Tag Archives: college

Congratulations, Grad!

GUYS!!!

As of last Thursday, I am officially a college graduate! No, I was not secretly still in college trying to complete my degree whilst lying to my employers… Here’s what happened:

As many of you know, I went to music college and I graduated in 2009 – only one year later than I should have! The thing about Berklee is that they have so many non-traditional students that they just kind of let anyone who is close-ish to graduating participate in the ceremony. I swear, on graduation morning in between Berklee trivia games and whatever we were supposed to practice about walking in lines and sitting in chairs, one of the administrators stood up and gave a strict announcement about the fact that our diploma carriers did not contain our degrees and participation in the ceremony did not in fact guarantee our graduation. Yes, it was super-fucking-celebratory.

A few months after graduation I realized I hadn’t received my degree. Much to my chagrin, I picked up the phone and called the Registrar’s office. I don’t understand what the deal is with Berklee’s Registrar, but it is the Worst. Thing. Ever. Everyone else at Berklee is super helpful, even the librarians are chill, but the Registrar seems to have one requirement for its employees – you must be a sadist to work in this office.

I don’t understand what I did to make you hate me, Registrar. All I ever wanted was no 9 AM or Friday classes.

While I didn’t know their names, I’d learned their voices: Angry Bald Guy who barely looks up to undermine his victims’ senses of self-worth, Blonde Lady who forces her prey to make an appointment because she has an office (DUNGEON) and once allowed into her chamber, you have to wait and wait because she’s at lunch even though it’s 2:30. After many, many hours of waiting on hold and many, many hours of the RegiS(tr)ADISTS examining my transcript, they informed me of the issue: I took a Music Business Products class in place of a Music Business Marketing class and Angry Bald Guy said I was totally fucked. Blonde lady was like, “Yup, you’ve gotta move back here. The city you totally hate is pulling you back and there’s nothing you can do about it.” I could hear their joy – it’s like I’d given them my heart to feast upon.

Alas, the Registradists, being twisted and unable to process positive intentions, were unaware that the rest of the Berklee staff is made up of lovely human beings. I called the Business department and they were like, “Yeah… whatever, we don’t care, we’ll clear it up, no worries.” That night, and many nights after, I slept like a baby. I pretty much forgot about that piece of paper after that because I was really busy having a quarter-life crisis in 2010, and there were so many songs I NEEDED to write about running away or wanting to be saved, that there was no time at all to check the mail. Also, no one gets their Bachelor’s of Fine Arts and starts waving it around at giant corporations being like, “HIRE ME BITCH, I’M THE BEST CANDIDATE.” Once given a BFA, graduates tend to cry a lot, contemplate suicide and work at restaurants. And then, before I knew it, I was up in New York, working at the Flower Company and only in fleeting (see: drunk) moments did I think, “Hmmm, I never got that degree in the mail? I don’t think? Do I have cigarettes?”

In the past year I’ve thought of it more. I think this might be a sign of my growing older. Like how I think about cancer and the dentist and both of them are no longer mythological creatures but actual facts of life that I might have to deal with. So I started thinking, “What if they never cleared it up? What if I don’t really have a degree? Do people check that?” In moments of panic I decided that the Marquis de Sade of Transcripts had shredded mine in its entirety, erasing any sign that I’d ever darkened Berklee’s doors. I pictured him laughing manically, listening to Jazz fusion that only someone with a dual major in Experimental Composition and Music Synthesis could appreciate, using his hand to conduct the sounds of the shredding and hybrid chords in unison.

Clearly, I had to call, but I kept putting it off. The Registrar is really that terrible, I promise. The other day I booked a dentist appointment in order to avoid calling, because I feel like there are only so many adult things I can do in one day before they have adverse effects on me… Like wrinkles. I booked my first dentist’s appointment in five years in place of making a phone call to Berklee’s Registrar. I’ve actually accomplished a lot while putting off this degree thing.

Last Thursday, however, I went outside for a diet coke and I decided… Enough was enough.

“Tiffany, this is your day of reckoning.” I said to myself. I took a seat in a cafe, hit dial, and braced myself for thirty minutes of 15th century Renaissance hold music.

“Registrar’s Office, this is Matt.” He picked up on the second ring! Matt sounded young, unjaded, almost happy to accept my call!

“Hey, so um, I graduated? 3 years ago?” I am very awkward when it comes to explaining situations in which I already feel guilty despite having no reason to actually feel guilty. Matt pulled up my transcript.

“Oh yes, it says here that you are ‘In Progress.'” They should probably come up with another status for those who have been ‘in progress’ for so many years… Right?

“Ok yeah, that’s what they said they’d fix.” I explained the situation. I figured that because Matt was totally younger than me, he’d totally understand.

“Well, it looks like you in fact HAVEN’T graduated. Your transcript is not complete. Have you RECEIVED your degree in the mail?” Et tu, Matt? The Registradists have advanced in their techniques. They’ve learned how to disarm someone, reel them in, and then FUCKING EVISCERATE them.

“Um, no. I guess not. I’ve been moving around a lot? I have a job…” Whenever comforting myself about the possibility of not really having a college degree, I default to the fact that I have a job, because really, isn’t that what we go to college for? I have one of those things that I spent five years studying to get! Whether or not I took How to Read Spreadsheets 101 does not concern me anymore.

“Well. You are still missing three credits. So you haven’t graduated.” Matt, you are younger than me. Matt, you might be younger than MY younger brother. I wanted to tell Matt to go back to his dorm room, take a bong rip and enjoy it, because one day he was going to wake up and not be in college. Le sigh… Instead I acted like the adult that I guess I am.

“Listen. Who do I need to talk to to straighten this out.” Fuck you Matt, you young, Snapchat-using scum. I will crush you one day. I bet you post no original content on your Tumblr. I hate your generation so much and so does Obama.

Matt gave me the email address of the graduation director. I wrote her an earnest email explaining my ‘awkward’ situation, how “frustrated and disheartened” I was at my Alma Mater. I expected to wait, to have to follow up, but within three hours I received this email:

“Hi Tiffany,

Thanks for your email.  I took a look at your records and you have actually graduated.  A few courses weren’t where they needed to be on your degree audit, but I made some adjustments and then graduated you.  What address should I send your degree to and how would you like your name printed on it?”

BOOM. GRADUATED.

It’s strange because, when I actually graduated from college 3.5 years ago, I was like, “K, whatevs, I hate everything,” but being told in the middle of your workday on a Thursday that you’ve achieved something is TOTALLY awesome. I was so excited that I skipped yoga, went home and bought myself some champagne. I had a singing-along-to-Taylor-Swift party and was like “I’M A COLLEGE GRADUATE, BITCHES!” Youth is totally wasted on the young, and I’m still young…

So now my only thing is that I wanna call up that little bastard, Matt, and be all, “HEY DOUCHE-BUCKET, CHECK OUT MY TRANSCRIPT NOW MO’FUCKA. STUDENT ID NUMBER 044156 BITCH. WHO HASN’T GRADUATED NOW? WHO HASN’T GRADUATED NOW, YOU LITTLE BITCH?”

And then I’m gonna do this to him:

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No, that doesn’t mean you’re a lesbian

“My mom is a flight attendant so she always brings me their extra liquor bottles. Here, take a shot.”

One of the better things that happened as a result of my ending up at Shorter College was that I  got to study abroad basically for free. I spent the Spring semester of my sophomore year in London with a bunch of kids from non-Southern Baptist colleges. You know, normal college kids.

I’d gotten drunk only three times in my life, but the day I arrived in London I made the snap decision that I was going to begin drinking. I like to think that I packed all of the life lessons of Freshman year into those four months and that when I came back to the US, I returned a woman transformed by real life. As alcohol is the best social lubricant, beginning to drink also meant the beginning of my hanging out with people I wouldn’t otherwise hang out with. Over the course of my stay in London, I worked my way through a cast of characters that in retrospect were fit for a Van Wilder movie.

It started out with like-minded peers – the kids who liked indie rock as much as me. Then I met the stoner circle, who’d ask me to play guitar for them while they’d pass a bowl around their dorm room. It seemed the more I was down to drink, the more I liked EVERYONE, and so I moved my way through each group until I got to a group of wild and crazy party girls.

I don’t even know how I ended up in their dorm room, because I had a terrible cold and was on antibiotics, but there I sat, drinking cheap wine and taking a double shot of grey goose from a plastic bottle stolen from an airplane. My mom told me over the phone that alcohol would reduce the affects of my medication, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t warn me that drinking on antibiotics would DESTROY ME. I had no idea what was about to happen.

Our study abroad group had just discovered that the drinks at gay bars were significantly less expensive, so we were almost exclusively hanging out at G-A-Y, London’s giant (and probably terrible) gay bar that boasted a floor for lesbians and a floor for gay men. Before I knew it, we were in line and one of the wild girls was like, “You know what would be great? If we went to the lesbian part of the bar and tried to see if we could get free drinks.” My response was something along the lines of, “Dude, totally! I’ll definitely kiss a girl for a free drink!”

Baby Tiffany was not just drunk – she was fuuuucked up. Here’s a rundown of my sexual experiences at this point in my life: I a virgin, and I’d made out with like four people.  Until moving to London, I’d only kissed my high school boyfriend, who I was still completely obsessed with two years after the end of our three month relationship. Once I got to London, I made out with my RA a few times and I think one time I slept in his dorm room. His interest level in me was about as high as your standard college boy (that’s an optimistic description) and I was completely infatuated with him because, well, I was a stage five virgin clinger. When I think of all the Fall Out Boy lyrics I posted on my Facebook profile back then I’m just… So glad there was no such thing as a minifeed.

After the end to my almost entirely imagined love affair with the RA, I made out with two other boys in London. I felt like a sassy bitch and the cocktail of alcohol and antibiotics made me ready to take on the next feat of college craziness – lesbianism. Someone should have told me I wasn’t ready for this idiotic rite of passage. That’s some Junior year shit. Alas, none of my new friends understood the depths of my naivete, so down the stairs to the lesbian bar I went. The wild girl ordered an entire pitcher of something blue and the two of us downed the entire thing while we talked about boys. I listened, wide-eyed, as the wild girl told me about her open relationship. She was so cool.

“So… What type of girl do you like?” She asked me, turning around on her bar stool and examining the hardly crowded lesbian bar.

“I… don’t know?” I honestly had no idea what type of girl I would like, if I liked girls. I knew the type of girl I wanted to be, so I decided maybe I’d like girls like that, but Kiera Knightley was nowhere to be found. I ended up talking to a girl with two-toned hair and thick black eyeliner. She also happened to be the DD for her friends. I stood no chance, but luckily(?) for me the night got spotty after that.

I woke up the next morning to the usual post-drinking memories rushing back into my brain. The one difference was that this time the memories were not so usual. Did I really start talking to the ugliest lesbian at the bar? Did we dance? Did we then go to that terrible American sports bar afterwards and did the bouncer almost not let me in except the lesbian convinced him that I was fine and promised I would not drink anymore? Did I really stay in the booth while everyone else danced and did I throw up underneath said booth because I convinced myself that everyone was doing it? Did I then leave and walk ALL the way home because I didn’t want to wait for the bus? Did I throw up in the public restroom of our dorm building? Did I bump into the RA? Did the below conversation really happen?

“Hiiiiiiiii”
“Hey Tiffany…. You’re wasted.”
“No! Itswhatevah, I’m whatevasoberrrrr. YOU GOT NEW MOUTH WASH.”
“You remembered what type of mouthwash I have?”
“Yeahhhhh… Youuuuu hatttteedddd it. It wasgrosssss.”

Did that really happen? Yes, yes all of it did happen. 

I was miraculously ok with the throwing up in the bar, the walking home through London by myself in the middle of the night, and even the admitting to the object of my affection that I creepily remembered his feelings of regret surrounding a purchase of off-brand mouthwash. I wasn’t, however, prepared for the, “WTF is wrong with me,” feeling that accompanies any sort of deviance. Someone told me I gave the ugly lesbian my phone number and this simple fact spiraled me into two days of questioning my sexuality. I didn’t even kiss this girl, but I was so confused.

“If I got her phone number, does that mean I’m gay??”

God I was a fucking idiot when I was 20.

Photos from a similar night that also went terribly wrong. That’s a story for another time…

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Secretly a Suitcase Campus

By the middle of Welcome Week, my desire to whine to Mark had dwindled. I was by no means happy in Rome, but my feelings of misery turned into a numb acceptance. The sorority girls were friendly to us and the feelings of newly found freedom were sinking in. One night Rachel and I stayed with the off campus boys until 3 AM. When we drove back to school and the only repercussion was the judgmental look of the night guard. I felt exhilarated for a moment. I was at college.

Sometime that week we went to lunch with one of the off campus boys and his friend. A town favorite was Harvest Moon Cafe on Broad Street. I think the fraternity President waited tables there and they served salads that vaguely resembled something from California Pizza Kitchen. For some, Harvest Moon was the hippest.

I’ll never forget that lunch because it was the first time I felt The Numbness. That afternoon at Harvest Moon, Off Campus and his friend (who I’d later learn was Austin’s roommate) sat across the table from Rachel and me and discussed hunting.

My mind wandered for a moment, and I realized I was no longer hearing their words. I’m from the South, but I’m not so southern that twang is immediately comprehensible. As they drawled at one another the words blurred together.

“So, lay-ust Wednesday we were hunting’ and ah saw the cahrayziest thang, it wuz lahk a durdurdurduhduh….” 

“Aw, Hay-uhl naw! Sheeeee-ut!”

I do love the South. I love rednecks, BBQ and I have the letters ‘ATL’ tattooed to my wrist. I have a lot of Southern pride, but, in this moment, the South felt alien.

It got worse. “Say-uh, Tiff-nay. What’d ew git on your S-Ay-Tee-uhs?” One quick note about me at 18 – I was an intellectual snob. I didn’t have any luck in other areas of my life so I clung to the idea that, at the very least, I was smart. I used this to justify my being incredibly judgmental towards anyone who wasn’t. I told Austin’s roommate my SAT score. I knew by intellectual snob standards that it was just OK. It may have been the reason Harvard didn’t welcome me with open arms.

Austin’s roommate’s jaw dropped,

“Shee-yut. Why are yew here?” His score was roughly half mine. I was under the impression that’s the amount you got for filling out the Scantron form. I paused briefly, I had come up with a lot of answers to that question in my first week at Shorter; I got a full scholarship; I’m going to be a musician; It’s God’s Will. Usually one of them would pop out of my mouth before I had a chance to consider whether or not I believed it. This time it didn’t.

“I have no idea.”

…….

On Friday night, Rachel and I decided to go to our first Welcome Week activity, which happened to be the last activity scheduled for Welcome Week – the Fitton Student Union party. Why, you ask, did we finally want to go to Welcome Week activity? Boys. Definitely just for boys. Earlier in the week I’d seen this boy walking with a group of Freshman participating in a scavenger hunt. He was tall, and wearing a cross t-shirt. Because I went to the International School, I’d rarely found a Christian boy to have a crush on. I daydreamed about meeting a Christian boy with a Jeep Wrangler who liked DC Talk and would take me on picnics and pray before our meal. Christian boyfriend would stop at second base and maybe one day he’d wash my feet before telling me he loved me like I’d read about in True Love Waits books. This boy looked like my imagined Christian boyfriend, and I pointed him out to Rachel.

He also had a cool name. I’ll mention at this point that I’ve changed the names of anyone with whom I’m no longer close who might not want stories of what they were like in college on the internet. So I’ve changed them, but only slightly.

“Do you know what his name is?” Rachel asked me while we picked tank tops to match our denim mini skirts.

“Ok, so either his name is Amsterdam or he lived in Amsterdam and now his nickname is Amsterdam. Whatever, he’s tall.”

“That’s cool. Some of the baseball players are cute.”

We pranced across campus to the student union, ready for our first weekend at college. As we walked through the parking lots, we noticed a suspiciously low number of cars and several students loading laundry bags into the trunks of their cars. The student union was practically deserted, save for a DJ playing edited rap songs and a couple of the foreign exchange students. That was the moment we learned that Shorter was a ‘suitcase campus,’ meaning that most of the students would leave each Friday afternoon and return each Sunday evening. Rachel and I sighed for a second and talked about all the fun things we could be doing if we were back in Atlanta.

Then it hit us… home was only an hour and a half away. We were on the road by 10 PM. We drove down highway 411, through Cartersville and over Lake Allatoona for only the third time. I was about to develop a very close relationship with that country highway.

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Welcome Week

The summer was nowhere close to over when I moved up to Rome. Georgia summers start mid-spring and end mid-fall, and I was about to learn that in Rome it was always 10 degrees hotter or 10 degrees cooler than any temperature one would consider comfortable. I wasn’t excited about going to college. I’d grown attached to Atlanta over the summer, and our orientation didn’t psych us up to move in. The one upside was that I’d be living with my childhood best friend, Rachel. On orientation night we played a game that I think was Baptist-risque; the title was Sex on the Couch. It was so awkward and not fun that we skipped the rest of the get to know you activities and sat on the tiny bed in our dorm.

We stared at the walls of our future room. Some type of fabric had been pressed into the cement, probably in the 70s… that’s when textured walls were cool, right? Some of the burlapy strings were sticking out; they poked through our tank tops as we slouched against the wall. Rachel teared up and I stared blankly. I thought to myself that God was in control but I was also suspicious of God because His Will really seemed to be fucking up my life lately.

On move in day, I arrived at Shorter an 18-year-old in an Abercrombie denim mini skirt and a neon church t-shirt. I had an orange corduroy purse from Old Navy that I’d soon attach a John Kerry 2004 button to because I was a recently-converted liberal. Earlier that year I’d gone on a school trip to New York, and Nina and I fell in love with Soho. We decided that once we became employed entertainers we’d share a loft there. I didn’t know when that would happen, but 26 sounded about right. As a kid I’d decided the age of 26 was a definitive point in the process of aging. I figured everything I wanted would happen by age 26, and then I’d be good. There was no rush, I still had eight years to figure it out.

We skipped all of the Welcome Week activities out of fear that they’d be other versions of Sex on the Couch or, even worse, more Sex on the Couch. We bought decorations for our dorm room, groceries and big gaudy rings. We did all of this at the Walmart… it turned out we were going to be doing everything at the Walmart. Rachel worked diligently on her scheme to make her mark on the Shorter social scene. She identified the ‘hot’ sorority and befriended the president of its brother fraternity. This gained us an immediate invite to an off campus house. A couple fifth year seniors were old enough to move off even though they were unmarried. Off campus houses were one of the few locations the Shorter party kids gathered to drink.

I drank twice my senior year of high school, which I chalked up to wild-oat-sewing and planned to never drink again. I did’t consume a drop of alcohol my freshman year of college. I wanted to spend weekends in dorm rooms and talk about how good the Daily Show was or listen to Modest Mouse, but that didn’t happen. For lack of anything better to do, I found myself at the off campus house sitting on an old recliner clutching a Dixie cup full of diet coke every night that week. I spent a lot of nights outside talking on the phone with Mark. He was my ex-boyfriend with whom I’d become close (but would proceed to be a little in love with for the duration of my Shorter years) who, like Nina, moved to New York to go to Columbia.

I whined to Mark that I already knew I didn’t fit. Classes hadn’t even started. He asked if was thinking about transferring. I was.

Each night a tall, skinny boy sat in the corner at the off campus house. He was one of the other ones who didn’t drink, and he only wore Abercrombie and Fitch. He seemed different too, but he never spoke and scowled always. I disliked him until the night he perked up at my mention of the nice mall in Atlanta.

“You shop at Lenox?” This was the first time the corners of his mouth turned up from the scowl.

“Oh yeah, I’m from Atlanta. I went to high school right there so we used to take our lunch break and free periods to walk around.”

Even though we didn’t have another conversation for at least several weeks, Austin never scowled at me again.

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Georgia

My second summer in New York is fast approaching. Because I’m only a few years out of college, I have yet to abandon the mindset that time passes in school years. I’m nearing the end of my junior year of life… I’d say that after I get to the end of senior year I’ll gain a sense of direction and feel like I’m going somewhere, but I took an extra year in college, so I’ll probably take an extra year in life.

Either way, I get all introspective at the end of Spring and the feeling is particularly acute as my last day of working at the flower company is June 6… it feels just like I’m ramping up for Summer break. The feelings of fear, excitement and confusion aren’t dissimilar from the way I felt ages 18 to 20. I think one of the reasons I see the connection between these two stages of life is because during that period my only major goal was to move to New York and live with my best friends, Nina and Austin.

Austin’s been asking me to write the story of how we achieved the outlandish pipe dreams we had in our late teens, and I’ve been promising to do so for months. I sort of don’t know where to start, because life has taken so many twists and turns from the first time 18 year-old Nina and I stared up at the brick building in Soho and hatched a plan to share a loft.

I think I have to start with Rome. No, not the one in Italy.

Ohhhhh yeahhhh. Rome, Georgia bitches.

Population: 100,000
Location: Northwest Georgia, only a handful of miles from the Alabama and Tennessee border and even closer to the Coosa Valley paper mill that gives the people of Coosa birth defects and the rivers of Rome the delightful smell of diluted skunk – all seven of them.
Fun Fact: Rome has the most churches per capita, per square mile (don’t freak out, Wheaton IL, we added in the per square mile part since you technically win). Most of them are Southern Baptists, who will tell you all the others are just Satanists masquerading as a church in order to mislead people into a cult they like to call Presbyterianism.

As I’ve mentioned before, when I was 18 I was about as intelligent as a lobotomy patient still under anesthesia, and I was 100% positive that I was going to become a famous singer-songwriter… like Jewel, but with the hotness of Britney Spears. I applied only to conservatory programs for Opera music, which I was terrible at, and was promptly rejected from all of them except a school in Rome… Shorter College. I was a really good student, so had I applied to any school for academics I would have likely gotten in, but again, as I was stupid, the only school I applied using a purely academic application was Harvard, where I was wait-listed and then rejected. I’d assume schools like Harvard only have a wait-list so people like me can be all “NO REALLY… I WAS SMART ONCE, I PROMISE,” because seriously… who’s going to say “Got into Harvard, I don’t really know if I want to go there.”

In August of 2004, off I went to Shorter College in Rome, GA while Nina moved to New York, Hibben to DC and all my classmates to reputable schools that are not currently the center of a national controversy.

As it turns out, ending up there was a real shot of luck. I’ve had many moments where I’ve shaken my fist at Harvard, my teenage brain, and all the other random things that caused me to end up in rural Georgia… but it’s in those times that I think of Austin. I’m fairly certain that no amount of liberal arts classes could have impacted me in the way our friendship has.

In what I hope to be many future posts, I’m going to tell you the story of how I shed my Baptist faith, got drunk off of Everclear in someone’s mama’s backyard and bonded with a school janitor about a rabid opossum… oh yeah, and how I ended up living here just like I promised my journal I’d do at 18.

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