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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

‘I quit’

… but not blogging! This is only about an episode of my life where I did exactly that, I quit. I never wrote it down so far, but this lousy night without sleep gave me enough time to mull over it and since this happened when I was 22, I thought it is time to ‘Let it go’. LoL, this means sticky Frozen lyrics for another two days.

Since I have grown older, but not much wiser, I still cultivate a little of my dislike of certain literary theories, although I do indeed know that they can (!) be helpful in understanding and analysing literature.  … But I also do believe that often enough applying literary theories is overdone and more like a big heap of …. hogwash, meant to impress. Accordingly, if you work in this field of studies, or even worse, you like literary theories :-), feel free to vent in the comment section, but I want you to know that I did not mean you, and I don’t want to spread negative attitudes nor make you feel bad from reading here. Therefore, please stay, if you feel like it. I appreciate that you are here.

And, believe me, please, I do apologize to those who feel criticized. Do not feel that way for something I felt thirteen years ago. For me, this episode is like something I could watch on tv now. It is long past and over and I do not want you to be angry because of the feelings I had once or because of something I wrote. Nevertheless, it is about what frustrated me a lot, then.


“Hand in your paper on Kafka’s The Trial till Monday. Not more than eight pages!” I hate Kafka, by the way. Another one. I didn’t mind writing papers. I didn’t mind learning about new books at all, but what they taught here was dead. Where was the experience of the reader in their teaching? Oh yeah, could be found hidden somewhere in the depths of fancy words, especially deconstructionalism, but any other –ism would do. Just give it a name. Make it sound academic. Let me learn it. Give me a degree. I want to enter your sweat-mill.  Well, do I really want that?

By then, I hated university life. The students  who went to classes, more or less successful, did as told, received a well-meant, tolerant look, a kind of virtual pat on the shoulder, verbally, not physically, of course. Never be too physical in these academic circles. No hugs, ok, in public and with all those you do not know, but this was almost an antiseptic atmosphere. This was plastic life at its best. Know what? I hate plastic even more than Kafka.

Where is life in their theories? It frustrated me. Seeing what they did to words, chapters, books, frustrated me. It hurt. At this point I was convinced that they could not see the beauty of what they read and talked about. Was there anybody ever who cried while reading Wuthering Heights? If so, they never admitted it. Well I did, but only received some contemptuous smirks and one or two half whispered dismissive comments.  By then I had given up reading more than what I was supposed to read. What for?! Their theories did not work for me.

There was no joy left in reading. The pleasure was gone from it, for the most part. What I wanted to know was what did you enjoy about a story. What did the story do to you? Yes, and what made it work for you, or maybe why didn’t it work. Well, of course, that’s not enough for a campus.
I’d accept all answers, there couldn’t be anybody wrong by stating what they liked or disliked about a book. This is opinion. Supporting your opinion by citing Auerbach or Punter doesn’t make it better. On the contrary, if you could not stand your ground without using their names, your own opinion was maybe weak or not your own, just one you read about. Boring and deceiving. 

I had learned something which I found peculiar. Most of the students wanted to be individuals. Ok, that’s great, I like that, it is exciting, because it adds so much colour to the world. But I found it odd, that most were rather streamlined, I found them dull, because they wouldn’t stand up for themselves. There were too few true birds of paradise. And the predominant colour of the campus was grey. With that I do mean people.

Is this what I am looking for? No, absolutely not. Stay in this? Bend until I break? No way.


A few days later, Amy and I sat in our favourite bar. It was early evening, summertime, we were relaxed, enjoyed the benefits of happy hour and had already had more Pina Colada than we should have. Than I should have. Alcohol and I have never been friends. One drink and I was done for. That night, I had my third. I rarely did that, because I knew my body well enough to foresee what would follow.

Amy had asked me more than once that week what was wrong, but I did not answer. I couldn’t and just told her that I needed a little time to think about my studies. She understood and knew I’d come and talk when I was ready for it. This could be any time, any place.
So, with the warm weather, cheap drinks, good vibrations and some light-headed chit chat, we sat there and were relaxed. Amy was just being funny, we enjoyed ourselves, and as I held my glass and tried to look through the murky-white liquid in it, I let the bomb explode.

“I quit!”

Amy looked at me. Naturally, she didn’t understand. She knew that I did not like literature any longer. I focused on the wrong things when I was on the campus, e.g. the artificial arrogance of people who went into the basement to allow themselves to laugh at all, lest someone see them. Some male professors were jerks only. Some were lecherous, but they didn’t mean anything to me, so I did not care. The worst experiences were a few women who, as professors, behaved as if the world belonged to them. Well, in the department of literature that might have been true. They looked down on us. I hate that. They never acknowledged students as human beings. Students were pets that you could teach tricks, not more.

One seriously discussed rape as a topic in class. Ok, so be it, I don’t mind, because it is a common topic in literature. But she never even once considered that this topic has a real, painful meaning and that there are human beings behind such events, too. For her, it was an academic exercise. It was the ivory tower at its best. Oh, hey, wait, she invited all women to share their experience of being abused… . She makes me sick to this day. Hereby I officially admit that I have never before or after found a more prejudiced woman in my life. I think in her world, the poor men were the modern Eves, guilty of being who they are. I never bothered to talk more than the minimum to her, though, because being in one room with her caused physical reactions in me. Guess what; I did not finish this course and those lessons were a real waste of time for me. Guess once more: she felt seriously peeved because I did not allow myself to give her any kind of acknowledgement at all.

Let me explain that. I have no idea why, but if there was any female student at that time she considered interesting, it was me. I never knew her any closer, I never signaled anything into her direction, never said anything about myself, I would never have allowed her in my life, and I would never in my life have allowed her to touch me. But she was somehow desperate to be seen by me. (and made me feel like a field experiment, at times). You know, if I had the playfulness of a Domme (a dominant woman) in me, I would have had a perfect toy to play with, because I always had the feeling that she would go to some length to have me. But I guess what she actually wanted was a new favourite pet or toy, maybe only to be replaced later, by a younger one.

So, the absurd situation I found myself in, was, that I was disgusted by the one and only woman who coveted me so much that she tried to impress me, to draw me to her inner circle. TMI: I am not bisexual, but did not have any reservations either; besides, this was not about physical sex. From my side it was only about avoiding contact. Think about what you have as a hard limit. Multiply it by ten and imagine what it must be like to be with this. What would you feel? See my point? But she was only one among many reasons that had piled up.

“What do you mean? You don’t even have a boyfriend, or .. .do you?” She looked a bit glass-eyed and thoroughly disappointed as she considered whether I would have hidden any kind of important information from her. “Don’t be silly. You would be the first to know.” With a slurry voice I managed to add “You do know such things before I do.” I cheered to her with my cocktail but forgot to drink. Instead, I put down the glass again and gave Amy a kiss. “I love you”. Then I emptied my glass and suddenly realized that I had had too many Pina Coladas. “Gotta…” I said while I already went to the bathroom. Amy followed after a while, but only to see if I am well. “What do you mean, ‘you quit’?’ She stood behind me, as I inspected the toilet bowl closer than I had wanted to. She waited, and would do so until I answered. After I had cleaned myself we went out and were on our way home, through the streets. Amy gave me all the time I wanted, as I tried to find better words than ‘I quit’. But it was just that. “I won’t go on with this. I don’t like what they teach and how they teach.” 

Amy was close to a heart attack, because that would maybe mean the end of us living together, and we were the closest friends ever. “Do you seriously mean what you say?” I nodded. I am not as diplomatic as Amy is. In addition, she does not judge me. She might tell me off, when I pulled one of my stupid stunts, but judging? Never. “What made you come to this conclusion?” I listened and heard her unsaid question. ‘Do you quit because of your professor?’ She hugged me from the side, almost laughing. I grinned, which made me look like a complete lunatic, I think, because I was more than drunk. The two of us went through the streets arm in arm, because we needed each other’s support. Well, Amy less so. “Nope, she is not important to me. She is awful, but she is not in my life. I’d not let her in. No, it’s the studies. I don’t like the studies any longer. They feel wrong to me. I want to love what I do and I have lost it.” I managed another smile. “I don’t quit living with you, it’s only my studies.” Amy thought about it. She was only tipsy, compared to me. So, she saved me from crashing into a bike, held me upright and close, before she decided “You have to sleep now. You are as drunk as a skunk. Tomorrow I’ll wake you up and we’ll talk things through. We’ll find a way.” I nodded and rested my head on her shoulder and Amy led us home. There is one sentence in my life that somehow sounds innocent, but I really feel strongly about it. I hugged and caressed Amy before we entered the house “I owe you.” I think she has heard it again and again, in different situations, up to the present. It does not mean that I want to come even with her. Impossible; it means that I am fully aware of how much she did and does for me and I love her so much for that and hope to be there for her, too.  We have been through so much together (small and big catastrophes). She knows how I feel about her, and I know that I am so blessed because she is in my life.

The following morning I felt smashed to pieces… and deserved no better. “Owww” I howled half-silently into my blanket. My head almost shattered to pieces. I straightened up and regretted my bold movement bitterly. CRASH! “Wake up, sweety, breakfast is served!” Amy had opened the door noisily as she came in and served breakfast in bed. This was a quick breakfast, I only got Aspirin and water for the moment. She sat down on my bed, made herself comfy and fished for a roll which she conveniently dipped into apricot jam. “Honey, do you remember any of what happened last night?” I almost threw up. I thought I did, but now I was not sure. Was there anything wrong? “What do you mean? We went home?!” By now, my cheeks were bright red. She laughed at me. “Oh, no, don’t you worry now. We did go home and you spent all night here. No, do you remember what you said last night?” I let out most air, relieved. “Oh, yes, I want to quit!” I looked at her and Amy looked as fresh and well-rested as possible. I felt the opposite, and waited for a long while. Amy did not bother. She knows how I tick and that sometimes my thoughts take the slowest train. She ate and enjoyed her breakfast. Even so, she studied my face closely. As the Aspirin kicked in, I could finally talk comprehensibly and she let me talk. But the major point was that I had lost my love for the subject itself. The reasons that led to it were many smaller ones, but they added up. I could have solved some of the problems, but not all and did not want to. What for?!

Amy nodded. She had stopped eating a while ago and had listened closely. She is awesome and I could see her thinking. Of course, she knew that I would not have an alternative plan at hand. “Have you ever thought about going back to your original plans?” I had no idea what she might talk about, so I shrugged my shoulders. “What was your first idea when you had to decide about your career?” I really thought hard. But I had the feeling that she was not talking about being a mom. “What do you mean? You said it yourself last night, I do not even have a boyfriend. And it would have to be the right one, too.” Amy let herself fall completely onto my bed and couldn’t stop laughing. “Not that, silly. Think again. What was your other idea?” I thought hard and finally understood what she meant.


  1. Hi Nina,
    Is there going to be a part two? You've got me curious! It sucks that your college experience was so awful. Sounds like your professors weren't the right kind of people to be teaching anyone! It always amazes me that people who teach children can be so good at bringing things to life (figuratively), while some college professors can be so dull and spiteful even. Learning should be a joy in my opinion, and if it's not then something needs to change. Good for you for not trying to keep fitting into their mold! Your friend sounds wonderful, by the way. Do you still keep up with each other? I, too am like that with alcohol. If I have more than one drink in two hours I will be sick, no question. I'm glad for you that you finally got to write it all out, but not glad for your lack of sleep. After you mentioned possibly falling out of a hammock the other day I was rethinking that bit of advice, but I do hope you are catching your z's where you can :-)

  2. Hi River, I am not sure yet, I could actually write part two, but the ending would be almost the same, because I did quit that too, out of some different reasons, though. And the decision was a good one, as well. I could write a book about the episodes with my most awful professor alone, because she was so .... awful. I couldn't resist that one. Lol, maybe I should have spanked her! But seriously, not finishing my studies was good, because I really did not fit in, I think, and although it is said there is a lot of freedom while studying, it is not as free as I would have needed it on the one hand. On the other hand again, I was not accountable to anybody (not good for me), with the exception of Amy. She had done her best to be my rock in that time, but I did not always show her my love. This is what I regret most up to now. And, yes, she is wonderful and yes we are as close as ever, because she did not give me up. Thank God! Actually we are even closer, because my gratitude has grown so much more. If I had not married hubby, she would have been my only alternative :-). I am going to call her later, just to tell her that she is the best and that I love her. With hubby and her, I think I have the most even-tempered and protective people on planet earth around me. Parents not counted in now.
    Alcohol is just not for me, but that is fine, till October because of baby, and afterwards, because I don't really mind not having much of it.
    No worries about the hammock. Hubby has ordered one, where I could probably not fall. I will be careful and even though it is not here yet, I know that hubby will only allow me into it when it is foolproof. He tests everything new before giving it to me. His are the danger tests, and when I have it, any gadget will get the real test to see if it is unbreakable. If it is not, I'll find out, for sure.
    Oh, and if the hammock is not safe for me, hubby will use it and tease me, while I stand there yearning to be allowed in, too.
    Not sleeping sucks (a lot by now). But I have had some good nights inbetween and do sleep whenever possible. But I can't wait for the hammock, to try that :-)



  3. The title of this post had me so worried at first, because I was thinking "Oh no! Not ANOTHER person leaving Blogland." Thanks for alleviating those fears right away!

    Your story is very compelling. Sometimes quitting is the right thing to do--not always, but when something makes you unhappy and you can no longer see the long term benefits of doing it, you need to give it up to make way for something even better. I think the "Never give up" attitude is good for *some* things, but you can look at it this way--you should never give up living your life the way YOU want to live it, and sometimes that involves giving up something you started.

    There are many things I've quit in the past, and I don't regret any of them, because the things I really cared about, I didn't quit.

    1. Oh Autumn, I am so sorry that I have worried you with the title. I really did not want that, but had no better idea for a catchy title.
      I can only agree with you, sometimes quitting is the right thing to do. I have only done that with studies and it was the best decision. And it was not like giving up, it was something I had thought about and it did not happen because I was unable to do as told. I did that because going on felt so wrong and was not good for me. And it turned out to the best in the end, with hubby. So, I think I can really say that I live the way I -well and hubby- want it. And I definitely feel the same about regrets. I never quit what mattered, therefore I don't regret anything either.
      I am sorry that I have worried you with the title, I'll try to find a better one again next time.

      many (soothing) hugs :-)



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