Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dear Penn, I'm Baaack!

I'm really looking forward to our road trip down to Philadelphia tomorrow. We're leaving in the early afternoon after church and returning home by Monday evening, so it will be a short and sweet trip. We're going because Peter is giving a lecture at a Wharton class on Monday morning (Wharton is the business school at Penn that Peter went to). This will be our first time bringing our son to our alma mater, which will be really neat, because Penn and Philadelphia are where we met and fell in love, so it's kind of how our family began in the first place.

Let me describe for you my life at this time six years ago, in April of 2002, and you will see why I'm so happy to be going back to Philadelphia in very different, much better conditions than I was living in then!

1) I was in the last semester of my senior year, so I was close to graduating and busy with everything. I was taking five demanding classes that semester. By senior year, most classes you take are upper-level and therefore more difficult. I had two upper-level political science classes, two upper-level Spanish classes, and a dreaded (lowest level possible) math class that I had procrastinated taking until my last semester. By April, when classes were coming to an end and finals were upon us, I had long, long papers due for each class except math, plus final exams for some of the classes.

Add to this the fact that because Penn is a top-ranked Ivy League university, the students tend to be highly competitive and many of the professors are very demanding and picky, so it is challenging to get good grades. I had to work my butt off just to get B's. I was so overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work to do for my classes that last semester that I just wanted to curl up and die at this time six years ago. At least if I were dead I wouldn't have to write those papers and study for those exams.

2) I was a busy bride-to-be. My wedding was only about three months away, and I had so much to do for it. We were having a big traditional reception at a hotel and I had to plan all of the details for that, prepare the invitations, plan seating arrangements, get my whole dress ensemble together, choose the music, arrange transportation, and do a hundred other things, all from a few states away (we got married in the Boston area).

3) I was also looking for a full-time job for when I graduated, but this out of necessity had to be pushed to the back burner because of everything else going on. It was discouraging and I felt like a loser because I didn't have a job waiting for me when I graduated.

4) I was homeless. Campus Apartments finally decided to renovate my apartment in the spring semester (they couldn't have waited two more months until summer arrived and classes were out??), so me and my two roommates, Katie and Aubrey, had to find a new place to live for a few weeks. Guess where I lived? With Peter and his roommate. I slept on the couch. Sometimes I stayed overnight at the library when I had to make a deadline and time was of the essence. I could have stayed with some of my other friends instead of with Peter, but procrastination and goofing off was way too easy to do with them, and then I would have been in even more trouble when it came to my schoolwork.

5) Peter and I had to start looking for a house or a condo in New Jersey for when we got married. Otherwise, we were going to be living out of a motel come July of that year! House-hunting was the last thing I had time to do at this point.

6) In addition to all of this, I had three jobs to hold down, plus some extracurriculars to try to stay involved in (I worked at the Penn Press; I took notes for students with learning disabilites; I had a Saturday babysitting job for a grad student couple's little girl out in Swarthmore; I worked for the school newspaper copyediting articles; etc.).

So as you can see, the spring of 2002 was a very stressful time in my life. I think my blood pressure is rising just writing about it (I'm serious!). Having to write those four last papers was especially difficult. I was so close to being done with school, yet they needed to be written well and written quickly, because I hadn't been able to start them earlier in the semester since I was so busy with other things, not to mention I had a social life and fun things to do with my friends and fiance. But, it all ended up working out. "This too shall pass," and it did. However, it was surely the most stressful and busy time of my life!

So this is one of the main reasons why I'm so glad to be going back, six years later, with no academic work to do, no papers to write, no exams to study for, no wedding to plan, no job to look for, no house-hunting to take care of, and no work to show up for. I can just go and relax with my little boy and my hubby and enjoy my beloved old campus and one of my most favorite cities ever. Even if the trip isn't all that eventful, it will be worth it all just for that. Closure will be mine!

Maybe John and I will play on these very steps that I used to walk up and down as a student. I'll smile sweetly and sympathetically at the current busy students hurriedly making their way around us. Closure indeed!