When I arrive at Boston College after a break, I always slide my Wisconsin state ID out from behind the plastic sheath in my wallet and slip it behind my BC ID. The picture of me uncomfortably smiling into a DMV camera is replaced by a picture of me standing up against my kitchen door uncomfortably glaring.
Those two pictures pretty much sum up me at home versus me at BC: both uncomfortable, one smiling, one glaring.
For most of my time here, if you happened to pass me strolling around our fine campus, I have probably looked sad, angry, constipated, or dead inside. And if I happened to know you, I may have tried to duck out of the way to avoid smiling, saying hello, or sweet Lord forbid, starting a conversation.
I have cut from O’Neill Library to Commonwealth Ave. and circled the entire Middle Campus because I thought I saw a casual acquaintance leaving Gasson.
When I eventually find myself in a situation requiring verbalization, I am well known for keeping my word-speak down to a minimum. If there are more than three people involved in a conversation, I will usually remain silent until a fitting opportunity allows me to slowly back away, disorient my companions with my ventriloquist skills, and then slip back into the darkness from whence I came.
I bathe in awkwardness and uncomfortable silence like fine mineral waters. Above all, I try not to laugh audibly or noticeably. I’m not sure when I started doing that, but while I am on this fine campus, I refrain from laughter. At this point, whenever I feel an uncontrollable urge to laugh, I twist my mouth sideways, press my knuckles against my lips, and hold my breath. Occasionally, I hold my laughter in to the point of snot nearly shooting from my nose through a misdirected bodily need to expel air.
These are my ways.
This could not be more different from my intermittent guest appearances in Wisconsin. During these much-lauded homecoming tours of my birth state, I usually spend time at home and with various chums, associates, accomplices, and dastardly calumniators, who I impress with unnecessarily fanciful and flowery vocabulary words that I found on Thesaurus.com.
I can’t pretend that I turn into a cheerful sack of sunshine and unicorn farts while I’m at home—far from it—but I’m definitely not the same as I am at BC. Like that horrible DMV photo, I’m still uncomfortable, but at least I’m sorta smiling.
At home, I often make bizarre high-pitched noises, sing Russian folk songs, and speak in a pseudo-British, unnecessarily loud accent for long stretches of time. When I sit quietly reading in my living room, suddenly bellow “Freeeedoooooommmmmm,” and then return to quietly reading, none of my family members bat an eyelash.
I usually tone this down to about 0 percent when I’m out in public, in order to maintain politeness and general decency, but not to the degree I do at BC.
One time I particularly noticed the difference was during one of these triumphant “Midwesterner-returns-from-East-Coast-college-with-fancy-pants-sensibilities-and-sophistication” trips to The ’Scon. I arranged to eat lunch with some people I’ve known for about 15 years (75 percent of my life, FYI). Two of us arrived early, and while we waited for the third, we fell back into old conversations, and I quickly felt the uncontrollable urge to laugh at something that many people would refer to as funny. My initial instinct was to clench my muscles and bite my tongue, but instead I laughed. A real laugh, not a snot-inducing, stifled monstrosity.
It was a part of my personality I had whittled down to nothing at BC, just like the block of balsa wood I whittle down to nothing in my spare time. And like that block of balsa wood, I find that it shows up now and again in the oddest places. Maybe to remind me that I’m not just the person I project during the day.
(The laughing reminds me, not the balsa wood.)
So what’s the point of this compact lesson I’ve presented in column format? Be your most authentic self? Nah, that’s probably a bad idea. Good way to annoy people. Also, that’s a cliché lesson, and we here at AP Columns, Inc. are all about brutally murdering clichés and burying them out in the desert.
Realistically, we all have to conform to things. It’s nice to think that we don’t, but how many people do you think will talk to me if I start loudly singing Russian folk songs and screaming “Freeeedoooooommmmmm,” all the time? I’m still going to be quiet, and I’m still going to be gloomy. If I have to take another picture for a stupid ID, I’ll probably glare into the camera again. That is the way I am, and I don’t intend to change. You, my beloved reader, will still be whatever you’ve become through your interactions with the world, and you probably won’t be able to change that much.
But I guess laughing out loud every once in a while isn’t a bad idea.
Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Editor