63: Wednesdays

63: Wednesdays

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Wednesdays

It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.

~Author Unknown

In my high school, one of the most popular cliques was a group of ten or so preppy, sporty, attractive girls who splatter-painted white Juicy Couture jumpsuits that said “Seniors ’08” in their senior year and wore them around school every other Friday. They were dubbed “The Jumps” at graduation. When I heard this I almost died with laughter, and then practically dissolved into tears. “Oh no,” I thought, “I had a stereotypical high school experience. With clique names and everything. Oh the shame.”

I was under the impression that traditions like this would be replaced in college by “real” groups of friends who enjoyed each other’s company and bonded in healthy friendship and happiness forever and ever.

My first week at Northwestern University was a whirlwind of sleepless “New Student Week” excitement. I made good friends with my peer advisor, a girl named Jane. I was drawn to her awesome theatrical resume, and since theatre was my major, I decided to interview her about it. Apparently, she was the most accomplished sophomore in the theatre program, having worked on thirteen theatrical productions in her freshman year on the production and management end of things. I stared wide-eyed as she explained her achievements and all the opportunities she had been exposed to and taken advantage of in the theatre culture on campus. She had a ton of hilarious and cool friends. She got great grades. She knew what classes to take. I had gone to Northwestern to be her. She was my college role model, the big sister I never had.

I decided right then and there, the first day of New Student Week, to become Jane Williams as soon as humanly possible. I developed a plan. I would study her brilliance with precision and subtle persistence, never letting on that my desire was to become just like her, but instead flattering her enough and being “cool” enough that she would think I was the logical choice for a mentee/apprentice.

One night, Jane introduced me to her friend Steven who was producing a show with a student theatre group that I wanted to join. We talked about the show he was producing and how interested I was in participating. Jane bragged about me, “This girl is the next big thing — she’s awesome.”

Later that night, I received an e-mail from Steven asking me to assistant produce the show. I had six heart attacks and screamed and woke my roommate. I couldn’t believe it! Me? Getting to assistant produce as a freshman in my first few weeks of school? I could hardly breathe. Things were starting for me. I’d make connections in the student theatre network and do more productions and then I’d be on my way to being just like Jane Williams. I patted myself on the back.

I was on a cloud for another couple of days until one night I received a text from Jane: “What r u up 2 tonite?”

My heart skipped. Could she actually be asking me to hang out with her? Impossible. She had older friends. They wouldn’t actually want to hang out with me.

“Come over 2 my apartment at 10.”

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. I knew that Jane was going to be my mentor but I couldn’t imagine that she was going to be my friend, too. I was going to be in her group of friends! She was my “in” to social success, as well as academic success. I couldn’t believe my skill. I felt like I’d pulled in the big fish and now it was taking me for a joy ride around the water.

I spent about thirty minutes choosing what to wear. I tried to look casual and put-together at the same time. I left twenty minutes early so I wouldn’t get lost. I rehearsed a few things to say and a few jokes. I smiled in my pocket mirror. I did breathing exercises to calm my heart. I felt three years younger than I actually was, so unprepared and unqualified.

I knocked on the apartment door and they let me in excitedly. There were mixers all over the counter and one of Jane’s friends held two bottles of liquor in each hand.

“Oh my God, she’s here, our little freshman!” he said.

“Welcome to Wednesdays,” Jane laughed.

I walked in, smiling and tentative. I felt naked. All six of them were staring at me — no, probing. Sometimes you can just feel when you are being judged.

But I kept my composure and laughed along with them as they told jokes and gossiped about everyone they knew, about who said what stupid thing and who did what unbelievable thing.

They asked what drink I would like and read me the list of mixers. I didn’t plan on drinking but I asked for an appletini because it was the first thing that came to mind. I held it all night. Finally, when they were drunk and I thought they wouldn’t notice, I went to the bathroom and dumped out my drink in the sink. But they caught me, and when I returned they said, “Oh, the old dump-it-in-the-sink trick. Did you guys see that?” They kept asking me, drunkenly, “So who are you, Hannah? Give us the dish. We want to hear all your dirty secrets.” I’d try to change the subject, not because I had dirty secrets, but because I was worried that if we got into it, they’d see how really innocent I was and I’d feel more naked than I already felt.

But what caught my attention most was their continual mention of the word “Wednesdays.” It became more than just a day of the week when they talked about it. It was like a name. I asked them what “Wednesdays” were. Jane laughed and looked at Steve and said, “You explain.”

Steve told me that last year they had all started drinking together on Wednesdays. Once everybody sort of knew about it, they started calling themselves the “Wednesdays.” He told me they were trying to find a new member, so they wanted me to come tonight. Then another guy leaned forward and said, “This is an audition.” They laughed it off like they’d been joking, but even with all that popcorn-fluff I could feel that kernel of truth at the bottom of the bowl.

I kept smiling, but said that I should probably leave.

I lay in my bed that night trying to think what they reminded me of. I was stumped. I couldn’t figure out what had gone so wrong. I tried to put together the pieces: they were judgmental, funny, exclusive. They had a name....

And then my heart sunk as I realized what I had done. I had allowed it all to happen and hadn’t seen the signs, because I’d thought college would be nothing like high school. It hit me then exactly who they were — they were the “Jumps.”

Jane never invited me again. She spoke to me cordially on occasion, but I mostly tried to avoid her. She set up a lunch date to check on me out of obligation, and then cancelled the day of the lunch. I was relieved.

I have a new group of friends now. I don’t feel naked in front of them. I don’t have to drink an appletini. They are not perfect, but being with them feels like sticking my hand into fresh soil. It feels tangible, authentic, and organic. It feels like how I thought college would feel. It feels like home.

~Hannah Greene

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