Live-Blogging 1999

by Will on December 16, 2010

On approximately this day in 1999, I had my final in Econ 1. It was an evening final, following a day of nervous study. Luckily it was the last final I had, falling about a week after the others. I cared more about my performance on it than about my performance on the Psych 1 final or the Physical Anthro final, and I was glad not to have the other tests as distractions as I prepared for the big one. I went into Wheeler Auditorium feeling immensely confident on fiscal policy and economic policy, and worrying that I did not quite understand the story of exchange rates well enough. But I came out feeling I’d done well. My friend Tyson, who was also in the class, was less confident about his performance. We hashed out how we’d answered the various questions, and I was alarmed to find that he had interpreted the last question as meaning the opposite of what I’d thought it meant.

He parted, declining my invitation to get some food on Telegraph. I trudged onward, alone with my thoughts. The semester was suddenly over, and with it the urgent need to study. I felt quite weary and more than a tad melancholy. The things that had seemed that morning to be of the greatest importance now did not seem important at all. My habits and concerns of the past several months no longer had any use, and I’d forgotten how to fill my time or direct my energies in the absence of lectures and assigned readings. It was cold. Many students had already left town, so the neighborhood felt strangely empty and unfriendly. The cheery Christmas and¬†Hanukkah¬†decorations all around seemed utterly out of place. I was noticing them for the first time that evening, and this fact drove home that the Christmas season — once a thing of excitement, full of preparations and special events of all sorts — had completely escaped me for half the month. What was left of it held little of that old friendly aura.

I bought a falafel sandwich just as the gyro place was closing, and hungrily swallowed it down, walking around and taking the time to look at things. I’d been in Berkeley for a bit less than a year, and this was the first time I really saw the effect that winter had on it. Everything about it was still strange and new to me, and I still felt awkwardly misplaced in a way I doubt I could have expressed, given how supremely at home I felt at the same time, in academic classes and discussions.

History does not record what, if anything, happened following my return home to the co-op (I am relying on my memory as my only source here), although I think I do remember most of the books I took back to Greenville to read that winter.

I don’t know why that memory sticks with me. It was a moment illustrating the surprising way that relief and satisfaction can give way to their opposites. The funny thing is that certain long-passed moments remain vivid, when day to day I am incredibly absentminded.

Leave a Comment

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Previous post:

Next post: