Friday, May 24, 2013

20 years (or stupid things I did when I was 19)

If there is one quality I have in spades (besides neuroticism) it is tendency to reflect on everything for far more time than is warranted.

This fall I will turn 40, so I am reflecting on my life with even greater fervor than I did when I was 18 or 27 or 34.

I will return to teaching on a part-time basis in September so I am reflecting on what I did in the classroom eons ago and what I can bring to my students to help them engage in classic literature and improve their writing.

This month also marks 20 years since I went to England, Ireland and Wales for a 10-week study trip drunken escapade, so I am reflecting on that experience just for sh*ts and giggles.

I did many stupid things as a teenager and young adult but this trip was perhaps the grand poobah of stupid (and memorable).  It has made for fun stories over the years, but it is also the source of  a cloud of embarrassment that has lingered over my head like dirt that follows Pig-Pen wherever he dances.

To make a long story short, when I got to England, where the drinking age was blessedly 18, I sent a Dear John letter to my boyfriend at home and hooked up with a guy on the trip with whom I had shared an American Literature class (and who was dating a girl who was also on the trip with us).  And by hooked up I mean we got engaged.  For four weeks.  And then got unengaged.  Once we returned home I think we hung out once and then he didn't speak to me again, and that hurt tremendously.  (Maybe almost as much as getting a Dear John letter in the mail.)

I don't regret any of this happening.  I deserved the bad karma I got, and I am pleased that I have stayed in civil contact with both of these men via social media.  But to this day I feel embarrassed about my behavior in these relationships.

As a middle-aged woman with three children and 15 years of marriage under my belt, I can look at these relationships as short-lived, tempestuous love affairs that didn't mean much.  But they did mean much since after 20 years I am still thinking about them and feeling a little lousy for behaving as a naive, thoughtless perfectly normal 19-year-old.

This trip, a nearly 3-month jaunt, gave me many wonderful things:

  • an abiding love for Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles.  
  • an awesome concert story about being in Dublin at a Peter Gabriel concert, where Sinead O'Connor also performed and Bono and the Edge were 20 feet from us in the audience.  

  • a fond memory of my first and only time smoking marijuana on one of the Aran Islands and then wandering around stoned on the craggy landscape with two platonic guy friends with whom I also had American Literature class. 

  • the wonderful recollection of wandering the moors on a windy evening at twilight somewhere in England before returning to the hostel for the night.
  • the experience of musseling at the shore and a better appreciation for Molly Malone.  
  • an understanding that if I drink too much Guinness (or, let's be honest, any Guinness) I'm gonna start itching for a fight.  
This last bullet could lead me into the tale of my "2nd biggest grand poobah of stupid" which happened 2 weeks after I turned 21, but I shall save that story for another day. 

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