Thursday, December 10, 2009


It means advisor.  Or counselor.

A hint for the English speakers--it's not pronounced rad giver.  That's a silent 'd', followed by a soft 'g'.  Something more like 'raw-yeever'.  You can say it that way.  You'll sound like a total hick American when you do, but that's okay.  Norwegians are kind.  They'll indulge your awkward, unschooled tongue.


Long story short:  I met with a high school guidance counselor today.  She said, and I'm translating loosely here, "Too bad you were such a pussy about making that phone call, 'cuz now all the classes you need are full, and there's a waiting list to get in."


And now for the long story:  Part One. 

(Fair warning--This is epic. I'll forgive you if you don't make it all the way through.)

Clear back last January, I had a rather devastating emotional break-down.  A ruinous crisis of the soul which left me shattered, raw, and finally (at great, long last) ready to grow the fuck up already.

You'll remember that the world economy had just tanked a few months prior.  Everyone was still talking about how bad it might yet get.  Mister was worried about the fate of his relatively small engineering firm.  Worried enough that he told me there was no way he was draining our savings account in order to buy plane tickets home for the summer. His arguments were reasonable, logical.  His attitude was impeccably kind throughout our discussion.  I know he felt really bad about what happened to me over the course of the next few days.  What with the slow, agonizing unzipping of my sanity, and all.  But I couldn't seem to stop it from happening.  I couldn't get a grip.

After a couple of days*, I finally managed to stop crying, and we sat down to talk again.  The summer trip was back on.  Resources had been pooled, certain coffers plundered, five seats to Salt Lake City, Utah safely booked and ready to go.  So that part of my mind had been greatly eased.**  But I was still reeling from the suddenly violent rush of guilt I felt over not being able to help ease Torbjørn's burden--the worry of keeping our family afloat, even in the face of complete financial meltdown.

"I need to get a job," I said.

"That would help," he admitted.

"What can I do?  Should I ask around at grocery stores?  I know the barnehages are always short of assistants.  What else is there?"

"Look," he said, "It's not as bad as all that.  We're not destitute, and you're not cut out for just any old job.  You need to go back to school."

"But to study what?  I have no idea what I want to do."

"You said you wanted to be a mid-wife."

"But I have to be a nurse for two years first.  I don't want to be a nurse.  I'd make a truly shitty nurse."  He must have agreed with me, because he didn't try to argue the point any further. 

We sat in sullen silence for a good 10 minutes.  Then I said, "Goddammit! I wish I had just changed my major when I had the chance, and studied geology like I wanted to!  Art history!  The fuck was I thinking!"  This is something I've said before...too many times to count really.  But this was the first time Mister chose to respond to it. 

"Why don't you study it now?" was his terse, but brilliant rejoinder.

Honest to God, it had never occurred to me until that very moment that such a thing was possible.  But Mister must have been mulling this over for some time, just waiting for the right moment to plant the seed, "You could get a job with one of the oil companies, and be making more than I am now within 6 or 7 years."

I had myself enrolled in a Norwegian class, the last one I needed before I could be admitted into the university, the very next day. 

Direction.  At long last, direction.

I spent the next several months not only rounding off the rougher edges of my Norwegian, but also combing the internet for information and admission requirements into the geology program at the University of Bergen.  I'd return to the same sites over and over again hoping, I guess, that they'd eventually recognize my IP address and let me in out of sheer exasperation.  Christ, if you're that interested then.....go ahead and sign up..... 

I was full of questions.  I have a Bachelor of Arts from a college in the States--a good college in the States. How far would that get me?  Art history doesn't afford a lot of opportunities to delve deep into the natural sciences.  I avoided them in high school.  Surely I'd need to fill in some gaps there?  Which ones?  What the hell does matematikk R1+R2 cover exactly?  I took trig.  Is calculus really all that important?  And will 16 years of loafing and making babies count against me in the long run?  Did I mention Smith College?

Sometimes in the evenings I'd ponder these questions, and many more, over beers with Mister.  I'd work myself up into a frenzy uncertainty.  Can it be done?  I don't think it can even be done.  But I'm a good student.  Can't we just tell them what a good little student I am?

Mister would cross his arms and sigh for the umpteenth time, "I don't know Jamie.  You really need to call the University, and ask them."

Ah.  The call.  The dreaded call.  How to explain the why's and the wherefore's of the dread with which I met the prospect of that one phone call?  I put it off for a full 10 months.  That ought to tell you a little bit about what a genuine phobia I had managed to turn it into.  We're talking palm sweating, stomach churning...we'll get to all that later...

I hate phone calls.  I always have.  I'm not much for phone chit-chatting even with my friends and family.  And official business type calls?  Forget about it.  I get tongue-tied and confused.  I forget what I'm calling for.  If the other person starts asking questions, requiring dates or numbers or whatever of me, I get even more jittery.  And that's calls I might get to make in English.  Add Norwegian to the mix?  You never know which dialect you're going to get on the other end of the line.  Even if it's a dialect you understand resonably well, sometimes they'll speak it so fast it's impossible to catch every word over the phone.  Then you sound like an idiot anyway because you're constantly saying, "Huh?  Wuh?  That last bit?  Eh?"

So yes, I hate phones.  But I had 10 months to practice the dialogue in my head.  I had my opening line nailed.  And I had exhaustively practiced over four dozen possible versions of the ensuing conversation during every shower and long run around the lake since summer.  Plus I really have been speaking a lot more Norwegian this past year.  It's been a long time in coming, but I'm far more comfortable with the foreignness of it on my tongue than I ever have been before.  So the phone itself and the fear of sounding stupid in Norwegian was only a part of the hang-up.

The rest of it, I guess, had to do with what I was actually attempting to do.  Not the school part of it.  School doesn't scare me.  As I said before, I'm a good little student, and at this point, even school in Norwegian, even school with a bunch of teeny-bopper children, even school in the natural sciences doesn't scare me.  In fact, the challenge of it all thrills me a little bit. 

But what happens after school?  In four or five years, when the schooling's all done, I will be expected to go out into the real world and get a job.  I've never done that.  Ever.  The thought of starting a career post 40 years old?  Ever so slightly paralyzing.


End of Part One.  Sorry folks.  Remember, this story took over a year to unfold.  It's going to take some time to get it all out.  Plus Missy just came to me complaining of chills and a sore throat.  She needs tending to.  The consideration of moments like this, and all of Mister's god damn business trips, were part of the paralysis too.....

*You think I'm exaggerating.  But I'm not.  It seriously took two days to pull myself back together enough to talk about it.

**As I try to describe that whole episode, I realize how much of my reaction must seem simply like drama queen antics in order to get my way.  But, honestly, it was all much more visceral than that.  I didn't just want to go home in that moment.  I genuinely NEEDED it.  I have never felt so strongly the need to simply run away forever as I did that first night.


Anonymous said...

Jamie, you go girl! I know you can do it. You are a very clever girl and speak it alot better than you think. I give you credit about going back to school and I mean high school and taking math. It was all I could do and learn Norwegian and I never had the desire to change professions, again. Maybe it is my age!

Good luck and we have to get together before Christmas!


Queen LaTeacha said...

Oh Jamie, Jamie, Jamie. What the fuck is it that keeps you from believing in yourself? Did I do something to plant that seed of doubt and uncertainty? If I did, I'm SO SO sorry because you're a capable, even brilliant student, and tenacious when you make up your mind. So it's simple, really. Make up your mind. I just know you'll love this part of your life once you commit to it! Now be a good girl and get to school!