I wouldn’t want to be in college right now. Well that’s a complete lie. I’d love to be in college. Not because of some growth-stunted need to perpetually exist in the glory days, but because college is fun. In college, you get to spend your entire afternoon watching The Departed and still feel great about yourself.
What I meant is that I wouldn’t want to exist in the status-fueled arms race that is internship season. People needing to get internships, people needing to have a worthy answer to peers when they
ask judge them about what they’re doing with their summers. It’s always one of the first things that we say. “What are you up to?” Code of course for, “How can I judge you relative to myself, and is there any reason we should continue talking?”
The winter of my sophomore year, I arrived back at school on the internship grind (this was back in the pre-unnecessary hashtag days). I had zero idea what I wanted to do, but it seemed important that I get one — everyone around me was capitol hill this, accounting internship that. It seemed at once aggressive — we still had a decent chunk of time until graduation — but also weirdly necessary. Georgetown always felt like the aformentioned arms race, and in order to be somebody you needed to not just keep up, but dangerously outpace. I knew that my major, American Studies, probably wasn’t gonna be helpful for landing an actionable job (see), but I figured I’d put myself out there. Or at least tell my parents that I was putting myself out there, so that they’d continue being able to say how “great” I was doing at dinner parties without having to feel guilty.
I applied to a bunch of different things that I had about 5-15% interest in. Didn’t get anything, though I definitely didn’t try as hard I could’ve. It was at that time I first discovered blogging, so I spent most of my time that semester writing power rankings of sugary cereals and then overpromoting them on Facebook; the early vestiges of the world-changing, not-at-all-cliche work you see today.
Overall, that semester felt like a big one. I had overloaded on classes and knew that my GPA was gonna take a hit, but that didn’t seem to matter because I kept having this really strong feeling I was working towards something else. Something that was ingrained in my odd routine, which inexplicably seemed to mean something. Dick around in class. Walk 30 minutes to get a burrito. Meet someone for networking-minded coffee. Play the eye game with every girl who walked by, wondering if we were ever gonna get married. Organize some event for the fraternity. Hang out in the library. Monster energy. Sneak in to the auditorium and play piano at 3 am. Walk home, and feel in total control. Maybe that’s what makes people at age 19 think they’re the greatest thing that’s ever happened to this earth. It’s the age where for the first time, you finally know who the fuck you are. Not that you have any idea what to do with that information, nor will you for quite sometime. But the whole Kate Chopin novel in plaid shirt form is definitely a pretty big thing. Because if you suddenly die at age 19, people will know what you were about. It’s the age where finally, you have your own home-brewed momentum.
After some last ditch half-hearted efforts to stay in DC, I ended up going back to my old summer job back in my hometown. Technically, the job was to clean the bathrooms and “beautify” the beach. The real job was to chill in a room for 8 hours a day, and learn how to not strangle your co-workers. All in all, the job was straight out of an movie trying way too hard to imitate The Breakfast Club — a strange situation where you’re thrust with a few other people who you kinda knew from high school, but have to spend an entire summer with.
People talk about having the best summers of their lives. About endless parties, mornings spent next to some guy or girl that you’ve had a crush on since like 4th grade. On paper, I ended up having that summer. Not quite like the narrative makes it out to be (it never is), but it definitely sufficed. A lot of red solo cups, days blurred together spent hanging on the beach, and even a nice summer fling that somewhat came out of nowhere. I made a handful of beach friends that I don’t really talk to anymore, but friends that I happened to randomly run into, I’d actually have a ton to say. The type of people that have no idea who you actually are out there in the world, but might actually know you better than even some of your closest friends.
One morning, I woke up at the house of another beach employee. She had held a small-ish party, the theme of which was the recently concluded World Cup. I had fallen asleep on the floor right next to the piano chair. It was 7am, so I was still consumed by that post-drunk elation — the sort you get when the alcohol’s still lingering enough to prevent you from realizing you’re in the midst of a massive hangover. My hair was green and spiked, because that’s what you do when you just turned 20 years old and go to house parties — you think you’re the shit, and you die your hair green solely to overdose on Burnett’s.
After waiting it out a bit to ensure that the charge I was feeling was purely adrenaline, I drove about an hour to JFK airport. I was off that day, and was picking up a roommate from school who was visiting myself and a few other friends in the New York area. It was the type of mockingly humid day that gets more and more disgusting the closer you get to New York City. The hangover was kicking in and I didn’t have any water. But it didn’t matter. It was during that car ride that I convinced myself I was gonna write a novel about my job on the beach, finish it by the end of junior year, and spend all of senior year trying to sell it so that I wouldn’t have to get a real job. It seemed perfect, it seemed foolproof, it seemed…possible.
Of course, none of that happened. The novel actually somewhat exists, but its coherence is the writing equivalent of George Costanza yelling at a bunch of third graders for being smarter than him. The part that I like to think is important is that I actually spent a year writing it, which I only did because of the momentum. The momentum of the party, made possible by the momentum of the beach job, all of which was built on top of the momentum from the past semester. It all just kept going. I think it’s still going. Of course it’ll probably stop once the comments on this post come along, but that’s not the point. The point is that if you’re gonna do anything worth doing, you need momentum.
I finally got JFK and spent about a half an hour driving around trying to find the right terminal. (Not yet an adult, I still didn’t totally grasp the fact that you were supposed to read more than one sign once you got into the airport.) When I finally got to the right place, I distinctly remember my roommate give me a bug-eyed look, ceding into a sleek nod. My hair was green. It weirdly made sense.
He got in the car, no words. The tacit silence was more powerful than anything that he could’ve said. I turned on the car, upped the music, and drove off onto the shitty parkway. I actually had no idea where we were going.