Walking outside, I was blinded by the sun. I did not know how long I had actually been in the administration building, but the sun had definitely gotten higher and brighter. I reached into my bag and pulled out my Revo sunglasses. To any onlooker, I know I appeared to be the quintessential Miami University student: ridiculously expensive sunglasses, topsiders, Bermuda shorts. I looked the part, but I did not feel the part.
Activity on the green was at a high. Most students were awake and actively participating in their days. As I walked across the green to Irvin Hall, I felt a tinge of regret. Maybe that boy sitting under the tree is my future boyfriend. Maybe that girl walking toward King Library is my next study partner. Maybe I am being rash and pouty. Maybe I am a quitter. I vacillated. As much as I knew that Miami offered me positives, I knew that there were more negatives. I wasn’t fully happy last year. I doubted I would be truly happy this year. I didn’t feel like myself here.
Walking into Irvin Hall I was smacked with a gust of air conditioning. I did not realize how hot it was until I realized how good the air conditioning felt. I walked the two flights of stairs to Professor Dwight’s office. She had a secretary. When I introduced myself, the secretary did not ask me why I was there, which made me think that contact had already been made from point A. She told me to take a seat on the sofa, but as soon as I sat down , Professor Dwight opened her door and invited me in.
Her office was very attractive. Each wall held a book-case that reached from floor to ceiling. Her desk was mahogany, and in front of it stood two very beautiful leather wing backed chairs. She motioned for me to take a seat as she moved behind her desk. She smiled and seemed pleased that I took the seat to the left.
“Now Dear, how can I help you?” Her voice was very soothing, and it very much fit her body. She was a tiny woman, not more that five foot two with a very tiny frame. Her grayish black hair was tied back in a bun and she wore horn-rimmed glasses that took up the expanse of her entire upper face.
“Yes, thank you.” I cleared my throat. I was uncomfortable and a little nervous. I was in a psychiatrist’s office; granted she was a professor on campus, but I knew I was under the microscope. “I want to withdraw and go home.” Six simple words that could not sum up the complexity of my situation. Six simple words that seemed rash on the third day of classes. Six simple words that made me feel like I was disappointing someone.
“Well Dear, this is a major decision that you need to think about,” she began. For the next thirty minutes she softly tried to goad me into staying. I admitted I did not get into a sorority. She though it was depression and a lack of involvement. I told her about Freshmen year: I had a job on campus; I was a member of the water ski club; I actively participated in the young Republicans and the 1988 election. She listened, nodding her head and smiling contentedly. She reminded me that college can be a scary time, and that maybe I could make an effort to find more commitments to fill my time. She spoke to me the way I imagined she spoke to lonely, homesick freshmen, kids who had not yet made friends or gotten involved. To her, I was one of a dozen lonely kids who sat in the left chair and felt the world was closing in on them and blamed Miami.
“You seem happy about being in creative writing,” she said. I thought about that morning. Ugh, I had walked out so brazenly. Surely, I could not just show up on Friday and say, Just kidding. Even if I could, I did not want to because what I said to that professor and that class was the truth, my truth. I was not kidding; I wanted to leave.
“Absolutely, creative writing is my passion, and as I told you, I joined the water ski club. I went to young Republicans meetings. I have friends. I get good grades. I have given Miami a year and two weeks of my life.” Did she not understand I was a sophomore? Could she not understand that I had given myself to Miami, but I didn’t feel that Miami was living up to its end of the bargain? I breathed deeply. “I don’t want to look back at these four years and regret them.”
“And I don’t want you to regret leaving,” she said. She lifted her hands and clasped them gently in front of her. She had drawn out of me the conclusion she was working toward. Regret. She fully believed I was going to regret this decision.
“I don’t think I will. Professor, I am not myself here. I do not feel good about the person I am when I am here. I didn’t want to come back, and not getting into a sorority is not the reason I am leaving.” I was so desperately trying to articulate the longing I felt to move down a different path in life.
“Are you sure this is the decision you want to make? You could go back to your dorm and discuss it with your friends?” She wanted so badly for me to stay. People who believe in Miami believe desperately in all that it has to offer.
“No Maam, I think my decision is final.”
She rose. She seemed slightly perturbed that she had not talked me out of my decision. Perhaps she talked everyone into staying, and on most days, she probably would have compelled me to do the same. However, for the first time in my life, I was putting my well-being first. I was not worrying about what everyone was going to think. I was not worried about how this would appear. For over a year, the only person I had been disappointing and letting down was myself.
She escorted me out of her office and spoke quietly to her secretary. When she finished, she stuck out her hand. “Jan will be getting you the forms that you need. Good luck, Dear.” We shook hands and I didn’t exactly feel that she meant it. Her grasp was limp and distant.
Within minutes, Jan had a F124 filled out and I was signing a triplicate form of my intent to withdraw, confirming that Dr. Joyce Dwight had offered me counsel. A formality I am sure, so that I could not come back and sue, saying no one had tried to stop me. Jan handed me the pink copy, and she wished me luck. She seemed intrigued by me; she watched me until I was all the way out the door.
Outside, I felt the sun beat down on me as I headed back to the administration building. Inside, the line was unusually short, which made me feel a sudden quiver in my belly. Was I really doing this? I inched closer to the three barred windows. Who was I going to tell first? How was I going to break the news to Mom and Dad? What exactly was I going to do when I got home? I was being besieged by inner thought when I heard “Next please” and realized that the same curly-haired woman who I had spoken with earlier was looking at me. I was the Next Please.
“Hello again,” I said with a smile, sliding the pink copy of the F124 toward her. She read through it quickly and grabbed another form. Very business-like we went through the drill: full name, permanent address, social security number, campus address, etc. Within minutes, she had all the information she needed. “Sign here,” she said without a smile, sliding another form under the bar.
I signed the sheet and slid it back. She tore off the last page of the triplicate copy and slid it toward me. For the first time in minutes, she looked me in the eyes. “Ms. Dworznik, you are officially withdrawn from Miami University. You will receive a 90% refund check in the mail within the next three weeks. You have 72 hours to evacuate the dorms. Your meal card will be discontinued at this time. You are withdrawn from all classes and will need to reapply for admission if you decide to return to this university. Do you have any questions?” She had a vehement tone and fire behind her eyes. It was like she was personally offended that I was leaving.
“Not a one. Thank you for your time.” I smiled. I took my forms and walked away. I held my head high as I exited the administration building for the last time. I had done it: the unexpected. Of course, once my friends and family found out, everyone thought my decision was a cry for help; it was so unlike me. It was the move of a malcontent, an ill-adjusted adolescent.
It took years for anyone to realize that this decision was what catapulted me into adulthood. I stood as an individual on my own that day; I made a decision; I followed through with that decision, and I never regretted it for a minute.