Brad called me last fall to let me know that I am living my life incorrectly. It's true, I am not making as much money as I could be, considering the framed college diploma that hangs in my living room bearing the signatures of two important people whom I have never met. After informing me that the severity of this life choice (to work retail in a bike shop) can be detrimental to my self-esteem, not to mention my reputation, he proceeded to laugh haughtily.
I must have perservered civily through the rest of this conversation, but I do not recall it. All I can remember is the rage that welled and swelled within me, overtaking my body as anger has never done to me before. I hung up the phone. I cursed. I yelled. I kicked things. I threw a book. I even cried a little. In a matter of minutes this emotional storm passed and a calm took its place. I was happy, and I didn't need an overweight, insecure, beer guzzling, coke snorting frat boy to tell me otherwise. I am happy and I love my life.
According to Brad, money must be the measure of how successful someone is. Nevermind that I am learning new things each day. Nevermind that I am being constantly challenged physically and mentally and growing evermore fearless in the mountains, whether rock or snow covered. Nevermind that I have found truer friends here that I did in college. Riding or running alone out on the trails I am still not as lonely as I've felt at crowded parties where someone is always touching me. I've never been so alone as when I had to link arms with two girlfriends to ensure that we make it from the front door to the keg out back without losing each other to the raging hormonal tides of tube tops and testosterone.
And college, according to Brad is the reason I am overqualified for the solace I have found in riding bicycles. It is my college degree that gives Brad the liberty to laugh at the otherwise respectable career I have chosen. But college?! The exhausting cycle: learning, testing, forgetting, learning, testing, forgetting...All for a piece of paper that tells me I am smarter than those who do not have it and no different from anyone who does. Is it there to tell me I am fulfilled? Complete? Or to remind me there are several higher levels of these papers I could potentially achieve and with each the font becomes more ornate and impossible to read. Is this what we strive for?
I have matted and mounted this thing on my wall as a recreational hunter does with a deer head. i have posed enthusiastically with it for pictures, holding it up like a trophy bass, hanging by his lip with droplets of his former home puddling beneath him. It is just a piece of paper! It is not a measure of intelligence or even perserverance. Despite the quality of glass that it glares at me from behind (I chose PerfectVue) it is still a piece of paper born of a copy machine who has born millions of other papers like mine designed to legitimize our social standings but conversley makes us insignificant.
What this diploma really says is not that I am educated and socialized and suited for the world, but that I know how to cheat. How to get by. How to lose myself in a Camelbak of Southern Comfort and promiscuous friendships. It says I know how to sand the edges of Love so that it interlocks neatly with Sex. I know how to identify Desperation when it's disguised as PDA emitted by last Saturday's MVP and its corresponding cheerleader. I know that 1 1=2 and -1 1=0 and that's how I feel about dating.
I know how to sit on a barstool in a tight halter and low-rise jeans in such a way that my butt crack doesn't show and my belly doesn't compress into an unsightly roll. I know how to act taken at a party when a drunk pervert keeps "accidentally" touching my breast and I know how to act available when a cute transfer student takes the seat behind me in American Lit.
This diploma says that I have mastered both arts of Avoiding and Casual Stalking. This diploma says that I have satisfactorily lost my identity in an earnest attempt to fit in. It says I have successfully memorized and recited the rules of "faking it". Smiles, orgasms, apathy and concern alike!. It says I have wallowed in self-pity, mistaking my ego for my heart and vice versa, ultimately discovering that both have been broken.
Brad called me agian last night at 2:25 am to say that he was hurt because I didn't include him in my list. he must have felt as though he had no impact on my life. What Brad doesn't know is that he had a great impact. He wasn't simply "not good enough" as he hypothesized in a brief, crude (possibly drunken?) voicemail message. But it was his profound negativity (Teresa calls them sunshine-suckers) that made me realize how happy I am, and that I have been happy all along. How disappointed Brad would be if he knew!