Monday, May 23, 2011


I woke up this morning, bleary-eyed after not being able to get to bed until 4am for no particular reason (damn you cycling insomnia), and had that weird feeling that I sometimes get that I had to listen to a particular song right that second. The song in question was "Your Long Journey," A Robert Plant/Alison Krauss classic that had been a favorite of last fall. I had to go back digging through an older playlist to find it, and on the way, I stumbled across a song that I hadn't thought about, except in passing, in a very long time: "Farmhouse," by Phish.

Now, I'm not much of a Phish fan. I'm not super hippyish, as anyone who has heard me describe my time living in "Synergy," the naked vegetarian pagan coop that I lived in Sophomore year, can attest to. But for some reason, I got totally addicted to this song in the few weeks leading up to my high school graduation from Middlesex. I couldn't describe why; it seemed to embody a sort of vision of living that I wanted, that was different from the stuffy prep-school world that I had, by that time, grown to hate. It seemed to speak of the promise of adventure that I was desperately looking forward to on my upcoming year off. That all sounds like pretty cheesy things to take away from a Phish song, but hey, I was 17 and fed up with Concord, and it struck a chord.

It was weird to listen to the song (which I really haven't paid much attention to since that summer) again this morning, and realize that that part of my life is now a solid four years in the past. Where did the time go? Middlesex seemed to take an eternity; the past four years have gone before I've even really been able to acknowledge their passing. My facebook is currently plastered with updates and photos of my high school classmates graduating from college. Already? I can still remember so many things from high school like they were yesterday, as reminded by my trip to Edinburgh a few weeks ago where I insisted on recreating a specific photograph from the 4th of July 2006 that's now since been lost on the lawn at Abbotsford.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the best high school experience, and the predominant memories I have are of the bitter endings. I wish it were different, as there were definite high points as well, but it isn't. I'd like to say that I've moved on, and for the most part I have; I don't 'care' anymore in the sense that I've come to terms with what happened and know that my life isn't any the worse for wear as a result of my time at Middlesex. Indeed, it's far better in many ways than I ever could have imagined as a chubby little 14 year old moving into Kravis for my first day of Freshman year all the way back in 2003. But I definitely still do 'care' in the sense that there are some people I've never forgiven, and some memories that still, when dredged up, manage to make me pretty sad. I had one of those moments a few days ago, where a friend did something (inadvertently) that reminded me very bitterly of the very worst of those bad memories. I was surprised at how fresh the wounds still felt, even after four years of distance.

But "Farmhouse" doesn't bring up bad memories. It reminds me of the hopes I had, not all of which have come to fruition in the intervening years, but which have led me to becoming a better and stronger person (I hope) today than I was four years ago. I've been thinking a lot about where I am now versus then over these past few months, partially because I find myself, in Oxford, in as close to a prep school environment as I think I could get without traveling back in time. I realized yesterday as I made my new header for this blog that it might seem incongruous that I would call my time here a time a discovery of the joys of being 'off the track of a perfectly rectangular world.' I mean, how much more rectangular can you get than Oxford?

I think about it this way. I knew from the start that my abroad experience would be a different one than most. I'd already spent the previously three and half years working very assiduously at 'going off the track,' and it was very true that I hadn't regretted it for a second: I'd kayaked around an uninhabited island in Alaska, gone to college on the opposite side of the country from all my friends and relatives, visited 41 states, traveled to 10 foreign countries with only my own thoughts as company, visited three new continents, taken time off to pursue non-academic dreams, lived on my own, and in general developed an unrepentantly independent lifestyle that I've grown to desperately love. I didn't particularly want the normal abroad experience, which would be a group-based version of what I'd already experienced on my own. Instead, I chose Oxford because I knew it would be a confrontation of my old life and my new one. I wanted to prove the validity of the quote that titles this blog: that I, in fact, have not regretted my persistent attempts at straying from the neat and ordered path that Middlesex laid out for me. More crucially, though, I wanted to find the 'off the track' life within this rectangular world that I missed the first go around. There are still three weeks left of term; only time will tell, but I'm feeling pretty good about what I've discovered so far.

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