When I was nineteen years old, I spent the summer in Bellingham, working full-time as a custodian for the University. The pay was good--nine dollars an hour for very simple work, and I could walk there from my apartment, located in what Ian used to fondly call the "South Campus Apartment Ghetto."
As a summertime custodian, our job was to clean the rooms and bathrooms in the dorms on campus--my team stuck in Nash and Mathes Hall. Throughout the summer, the dorms are rented out to clubs, camps, sports teams and conferences, who make use of the rooms, the lounges, and the dining halls on campus for their activities.
Cleaning Nash one day, I moved to step out of the elevator and my high school P.E. teacher stood there with the entire Bothell High School football team--many of whom I knew, since I was only one year into college.
And there I was, a recent high school graduate carrying a mop bucket and wearing gloves up to my elbows.
I've been thinking recently, with my graduation from this masters program imminent, about accomplishments, and what I have actually done since I've been an adult, since I've been out, in the world, doing what humans do.
Facebook has made this introspection an all the more self-conscious act, oddly enough, because I can follow the paths of my classmates from high school and college closely and creepily. I see marriages and children (!) and funerals and real jobs and vacations they've paid for themselves to Maui, to Thailand, to Europe.
And recently, when I went back to Seattle for a wedding, one of my best friends mentioned that a boy we had gone to junior high and high school with, a boy who I spent sixth grade in "divorce counseling" at our elementary with, had killed himself in the past year. As far as I am aware, this is the first death of anyone from our graduating class and it is odd and frightening to think that there is a life that I knew once that is gone. More frightening than knowing that people I scolded in Model United Nations for not following protocol are makin' babies (not to mention whoopie).
And what have I done? I am, as a recent hospital bill and application to financial assistance informed me, below the poverty line thanks to the minimal stipend I receive from the University. I have no nine to five job or child or husband and I certainly can't afford a vacation away from the stress of school and work, despite desperately needing a break.
But I am alive and that is something and I am writing and reading and that is something too. And as an added bonus, the only toilet I have to clean anymore is my own.