the time.  I was in school - sometimes pretty late for rehearsals or other things.  I went out with my friends.  I went to the beach, went swimming, went skiing.  I went to the movies and went to restaurants.  There were so many places and situations where I couldn't answer my phone. But you called anyway. You didn't know what I was doing on a given day, but that was okay.  You were never afraid you might be interrupting me.  Since I started college, you suddenly became scared to call because you thought I might be in the middle of something.  Where did you think I was?  I called you so many times in college and you never called back because you claimed you were afraid to disturb me.  No one even called me on my birthday - I had to MAKE the calls on my birthday.  I would have never gone so far if I knew that you all perceived Maine as another planet.  I just wish you'd told me before I left.

Secret #69: Janplan was a lie.  They made it out to be this really fun time that would be even better than having a longer winter break, and I was foolish enough to believe it.  Other people say how much they love college and even spend the summer there, so I assumed I'd feel the same way and want to be there in the winter.  Little did I know that it wasn't all fun and there were very few classes to choose from if you didn't want to do any actual work (which I obviously didn't).  If Janplan had been presented for what it was on my campus tour - extra school - I would have knocked Colby off my list instantly.

Secret #70: When I look back at what I wrote in my earlier years of college, it is hard to read the depressing entries, but even harder to read the positive ones - things I wrote very early on when I really believed that college would be awesome, and the later things I wrote trying to convince myself that things had changed, that what I had complained about before had ended.  It's hard to see how many times I actually had hope that life could be awesome at college, knowing that it was destroyed just a few weeks later.  So many times I never saw it coming.  At least with the depressing entries I've written, I can say that I was accurate, but the hopeful entries are just too hard to look at.

Secret #71: If there's one thing I've learned about conclusion, it's that it needs to be internal.  If you're writing a story about a kid who's being bullied at school, the conclusion can't be that the bully's family moves away.  There needs to be an internal change of the main character - the character stands up to the bully or at least plays some part in resolving the situation.  When we talked about that kind of internal closure in class, it seemed like that wasn't necessarily true in real life.  In real life, the solution could be that the bully moves away.  You could avoid a dreaded get-together with relatives because a blizzard prevented you from flying out to see them.  Or the school year could simply end and the teacher who hated you won't be your teacher anymore.  I always assumed it was only in fiction that there had to be an internal conclusion in addition to the external solution.

This past year, I realized that the days of external solutions are over for me.  Senior year is when it all comes together - junior year was just about junior year, and the same with the other two.  But senior year was about the whole experience - I suddenly felt tied to everything that I thought had ended.  But nothing had ended in my mind because it never really got resolved.  College is a fast-paced environment - often times I would think something got resolved because we had moved on to something else, but nothing had really changed.  Everything still feels unresolved right now, at this moment.  Having a problem stop because school ended doesn't give me any sense of closure.  I believe in that "get out early" method in real life - the way to be concluded would be to try to resolve everything before graduation, so I'd be done before the external plot pushed me along.  Needless to say, none of my plans worked and I'm left craving closure three months later.  It's hard to believe there was a time when I just didn't need that internal conclusion.

Secret #72: I am so fucking normal in the real world!  On so many levels, in so many domains.  It was only within the walls of Colby that there was anything wrong with me but outside those walls I'm just like the average person in so many ways.

Secret #73: I hated coot. I thought I'd try something new and figured I'd love it since most people did, but I was wrong.  I was okay with that at first though - I mean, it was only two and half days of not having a good time.  No big deal, right?  Well, it turned out to be a huge deal.  If I were in high school there would have been plenty of people who didn't like the experience, but at Colby everyone loved it and I lied and said I loved it.  It didn't end there - we were dragged to do all this stuff with our coot groups afterwards.  I didn't really bond with my coot and I really wanted to get to know the new friends I had met in my dorm, but I was dragged aways from them and forced to do stuff with this coot group.  I was literally just waiting for freshman year to end so we'd be left alone and not be told we had to eat dinner or go to some event with certain people at a certain time.  I didn't think college would be like that.

The following year I got on the subject of coot with someone else and started to tell her how I felt on mine, and she kept saying, "But you had fun." A confirmation statement, not a question.  Because how could I not have had fun?  It wasn't until my senior year that I felt comfortable even saying that I didn't like coot, and I said it by slipping it into a poem that I read to maybe 5 or 6 people.  I rarely bring up the subject because everyone just wants to know what was wrong with coot for me and what would have made it better.  No one can accept the fact that some people just aren't into that kind of orientation and there is nothing you can do about it.

The problem wasn't coot itself - it really was the aftermath.   Back in high school, there was NOTHING that everyone agreed on - not a single event that every single person was psyched about or even remotely interested in.  I never felt like the only person who felt the way I did.  Yes, I know there are other Colby kids who feel the same way, but it doesn't exactly help if we can't put up a flare and find each other.  In high school there was no need for that because however you felt about something was okay, at least in my circle of no standards it was.

Secret #74: Don't think that you'll actually have any freedom in college or be able to do your own thing.  That's a LIE!!!!!

People actually conspire to prevent you from doing your own thing.  I have witnessed this first hand.

Secret #75: Do you remember how to find the greatest common factor (or denominator) between two numbers?  If you had the numbers 40 and 55, for example, you could break each of them down into their prime factors and you'd find that 5 is the greatest factor that they have in common.  

I'm beginning to think that this is one of the most relevant lessons we've learned in school.  Anytime you go someplace where you're surrounded by other people like you - people who share certain factors with you - your greatest common factor sort of separates from those factors that are only yours.  Say that math is your number one interest - if you're in a group and were asked to say something about yourself, you'd probably say that you love math.  But if you were in an advanced math class and asked to say something about yourself, everyone would probably love math so might pick one of your remaining factors to say.  Or, you might choose to talk about math because you have it in common with other people even if it's not one of your top interests.  It can really swing either way - the institution itself tries to reduce you to that common factor, and in some ways your remaining factors could become your identity, depending on how you feel about the group itself.  It seems like the factors would naturally get separated and you have to decide what to do about it and what to identify with.  I'm not sure how it works for everyone, but I think a lot of it depends on which factors mattered more to you personally.  If the common factors are the strongest, then you're likely to really belong.  But if the factors most important to you aren't common factors, then you identify more with those and don't belong.  

I decided long ago to reject my greatest common factor, reject the part of me that Colby accepted. Those qualities were part of me at one time, but I'm done with them now.  I feel contaminated and I don't want them back.   What I am now is what remains when the Colby qualities are factored out of me.  

Secret #76: My high school had 1400 students, which was just the right size for me.  In my early days of high school, I assumed I would go to a large college because I loved the size of my public high school and hated the size of my private K-8 school, which was about 200 total.  However, once I learned that 1800 students was considered a small college, I figured I'd like that because it was about the size of my high school.  That's where my interest in small schools comes from.  I just didn't understand that college numbers are different than high school numbers, and that perhaps a college of 1800 is more like 200 at the high school level.  I wish I had just stuck with my original plan - I loved the idea of being at a bigger school because I assumed that was what my high school was.  If only I hadn't compared the actual numbers.

Secret #77: My parents went to a big state university and they told me that the campus was like its own city - everything was going on there.  They told me that the surrounding area shouldn't be a factor in choosing a college because it's the college itself where all the action is.  For that reason, I really didn't care where the college was located as long as it was close enough to home.  Then I find out that everyone thinks there's nothing to do where we are.  A lot of people said that that's where the drinking culture comes from - that we've got nothing better to do because of our location and it would be totally different if we were in Boston or something.  I was really shocked.  I live in a city that's really similar to Waterville but a little bigger, and it's never bothered me.  My friends and I always found fun stuff to do and I never felt an urge to get out and go live in Boston or anything.  It was during my first few weeks of college when we had our first burst-the-bubble week and I was really surprised - honestly, I was okay with the college bubble concept.  I assumed that was where I'd be living for the next four years - I didn't want to feel an urge to get out.  I just assumed that the inside of that bubble would be enough - that's what it seemed to be for everyone one else who'd been to college. 

Secret #78: I look forward to May 2013.  At that point, everyone I know will have graduated from Colby and my connection to the school will really be over.

Secret #79: I don't do the tough love thing.  I would never be part of an intervention and threaten to cut someone out of my life if they don't do A, B, or C.  I wouldn't respond to an intervention either.  If anyone tried that on me I'd be done with them.

I really think college is like an inpatient therapy program where your problem is just who you were before you came in, whatever qualities made you not like a college student or like a productive member of society.  The whole thing is like an intervention that you choose.  

I wish I had been smart enough to see that four years ago.  

Secret #80: I love developmental psychology, but it really bothers me how so many things are so dependent on it.  We find evidence that certain events can lead kids to have more serious problems when they're older, so then we set out to prevent those things or to help kids at a young age.  I definitely support the research and I think it will really help a lot of people.  I guess for certain things I have to ask myself, why do we need a psych study to prove that this is wrong?  Take bullying for example - there's been much more attention given to bullying in recent years - it's being considered a more serious problem and a lot of schools are trying harder to prevent it.  I might be wrong, but my understanding is that this is a reaction to the negative effects we've seen come from bullying, like school shootings and suicides  There have also been psych studies that show that bullying does have negative effects on kids later on - it's not something that just wears off.  But bullying has existed long before we had any of this information, and for the longest time no one really considered it a problem.  When our parents were kids, it was just considered a part of life.  My question is: why do we need evidence that bullying is going to cause some kind of long-term problem?  Isn't it a problem that a person feels miserable every time it happens?  Why can't that be good enough?  Why does everything have to affect your life later on in order to be taken seriously?  Why can't anything just matter because it matters RIGHT NOW???

Secret #81: It's weird to think about how naive I was in high school.  When you live on campus, you have a general sense of what's going on and what everyone else is doing.  It would be hard not to know anything about the drinking culture at college even if you personally didn't drink.  But in high school, when I went to my own house at the end of the day, I just didn't have that same sense of what everyone else was doing.  I knew nothing about the drinking culture at my high school because most of my friends and I didn't drink.  Because of that, I had a lot of misconceptions about college.  Something died inside me when I learned that in all those stories about wild college parties and the crazy things college kids do, it was because people were drunk.  I had always thought it was just this young wild spirit that lived inside all of us and got released in college, and nothing more than that.  I used to have a spirit like that.

Secret #82: I didn't like the actual learning part of school at all when I was growing up.  What I liked were the other fun things at school - the things that everyone's trying to ban now for being "distractions."  I love what you consider distractions.  I lived for those distractions.  The main pleasures I got out of day to day life when I was younger were those distractions.  If I had kids, I would flat out refuse to send them to school in a distraction-free environment.

Secret #83: I make priority lists all the time now that I'm out of school, but when i was younger, I just hated that whole concept.  Why?  because I learned that making a priority list meant putting things in the order that other people told you they should be in - like putting homework and chores before the things you actually wanted to do.  I can remember actually lying on my second grade assignment about what was most important for me to do.  Priorities are a personal choice - you can't tell someone else what matters to them or what they care about or what their priorities are.  School was never my priority, but all my life I was told that it was, and I might have even convinced some people that it was.  But that was never true.

I always thought it was mostly adults who tried to tell you what was most important, and I assumed that in college you could be honest about stuff like that and really focus on what mattered most to you since you're surrounded by your peers most of the time - you don't have adults telling you what to do.  I especially thought that at a play-hard school, there'd be plenty of other people who didn't consider academics to be their top priority.

In college, peers basically took the place of adults in telling each other what to do.  I can't count how many students told me not to drop my original major, which I didn't like.  I can't count how many students have kept on the subject of why I decided not to finish my minor, which I mistakenly added because I thought I had most of it done anyway - so many people kept pushing the issue of whether it would really be so hard to finish.  And after telling people about the project I was working on last year that wasn't for school, everyone kept asking me if there was some way that I could get some extra credit for it because it seemed a shame to do all that work for nothing.  At moments like that, I just had to ask myself, what happened to the play-hard school I applied to?  What happened to the school where it wasn't all about academics, the school where it's normal to just take classes you like and not take classes you wouldn't have otherwise taken to add an extra major or a minor your transcript.  The school where it seemed normal to focus every bit of your energy on something that wasn't academic.  


Secret #84: I still remember the last few days of that summer before college.  I was scared and upset and I really didn't want to leave, but I tried my best to act like I did.  My family was so excited for me - they were excited to see how I would change while I was gone.  

I'm back now, and things are different.  I was always the serious one in the group, but much more so now.  I was always analytical, but now all I do is analyze and I'm rarely there in the moment when I should just be having fun.  I cry more often.  I laugh less easily.  I feel bad when people tell me I'm no fun anymore.  But the next time they say that, my response will be, "Well, you wanted to see how I'd change in college.  So here I am."

Secret #85: I always thought that in my writing, I had too much a of point to make in class, but not a good enough point to make outside of class.

Secret #86: I am a huge supporter of relevance.  If you're trying out for a particular show or group, it would be nice if the questions on the form were directly related to acting or singing or whatever you were going to do.  You can say it's all for fun, but some of us just don't have very good answers to those extra questions and whether or not those witty comments come naturally to us is not directly relevant to how well we can perform.  It's called acting - it's not the same as real life. 

Secret #87: If something sucked for me, I want to make sure it doesn't suck for the next person.  I don't think that everyone should have to go through something just because my generation did or because no one considered it a problem when we were their age.  

Secret #88: Deleting secrets from my Facebook wall (and only my wall) does not erase them.  It doesn't mean that they no longer exist or matter to me.  Most of my friends are back in school right now, away from me, but I assure you that this cannot be waited out.  Don't think that the things I've posted will be irrelevant or unimportant by Thanksgiving or Christmas or however long it will be until we see each other.  They won't be.  Even if I delete all my notes by then, it's not something that's going to fade off.  

Secret #98: People think I don't care how I look, but sometimes I actually want my look to say that I don't care.  Not that I don't care how I dress, but that I don't care about what I'm supposed to be doing or want to be where I am.

Secret #90: It wasn't until college that I realized just how strange it is to be a girl and eat whatever I like.  I knew there was a ton of pressure, but I never felt it myself with my friends or my social circle in high school.  

Secret #91: wicked awesome wicked awesome wicked awesome wicked awesome wicked awesome wicked awesome wicked awesome wicked awesome wicked awesome wicked awesome wickedawesome wickedawesome wickedawesome wickedawesome wickedawesome wickedawesome wickedawesome wickedawesome wickedawesome wickedawesome wickedawesomewickedawesomewickedawesomewickedawesomewickedawesomewickedawesomewickedawesomewickedawesome

Do you feel wicked awesome now?  You should.  After all, repetition is the secret of success.

Secret #92: I think I told everyone I knew how much I hated talking to pre-frosh, and yet everyone who had pre-frosh tried to get me to interact with them.  Sometimes I think we just don't speak the same language.

Secret #93: I would give anything in the world to dangle a shiny keychain in front of a friend, have them yell SHINY! and then laugh about it for the next three hours.  Just one more time.  Just to remember what it feels like.

Secret #94: Unless you went to a special high school that was like college, college is mainly for people who didn't like high school.  If I were a high school counselor, I would ask kids what they liked and didn't like about high school and let them know whether I honestly think they should go to college.

Secret #95: I still plan to have my symbolic exorcism and I plan to make millions giving exorcisms to other people.  Everyone at college thought this was pointless, but I know tons of people in the real world who would pay a lot for one.  Colby kids will be charged double.

Secret #96: I am not interesting in sucking it up, getting over it, accepting and moving on, or keeping anything to myself.  But thanks for asking.

Secret # 97. I've always been quick to make friends with adults.  For most of my life, it was easier to trust adults than to trust my peers.  Even when I was rebelling or sticking it to the man or whatever, I never had that "us against them" mentality, like all adults were to blame for everything.  Because a lot of them were really cool.  I could talk to them because they'd been there and they understood stuff.  

I don't know what happened in my four years of being mainly surrounded by my peers, but I have a really hard time trusting adults now.  I have an impression that adults over 40 mainly tell teenagers and twenty-somethings to suck it up and get over stuff.  Logically, I know that's not true of everyone, but I assume it in most cases even though I shouldn't.  I'm not sure I'll ever be able to talk to adults the way I used to.

Secret # 98: I'm getting sick of living on this stupid planet.  I consider myself an average US American - I watch a lot of TV, eat all the junk food I want, don't exercise, spend a lot of time on the internet, like pop culture, didn't pay attention in school or take an interest in academics, am easily bored by things, want to be entertained all the time, want attention, don't want to do any work, etc.   The problem is that, despite the statistics, despite my impression of the general US youth population, I just don't feel very average.  With my preppy K-8 school, my honors classes in high school, and colby, I just can't seem to find these people who supposedly make up the majority of the country.  I  can't connect with this mainstream population because I'm always in these weird places (like college) where the standards are different and I'm expected to be something other than an average person.  I thought I'd be with that average group once I was done with school, but I still can't find them.  I am part of the majority, but I don't fit in anywhere.  I've felt left out in most groups I've been a part of because I was always with exceptional groups.  I can't find my place in the world because I've been separated from the average population, the group I actually belong to, all my life.

Secret #99: I was the last of my friends to get braces in middle school.  Most of my classmates had had them for about a year before I did, and liked to complain about them all the time.  One time, a friend asked me if I was going to get braces, and I said no, that even if I needed braces I was not going to get them because everyone had made them sound so horrible.  My friend immediately backtracked and tried to say that braces were kind of cool, after she had spent a year telling me how bad they were.

I don't mean anything against my friend - I understand that braces involve delayed gratification, which is probably why she didn't want to influence my choice.  I ended up getting braces, and they were not that bad for me.  But if they had been, I would have been more than happy to convince someone not to go through with it.  I'm not into delayed gratification if the process itself is miserable - if a person decided to get braces anyway, because of the end result, that would be their choice, but if braces had sucked for me, I would have told everyone what it was like and would not have backed down when someone told me that I had influenced their choice.  I would be happy to know that I saved someone from going through what I did.