Friday, June 27, 2008

Bachelor's Degree (Love, Part 3)

Love, The Metamorphosis III: Bachelor's Degree

Me In Honey - R.E.M. (mp3)

Fix Me Now - Garbage (mp3)

My Morning Song - Black Crowes (mp3)

Something horrifying and wonderful happened after I graduated college: Absolutely Nothing.

I didn't go to grad school. I didn't go looking for myself across the ocean. I didn't renounce my family or head into the uncharted wilderness. I didn't do anything. I didn't even move out of my Chapel Hill apartment. I got a job bartending. I remained in a relationship that started in the last semester of school and was pretty sure we would end up getting married.

It was hard to be too enthusiastic about my relationship when I had no clue what I might become, what I even wanted to be, professionally. Not that she was terribly concerned about that, but her confidence in me only made my cluelessness more upsetting, made the pressure feel heavier. At this point in my life, "She's Having a Baby" was getting heavy rotation, especially the part where Jefferson Briggs as a young child is being reminded by his grandfather that, without a graduate degree, he would "end up working on a loading dock and hating every minute of it."

A more ambitious fella might say those 14 months of tooling around were agonizing, that they haunted me. Truth is, it was a fantabulous stretch of time. I learned to golf, kinda. I probably watched 10 movies a week. I played video games a-plenty. I went out to bars five or six night a week, reveled in some friendships and made some new, albeit usually fleeting, ones.

Now that I had a girlfriend, I realized that all of the cursed traits that caused me so much frustration and left me stuck with lots of female friends and no relationships were all built for the long haul. Suddenly, I was able to make friends with females, except I wasn't as interested in them romantically anymore, yet I was still seen as a trustworthy and harmless companion.

When I got myself fired from the bartending job the following spring -- for the most noble of reasons, I assure you. No, seriously, they were noble reasons -- I was forced briefly back to the homestead before landing a job at a newspaper in Warner Robins, Georgia. Otherwise known as Armpit of the Universe, USA.

All of the things I took for granted were exposed during my time at The Daily Sun. I left a university town that, person for person, valued the intellectual, the philosophical, that valued learning as a lifelong pursuit. I left my girlfriend, easily the longest relationship of that nature I'd ever known. I left my friends at a time when email was still a nascent concept and keeping in touch through the computer was still foreign. I left a place that felt like it had honed me for a place that didn't give a flip about anything but the United States Air Force and high school football. Oh yeah, and Jesus. Or some version of Him.

Before living in Warner Robins, I was ashamed of my hometown of Chattanooga. Compared to the Research Triangle, a thriving and growing center of business expansion and top-o'-the-heap universities, Chattanooga felt painfully provincial. Chattanooga had one decent commuter college surrounded by a half-dozen staunchly religious ones whose existence seemed more about sheltering the little lambs rather than teaching them anything. And the city was downright stagnant in population and business growth.

But Warner Robins was literally a town built to support the Air Force base. Without that base, the town would wither on the vine. Everyone knew it, even someone like me who knew the town was kinda sad for being so terribly co-dependent, but resigned to it, like a long-abused spouse. As a town, it was basically East Ridge... without Chattanooga.

I knew Warner Robins was going to be a different place the minute my future boss gave me directions to the newspaper's building for my job interview. He gave me directions based not on roads or mileage markers, but on strip clubs. Take the "We Bare All" exit. You'll see Cafe Erotica at the top of the ramp. Turn left. Go a few miles, and you'll see Teasers on the left. We're two lights past Teasers on the right.

If my time lingering and doing nothing in Chapel Hill was wonderful for it's meaninglessness, my time in Warner Robins hardened me (and no, I'm not talking about the strip clubs). It confirmed my love of movies and reading. It confirmed my love of my soon-to-be wife. It confirmed my need to be surrounded by people who appreciate and value education and learning.

It's kinda cool when you realize you're a long way from grown up and plenty fucked up, but also completely enjoying the ride and confident that where you're going is a good place and a helluva journey. Warner Robins confirmed my love of life, and not some glib TV commercial love. A deep, goosebumps on your pinky toe, shameless and deep and passionate love.

Some of us have to go places we know we shouldn't, doing things we don't enjoy, with people with whom we have little in common, to know where we should be, and what we should be doing, and with whom we should surround ourselves.

"Me In Honey" is from Out of Time. "Fix Me Now" is from Garbage's first and eponymous album. "My Morning Song" is from the Crowes' second (and best) album, The Southern Harmony and Music Maker. All three are available at both iTunes and Amazon's mp3 site.

1 comment:

jennifer said...

I think I'm in the Warner Robins of my life at the moment. Thanks for sharing these insights...and especially for posting "Me in Honey". I love it.