Why My Undergraduate Self Would Never Recognize Me

The increasing parade of friends’ children heading off to college has sent me down memory lane to my own undergraduate days. I realized with a jolt that, while college is usually the cauldron where we begin cooking our adult, independent selves, my undergraduate self would never recognize me now. Thanks to many years of therapy, I often think of that earlier time (which extends to my mid-30s, when I got married) as another life. But in addition to my gaining some emotional stability, there are other changes that were highly unexpected. They range from the trivial to the spiritual.

Coffee. I never drank coffee in college. It wasn’t until I had a job that required me to commute to San Francisco via a 5:35 a.m. train that I needed caffeine in order to function. Though the downturn has tempered my visits to Starbucks, the house is never without New Orleans’ French Market coffee.

Movies. The first newspaper article I ever wrote was a review of the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force, in January 1974, for my college newspaper. It was the first of hundreds. Even when studying for finals coincided with new movie releases, you’d be more likely to find me in the screening room than the library. I reviewed movies for one publication or another through 1981, until the movie industry seemingly started targeting its movies primarily to 12-year-old boys. For a long time, I still enjoyed going to the movies, but as home video players took hold, people got used to chattering during movies, whether they were in their living room or a movie theatre. That drove me bonkers.

Today, of course, movies themselves have grown increasingly noisy, so I have grown accustomed to watching them on DVDs with subtitles. I can’t remember the last movie I saw in a theatre.

Drinking. There was a time when a bottle of champagne had no chance of surviving the night in my apartment. Today (with thanks again to the therapy for lessening my need for anesthesia), I’m done at two glasses of wine (and sometimes one).

Money. Let’s face it, what I knew about money management in college was less than I knew about physics, a class I flunked. Imagine my surprise today at having a home with equity and an actual retirement fund. Age — and being married to a practical German — will do that to you.

Religion. I never went to church, except for a year or so when my father took me to a Unitarian-Universalist church when I was about ten. I hated Sunday school, and never had much use for the concept of divinity. But about ten years ago, I started looking for more spirituality and found it in the local Unitarian-Universalist fellowship. We believe in Jesus more as a role model than a divine figure, and cadge elements of other religions at will. Just as Will Rogers once said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat,” I’m not a member of any organized religion. I’m a Unitarian-Universalist.

If my 50s self is nothing like my 20s self, I wonder who I’ll be in my 80s.


About middleagecranky

The Middle-Age Cranky blog is written by baby boomer Howard Baldwin, who finds the world, while occasionally wondrous, increasingly aggravating.
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3 Responses to Why My Undergraduate Self Would Never Recognize Me

  1. Derek says:

    Nice post Howard! Onward and upward I always say…if we’re done learning, we’re probably done breathing (or should be). I’m completely with you on the two glass high of alcohol, there’s nothing that 3+ glasses contribute positively to the situation or future situation.

  2. SR Newman says:

    This one has me nodding my head in understanding. Always interesting, too, when you fill in the gaps (of my knowledge) of your pre-NLG days. A movie reviewer, no less! What a range you have. As for UU — G. and I were married in my aunt’s living room (big living room!) in North Carolina with a UU minister officiating. Love the joke that goes — when UU’s pray, they begin with “To Whom It May Concern.”

  3. One of my loyal readers suggested that my undergraduate self would also not recognize me today because of my hairline. I used to have a receding hairline, but now it’s just gone. However, sadly, I still remember the horrifying moment staring into the mirror at the fraternity house at age twenty and realizing that I was losing my hair. So that, of all things, would not surprise him.

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