Thirty years ago I was at college. It was a fun four years because I made great friends, enjoyed a painless course load and found my absolute favorite job in the world after I graduated: picture framing. I wasn’t really motivated to actually conquer the world or blaze a trail into business and industry in my very early twenties so I took the path less demanding and rigorous. The blessing of being an unmotivated and aimless college co-ed majoring in something of a fluffy field was the tuition at state college was blessedly affordable and my student loan was manageable even on a picture framer’s salary.
My friends were a lot like me. We enjoyed our classes but the bulk of our concentration focused on weekend activities which typically started on Thursday night. In the early 1980’s we knew every bar and club that had 2-for-1 Thursday and free (salty) appetizers with a pitcher of Miller beer. We could buy bleacher seats for Red Sox games for about 5 dollars after the game started and took Chinese bus from Boston to New York round trip for about $20. It was a blast.
Oh yes, I was a good student. I didn’t skip class, not even for a monster hangover because we never had tests on Fridays. My friends didn’t skip either, we all suffered the same plight. Good company to my misery, followed by better company for the hair of the dog remedy that afternoon. Wow, I really hope my sons don’t read this blog.
We did a lot of group work, even most of our term papers were a group effort. I managed to get through my junior and senior year without buying a text book. Honestly! I’m actually kind of annoyed with my younger self that I accepted this superficial experience as high academia and borrowed money to be a part of it.
I knew there would be some sort of back lash for my frivolity. A great deal of my upbringing had to do with giving maximum effort, looking for challenges and the benefit of hard work. I had older sisters who majored in journalism and engineering. They studied over spring break and talked of grueling exams and massive research papers. Not me though, I was beating the system, I was in college and having the time of my life…until my Group Facilitating class.
Don’t ask me why I was taking Group Facilitating, it was probably an elective and it was fun. I had a couple of buddies, we huddled together, group facilitated, wrote our group papers and planned our group Thursday night activities until the professor discovered our modus operandi and mixed things up a little. He sent our happy little trio into separate “work groups” and ordered the class to talk about a difficult topic in our lives.
My group was made up of two other women, neither of whom I’d ever spoken to before although they seemed to know each other. Eager to be friendly and break the ice, I plunged right in to my difficult topic. It was a personal conflict, something you’d talk over with a close friend, not two strangers but the object of the lesson was for the group to facilitate a reasonable solution to a difficult topic.
As I was divulging, I could see my two goup-mates found a lot of humor in my plight. They glanced at each other and tried not to smile. Instead of shutting up, I went on for another five minutes–I think I was trying to impress them or win them over. I did neither and their Group Facilitated Solution for me was that I probably needed a therapist.
As if it wasn’t horrifying enough for two strangers with mile-high hair to decide I was deranged and needed psychoanalysis, group facilitating their problems made me realize what an ass I was to reveal personal information to two snarks. Their problems were 1. Work or volunteer after college? Her fiancee made so much money that if she worked, it would put them in a higher tax bracket and 2. Join her boyfriend’s sailing team or stay with the team she’s been on since high school? Somehow my suggesting they both needed psychiatric treatment for their dilemmas didn’t carry the same bite as when they handed me the phone book opened to the mental health assistance.