A few days ago I found my notebook from "Intro to Feminism," SUNY Albany, 1997. This was the only class I clearly remember in all four years of college, and I remember it because it was my first real communal, peer-taught, all-ideas-welcome, sisterhood of the traveling pants, "I love my vagina" educational experience. It also focused strongly on economics and political structure, and was one of those rare offerings wherein you can actually *feel* yourself learning.
Anyway, part of the deal was to keep a diary of sorts, which was then handed over to the instructor for comments. This is the object that I recently found. And in reading it I've decided that whomever the person was writing those words is long gone. Looong gone.
A) I spent a ridiculous amount of time analyzing "rape culture" in "pop" culture, to the point where I pretty convincingly argued that a McDonald's Milkshake commercial was objectifying the importance of mother's milk.
B) A 30-page paper on female genital mutilation. I don't even know how I wrote a paragraph without passing out.
C) It reminded me that I was hit in the back with garbage as I marched with hundreds of other women through the streets of Albany chanting "Hey, hey, Mister, Mister, Keep Your Hands off My Sister!"
Yes. That happened.
D) I was WAY into the belief that the most important thing that I wanted in my life was to be a wife and a mother. This is the section that amazed me. I was 19, and that was the path that I knew I was on, and I defended that choice vehemently to the rest of the class, which collectively did not share my oddly aggressive set of family values.
I recognize the handwriting, I just don't see my brain or soul in it. I want to find that girl and shake her and hug her and make her stop listening to Rusted Root. Put the bong down, Kathy, and don't even think about committing, to anything.
That's one of the most terrifying things a human can face — that a former version of yourself could be completely unrecognizable. Which means that there's no telling what current state of mind or heart will be lost and rendered meaningless in the future. No telling what's real, or if anything ever is. Particularly if you don't save the relics that will bring you back to it.
Scary. But also a little inspiring, to know that, conversely, the things that currently plague and crush you will probably also be scattered to the wind, hopefully replaced by good things, enduring things.
In any case, I got an A.
Kathleen Laux is an obsessive-compulsive living in Manhattan. She followed an odd career trajectory involving the political world on both coasts, and currently works in the dark underbelly of event planning. She welcomes love or hate mail at telekathy (at) gmail.