I recently had the privilege of attending an alumni event sponsored by my alma mater, Hobart and William Smith Colleges. It was called, The Presidential Summit and we met to discuss ways to help the campus raise money through donations. How come I do this to myself? Why would I even think of returning to an environment that harbored such pain and bitterness? Throughout much of my college experience, I was haunted by the creative monikers the fellow students attached to my name: “Sketchy Jesse, Scary Jesse, Running Jesse, the Stalker, the Wanderer, etc.” My fellow students should have taken another look and they would have seen beauty. But I have returned and intend to remain an active alumnus.
These days I am angry, but have learned the key to absolving such anger is to impose myself in the throes of memory. I return to these environments as a form of catharsis because we cannot always, “let go.” We must return to the fountain of pain in an effort to make life better for those current students. This is the same reason why I chose to return to Arlington Middle School and give an anti-bullying presentation, “Someday Has to be Today.”
I will not let go of my pain, but instead search for ways to justify it. My goal is to return to campus and help them set up programs to help students suffering from a social disability or trying to fit in like a square peg grinding its way into a round hole. But my fellow alumni seem to harbor no contempt toward my presence and see a published author. I wait for the rejection only to be absorbed in a warm embrace. My unfettered mouth ultimately produces an idea everyone seems to enjoy.
I ran off my mouth during one of the seminars designed to brainstorm about how to help campus raise money. “Nobody in this economy is going to donate squat to this campus unless you are doing something FOR them. I propose creating College Fantasy Vacations. You will turn the campus into a resort during the summertime and alumni are going to have the option of reliving their college experiences. Free of worries, finals, stress, anger and relationship drama. You will take away the bad and leave nothing but pure beauty. It will be a place where an alumnus may take their children or spouses. Give them back the beauty that was contaminated by life.”
All right. Maybe I did not put it so eloquently. But this is essentially what I proposed. The room lit up like wildfire and my fellow alumni jumped on the bandwagon. Nostalgia is the lifeblood that powers the dreams of our future. I want my college experience back without the pain. I also want to return in the late spring when the warm weather is no longer contaminated by final exams. I will keep returning to campus as a published author worthy of respect.
If you have pain it is not necessary to always let it go. Find a way to live with it and make contributions. Just don’t do what I used to do. Please don’t do anything to hurt yourself both literally and psychologically. It has been a long time since one of those explosive temper tantrums in the middle of the afternoon that climaxes with me punching myself in the face and head. I was scared straight by the reports of brain damage and knowledge that the human brain is a free-floating entity. There are other ways to deal with pain…
A week later I received a letter stating that one of my fellow alumni made a monetary contribution in my name after being inspired by my book. I owe her a thank you card for letting me know there were people who saw my beauty even during those tumultuous days of yore.