Monday, October 31, 2011

On decisionmaking...

Why do we make the decisions we do?

I've been wondering about that a lot this week, partially because I've been wearing ruts in memory lane for about 10 days.

You see, last weekend was my 25th college reunion!!!  And Jon and I made the trek back to Williamsburg, Virginia.  I was never very good at taking the advice that Steely Dan gave me, and I DID, after all, attend (and graduate from) the College of WIlliam and Mary in 1986.  

We had a total blast, wandering around the college and partying with friends in Colonial Williamsburg (a place I never had the disposable income to frequent back when I was a student) and kicking leaves and going to a late-night fireworks/open-bar/dinner/dance-party in the Sunken Gardens that was AWESOME!

As I was dancing to a WHOLE BUNCH of Michael Jackson cover tunes at said party, I suddenly remembered a time, 26 years earlier, when I was a student, living in one of the old dorms near to the Sunken Gardens.  

And the Homecoming alumni party was going on REALLY late, and I NEEDED TO STUDY.  Those old fogies just WOULDN'T STOP! I quite clearly remember thinking the words "old fogies."

Now I'm one of them.  Which you could think of as sobering, but I mainly think of as HILARIOUS!

Anyhow, there we were, hanging out in this beautiful place, and I was channelling the Talking Heads and asking,
"Well, how did I get here?"

It was quite a leap from a small mining town (mostly converted to tourism) in the Rockies to go to Tidewater, Virginia, a place I had NEVER BEEN.  So I got to thinking about it.  Why on earth did I end up there?

My EXCELLENT American History teacher, Mrs. Klusman, had gone to Williamsburg the summer I turned 16.  And she brought back all sorts of pictures and raved about how awesome it was...

But that wasn't really why.

Then, when I became a senior in high school, I was inundated with all sorts of promotional literature from colleges ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.  My PSAT scores were high, so everybody except the ATHLETIC places were trying to recruit me.  I had POUNDS AND POUNDS of promo packets from all shapes and sizes of places from all over the country.

Deciding among all that was a tough thing.  And Mr. Fowler, my high school counselor, was little to NO help.  He might have been okay as a football coach (although how would I know?  I only went to half of all the home games and that was only because I played in the band at the halftime show), but his counseling skills weren’t great in terms of helping you make a logical decision about college.

Mr. Fowler thought my scores were AWESOME.  And he really really pushed me attending Smith or Wellesley.  I don’t know why.  Maybe his wife had gone to one of the Seven Sisters or something.  So, okay, thanks to Mr. Fowler and generally being overwhelmed with all the information, I sent apps to Smith and Wellesley.

Which, incidentally, although I was accepted, were two schools that I COULD NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS HAVE AFFORDED.  But I didn’t really know that, at the time.

Add to that, the fact that, despite all my reading, I was a kid in a tiny Colorado town, and the only places outside Colorado that I’d ever been in my life, besides a few trips to Kansas and Wisconsin to visit family, was backpacking down the Paria Canyon.

And the Paria did not have an accredited college.

But I did kind of want to see something different.

So, in addition to expensive Smith & Wellesley, I also applied to the Colorado College, JUST IN CASE I won the Boettcher Scholarship, which provided a full ride to any school in Colorado (and I did not win the Boettcher).


So I applied to William and Mary, almost based on a whim.

The photo I included with this post is VERRRY similar to one that was in William and Mary’s promo pamphlet in 1981.  It was of one of the campus’ old brick buildings and a picket fence next to it.

I REALLY liked that photo. 

That’s why I picked William and Mary.

I remember that Mr. Fowler was less than impressed at first.

I had no idea at the time (and neither did he) that William and Mary was the second-oldest institution in the country, or that George Washington/Thomas Jefferson/etc. had all gone there.  I didn’t realize it was considered one of the best public schools in the country.

I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW IT WAS IN VIRGINIA UNTIL WE MADE THE PLANE RESERVATIONS TO FLY THERE WHEN I STARTED SCHOOL.   (The geography standards people would probably have a field day with that, but there IS a Williamsburg in West Virginia…)

I fell in love. Williamsburg was a great choice and William and Mary was a great match for me.  And I am still in love with the College and the colonial part of town and the wonderful professors and students I worked with!

(To be totally truthful, I sort of hate the New South crap on Richmond Road, where I worked at a sweatshop/pancake house full of ex-convicts the summer after I graduated and it gave me a new perspective on Southern living that was closer to “Deliverance” than I’d received from studying at William and Mary.  And a lot of writing material.  But that’s another story.)

And it all hinged on that one photo, which I can still see, clearly as ever, even through all the years and the many miles.

Decisionmaking…it’s funny!  The power of an image is IMPRESSIVE!

Happy Halloween!

1 comment:

  1. Ah, the power of an image... so true! But also the power of trusting yourself and not trying to intellectualize the decision made from the power of said image. Had to tried to be "reasonable and rational" you probably could have talked your way right out of that decision, when actually it turned out to be the right school for you. (I know from what I speak; I spent the first 3/4 of my life trying to be logical...)