More Navel Gazing

Back in the '80s I went to university at a place called Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I chose it because I had read that it had a good aeronautical program and it was in Upstate New York. I figured it would get more snow than Georgia Tech.

But I had never met anyone who had gone there.

Students at RPI back then lived under the cloud of The Ratio, so I don't think I saw a female student my entire first day. I remember unpacking my stuff in my room and other new residents to the dorm popping their head in to say 'hi' as they went by. A string of socially awkward, near-sighted nerds tried and failed to be comfortable at meeting strangers. I know I was equally nerdy, near-sighted, and socially awkward, but I had never seen so many in one place, so they seemed like they had something wrong with them.

Then in quick succession I met my three closest neighbors. The first limped through on crutches -- he had broken his leg. The second was completely covered with burn scars left from a house explosion. And the third introduced himself as, "Bill, but my friends call me Psycho." I sat down on my little twin bed and contemplated the word "Institute" in my school's name.

Here I was 351 miles from home (which seemed a lot farther away back then than it does now) at a school that nobody I knew had ever heard of. I seriously started to wonder if I had somehow gotten mixed up and checked myself into an institution.

"Well, he seems normal enough," the doctors said to themselves. "Maybe a little bit socially phobic, but functional. On the other hand, he wouldn't have asked to be committed if he didn't have some sort of problem."

And that's when the giant mutant butterflies were born inside my stomach. They were mollified somewhat when I finally met my roommate: at an engineering school, I guess, the architect students are the artsy-almost-normal-ones.

But the butterflies are starting to kick around as I get ready to fly out to Colorado to start my new job. Every single person I met during the interview chanted the words, "create your own reality." It seemed cool at the time.

Now, I'm worried I've joined some sort of cult.

3 thoughtful messages from friendly readers:

Bowie Mike said...

I might question your decision to join the new company if you weren't getting butterflies. My rule of thumb for a new position is that it should be outside your current comfort zone, but not so far out to be unreachable. I also expect to be a little miserable in the first weeks of a new job, so anything above miserable is a bonus.

During high school, I applied and was accepted to two schools - one was RPI. I ended up choosing the school that was closest to my comfort zone - the state university an hour from home. I always wondered whether or not I should have gone to RPI. RPI was not an unknown quantity at my high school, and three people from my high school graduating class started at RPI in 1985 - one who shares your last name. And I even knew a girl from my high school that went there - one of the few.

lacochran said...

RPI? That's hardcore even for the hardcore. Glad you survived.

AbbotOfUnreason said...

@bowiemike: Hey, that was my year, too. I don't remember running into anyone with my last name in my class. It's not an uncommon name, of course. It was a small school, but there were three guys with my first and last names. One of them was a jerk, if you can believe the woman who walked through the school directory to call each of us and tell us off. That was quite a phone call.

@la: I was not much of a grade earner, but I'd do it all over again. In fact, I'd have never left it weren't so dang expensive.