Diego, not David, part I
This post is my attempt to make up for the lack of substantial posts in the past few months. As I wrote earlier, I would focus on school and not write here as often. Sometimes it seemed I had abandoned the site and I considered going the way of Waltarrrrr and just ending the site. The thought of abandoning the site gains steam as I march along the path of higher education towards some sort of professionalized work. I enjoy writing, especially about my experiences, too much to fully stop writing here. I hope to write a few more posts every few months, but since I spent most of my time studying or working, I don’t have time to collect enough material from Boston and Cambridge to report.
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I returned to college this past September after a leave of absence that lasted three semesters, or a year-and-a-half. When I heard news that my petition to return had been accepted, I did not post it on Facebook or call people. Instead, I sat on the news for a few days, then wrote an email to a baker’s dozen of close contacts and informed them I was returning to college but to keep the news quiet. Only three are currently students in the Boston area, the rest are alumni.
I left college quietly and returned to college with just as little fanfare. I arrived in Boston on the last move-in day because of the constricted schedule I had after hearing of my approved return. The only thing I did to publicly announce my return was a simple Facebook status message reading “Diego is back at Harvard.”
The first week was full of really awkward encounters with classmates. Since few knew I had returned, I’m sure they were shocked to just suddenly see me back on campus. Those who started with me in 2007 were by then beginning their senior and I had been their classmate for just the first half of the previous three years. Some people who I thought I got along with did not recognize me when I returned and with some I acted as if I did not remember them. The strongest shock was simply the change of locale; I had become accustomed to being in Los Angeles, working and living with my parents. My life sped up in almost breakneck speed.
Name tags are put on room doors to identify who lives where and (often) where they are from. When I reached my door, I saw the name tag did not read “Diego,” it read “David.” I cursed my luck. I was often confused for “David” because I was friends and looked similar to a “David.” He and I were often confused for each other to the point that we started joking about switching our names in social situations.
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I don’t live in a shared room or a suite. I really like living alone after the stress that came with living with others in my freshmen year. The largest problem I had was that I was often cleaning for others. My threshold for dirt and mess was much lower than my roommates and I found myself cleaning a lot and cursing how we lived. I am really in my room only to sleep and it works its purpose just fine. The sun wakes me up by eight in the morning and I can make noise without bothering or getting in the way of roommates. I had most of my meals last semester in my House because I had a schedule that permitted me to return and eat all meals.
I was invited to my House’s Sophomore Outing when I returned and met a few students there, but mostly spoke with Tutors (graduate students who live in the House) and met a few with whom I connected. Maybe it was just a childish connection to the first people you meet anywhere, but I’ve kept talking and meeting with them. In a House without roommates or friends, that connection helps bind me to the House. If it weren’t for the conversations and connections I’ve made with the Tutors, I’m sure I’d despise living in my House because then I’d really have no one to talk to in the House.
I did rejoin the two extracurricular activities I was involved with before taking time off and reintegrating was a trip in itself. Here were two social groups that had evolved since I left and I felt I had to play catch-up with gossip, life, etc. to fit in. Honestly, I still feel like the odd man out in one of the activities. While groups of friends formed and they go and mingle with the other friendship groups that are part of the extracurricular activity, I’m the one without friends, a relic of a social class that is almost out the door. I feel it’s hard for me to break into the social groups because I don’t share the social history that they do and without that it will be hard for them to accept me in the group. I don’t give up; it’s tough, but if at the very least I get invited to a few things, I’ll be content.
All through my childhood and adolescence I never had a birthday party. Every so often my parents would buy a cake, but that was the extent of the celebration. Because I was in Track B in the LAUSD’s (link) year-round calendar, I was on vacation and nowhere near classmates on my birthdays. It wasn’t until the 11th grade that I was in school during my birthday because South East High School opened and eased the overcrowding at South Gate High School (click here to see SGHS quantified). I had already internalized a dislike for my birthday by the time I reached adolescence and so I cared very little for it.
My distaste carried on into college, where if it weren’t for my freshmen-year roommates telling people it was my birthday, no one would have known. I shared my birthday with someone in the next room, so I accepted the entryway-wide celebration. The following year I spent my birthday alone and no one knew it was my birthday, making it the perfect birthday for me. I don’t know why I felt so uncomfortable with my birthday; I think it might be the sudden heaping of attention from others on a day for no reason but to celebrate another year gone.
This past year I decided my birthday would be different. Since I was turning 21, I invited a few people to dinner and to a bar. It was small and just the way I liked it because I didn’t feel uncomfortable in any of the social situations that day. Other than my birthday and three other instances, I didn’t go out on weekend nights last semester. I decided to readjust to being in school this past semester. Parties can wait and making friends takes time, but I am held accountable for my grades at the end of the semester.
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At the only party I attended last semester I ran into a few Wellesley students I knew from before taking time off. When they saw me, one of them looked at me and screamed, “David!” and walked over. I corrected her (she confused me for my aforementioned friend) and we spoke and caught up with each other as best as you can when you have five minutes with each other.