I love being a writer, but one of the hardest things about my job is that I do it alone, in my house, all day long. If it were not for my children and their after-school activities, I am quite sure that weeks would go by in which I wouldn’t actually speak to another living soul. Well, except for the telemarketer from our home alarm company who calls me every single day, despite the fact that in three months, I have yet to develop an interest in upgrading my alarm system.
The point, though, is that I really miss having colleagues. I miss having someone in an office next door to talk to when I need a break, or to go to lunch with. And I miss hearing the details and stories of people whose lives are nothing like my own.
When I was a college counselor, my office-mates consisted of a somewhat conservative gay man from New York and a single, radically liberal woman from Ohio, both of whom were about ten years older than me. As a married woman in my late twenties with a newborn at home, our lives could not have been more different, and I learned more from the two of them than almost anyone else in my life.
But I’m finding lately that my life is less and less populated by people who are different from me, and it’s troubling. Don’t get me wrong – I love my friends – but we’re all in the same demographic. Whether we’re doctors or lawyers or writers or stay-at-home moms, our daily existences are more or less the same.
I live in one of the most diverse cities in the entire world, and yet I feel like I’m floating around inside a mom- bubble, filled with people who are just like me. But since I don’t have colleagues anymore, and since most of my not-sitting-in-a-room-by-myself time is spent at soccer games or at theater rehearsals or at flag football practices, it’s no wonder that this is my world. Still, sometimes, I just crave a different perspective.
So when an email popped up in my in box a few months ago, advertising a class on hot button political issues at a local museum/cultural center, I pounced on it. Once a week for six weeks, each class covers a different topic (Education policy! Health care! Taxes!), and is taught by a different USC professor who specializes in each field. Here, I thought, is the kind of opportunity I’ve been looking for. A chance to meet new people, from different walks of life, with whom I can engage in interesting discussions. I enrolled, along with a good friend who has similar “mom-bubble” concerns to mine.
Well. Let’s just say that my friend and I were definitely the only moms in this class. Or at least, the only ones who weren’t also grandmoms, or great grandmoms. I think the two of us probably brought down the average age of the room by a good, solid fifty years. The man in front of me had an oxygen tube coming out of his nose. The lady next to me had blue hair, and not in a cool, Katy Perry kind of way. Okay, I thought. Perhaps it’s not the hotbed of potential new friends that I’d been hoping for. But still, I was curious to hear their thoughts, given that they were from a different generation, and had come of age under very different circumstances than I did. Unfortunately, though, the professor, having crammed one hundred years of education policy plus a ten-minute video advertisement for USC’s online, graduate teaching program into an hour and a half, left no time for class discussion.
Needless to say, it was disappointing. But if nothing else, it was fun to be in a learning environment again, and fun to at least think about things other than what size poster board my daughter needs for her class project, or whether my son will eat black beans in his quesadilla at dinner time, even if I didn’t get to talk about them. Hopefully, next week’s class will be better. But if it’s not, I’ll keep trying. There’s got to be a pin out there somewhere that’s capable of bursting my mom-bubble.