Jana: School started this week. And this morning, for the first time in a long time, I cut myself shaving.
This experience, and all of the experiences that come with this time of year – cooler weather, moving, change-related anxiety – reminded me of a time, in the year 2004, when I made a weird, bad choice that made me sad and uncomfortable. In that way, it wasn’t unusual, but it still warrants a blog post.
To start this story, I have to tell you that I only got into one college. Despite being a nearly straight-A student in high school, having totally decent SAT scores, and writing an essay containing a whimsical story about my deep-seated feminism, I was wait-listed by my two top choice schools. This threw me into, first, a long session of sobbing, and next, an overly-ambitious period of attempted positivity. I remember just crying and crying, while choking out the words “I’ll just go to UVM, it’ll be fine, UVM will be fine, I’ll be fine…”
Anyway, I did go to UVM. And in an attempt to embrace the experience that was being forced upon me, I decided to take the bull by the horns and sign up for the pre-orientation week-long wilderness trip option, called TREK. Clearly, I did not think this through. In my mind, it was the only way: I had to do this, to make the most of college, to make friends and LOVE COLLEGE AND IT’S FINE I DIDN’T GET INTO SKIDMORE. The rational thoughts, like, hey Jana, you don’t LIKE camping or the outdoors or building trails – those weren’t ones that I had. Not even for a second. I just bought a wilderness backpack and arrived in the UVM gym, ready to go.
I’ll also note here that I was still dating my high school boyfriend, and we had decided to stay together even though he was still in high school and I was traveling away to Vermont. So I arrived at the UVM gym, wearing wilderness pants and a wilderness backpack and a baseball hat, desperately sad to be without my boyfriend.
The week was like this: I was sad. My group’s job was to BUILD A TRAIL, and to accomplish this we had to hike really far up a mountain, set up camp, and then spend every day doing hard manual labor like moving giant rocks and carrying large pieces of wood. I was the worst at this. Because OF COURSE I WOULD BE THE WORST AT THIS. I didn’t actually speak most of the time, but inwardly, I felt intensely sorry for myself.
I also want to mention a specific element that made the week especially painful. Ok, Listen. I FORGOT TO BRING CHAPSTICK. For those of you who know me, you’ll understand that I keep chapstick on me at all, ALL, times, and apply it approximately every fifteen minutes. When I don’t have it for a day, my lips become weird and gross, with little skin flakes on them that then fall onto my shirts – you know? You know. So, picture those lips multiplied by one whole week. The thing was, I probably could have asked to borrow some chapstick on the first day, but by the time the situation had gotten bad enough that I really considered doing it (I like, eyed people while mentally rehearsing the question), my lips were so disgusting that I knew no one would ever share with me. Or love me. It was awful.
Some days, in the afternoons, we were given “free time” and allowed to go on recreational group hikes instead of working on the trail. During those times, I always, always claimed to feel sick so that I could lie in my tent alone and cry about missing my boyfriend. Those were the most enjoyable moments of the week. I cherished them.
So yeah, it was hell. When the week mercifully ended, we all piled into the van to drive back to campus, and stopped for lunch at a fast food place. In the bathroom of the restaurant, I think that I actually laughed when I saw my face and how disgusting it was. Like a monster had taken over my mouth. New friends? Anyone?
As an addendum, know that when we finally made it back to campus and I got to take a shower, I was overly-enthusiastic about shaving my legs and cut myself so deeply that I had to run to my RA’s room to A) introduce myself while crying and B) beg her for band-aids (she gave me three, which was not enough). As a result of this wound, all of my jeans from that first month of college have a little blood stain on the spot where they touched the cut. It’s a fitting memorial.
Here’s an email I sent to my dad shortly afterwards:
I’m sure mom told you about my gigantic shaving wound. It is crazy, i dont even want to think about how i did that it makes me cringe. I dont think i will shave for a while – at least its almost fall. Oh well. it is healing so no worries, and i put neosporin on it today so it shouldnt get infected or anything.
Happy Back To School!
Catherine: I too have a debilitating chapstick addiction, so being without it for a week is obviously the thing that terrifies me most about this prospect. Not like I wanna quote Leann Rimes, but “HOW DO I LIVE WITHOUT YOU.” That whole song, lyric for lyric, encapsulates precisely how I feel about chapstick.
Can I also direct everyone to the TREK photo for a moment – look at the man in baseball cap, second from the right. Is this really THE BEST picture they could find? Homeboy looks MIS.ER.ABLE. and photoshopped in all at the same time.
And one more thing – for the past like, ten times I’ve shaved my legs, I have cut myself shaving. Including cuts on BOTH FEET from dropping my razor on them. I’m getting worse with age, guys.