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Movable Type 2.661
February 02, 2005
February 1: Forks in the Road
There are a few obvious places where I could have taken a divergent path and my life might have ended up dramatically different. Some of these are still recognizable lives: for example if I had applied to graduate school (instead of pathologically ignoring the applications sitting on my desk) I might have been a physicist. Or if I'd gotten the job teaching math in California that I applied for after college, I would have still been in the sciences, and probably would have stayed with my boyfriend in San Diego a bit longer. But other forks in the road represent paths so different that I have a hard time imagining them. One such is an early plan to study Japanese culture while at Amherst.
Amherst is well-known for its Japanese studies and its connection to a Japanese university where it sends students for a year abroad. I flirted with the idea of following this route and began with a Japanese history course my freshman year. It thoroughly failed to entrance me. I have always thought this was due to the lackluster professor, but I am realizing as I write this that I have never, not once, enjoyed a history professor and I have always gotten lousy grades in the subject, so the problem may well be me. Regardless, no Japanese studies for Karen. I have rarely thought about it since.
As I was navigating the city, I glanced at my map and saw that my subway stop was right next door to Doshisha University. The name clicked. This was the University that is associated with Amherst. The college shares students and professors, and has a serious presence on the Kyoto campus. I decided to go take a look.
I had this idea that I was going to bump into an Amherst professor or an Amherst student and be welcomed in for tea or something, but no such luck. I saw one Caucasian with a backpack and I would have called out to him, but he was apparently not in the throws of a nostalgia trip and glanced at me for nary a moment before hustling on his way. Nonetheless, I did find a map that showed the Amherst House -- something I'd heard of when in college -- as well as two Amherst guest houses, which turned out to be dormitories. The Amherst House itself, surrounded by a fence with large intertwined Ds and As on it, was a cozy two-storey building that seemed half library, half class room. I didn't actually go in, since a sign said that I shouldn't unless I'd been invited. And no rosy-faced Amherst students there either to invite a returning grad in.
So mostly I just peered in -- and forgive me 'cause I'm going to get cheesy here -- through the glass doors that conveniently showed a shimmery reflection of me overlaying my view of the interior thus enhancing the whole "shadow life" thing I was doing in my brain.
As I walked away, I thought about what I was in fact doing my junior year of college: playing rugby, writing some really fantastic papers on the Iliad, drinking too much, taking physics notes in artistic style with five different colored pens, being boy crazy, reading Tolstoy, having self-important discussions about date rape, tutoring science, begging David Hall to help me with my homework, editing a women's literary magazine, re-watching "Heathers" every single day. And I just can't make the leap to envisioning myself in Kyoto.
Perhaps some forks in the road are only in your head -- as well-suited as I am for my current life it's hard to imagine how I could possibly have ended up in a different one.