1996 was an interesting year for me.
I was a sophomore in college. I was unhappy with my major – especially because it involved four times a week statistics classes at 8 a.m. But by the end of that year I decided to make a change and become a writing major, so things were looking up.
I had plenty of friends and while I wasn’t invited to the cool parties with all of the international students – despite being one – I had my own posse of American friends to make up for that.
I had professors whose influence is still with me. I had a cool job the summer before and after my sophomore year at a business paper in Budapest. I might have still been wondering what life was all about — I am still wondering today — but everyone around me was doing the same.
That was also the year when very uncharacteristically for me I began a whirlwind romance/friendship with one of those snotty international students. He was — and I assume is — exciting, and smart, and glamorous. He was the kind of guy who I thought would never be interested in a chubby Jewish girl from Budapest. But he was. Things didn’t work out with him — I now understand why and I am OK with it — but at that time, the 20-year-old me didn’t know any of what was to come.
Anyway, so it was a confusing, exhilarating, exhausting, liberating year. The possibilities for excitement and adventure were endless. To remember the time, the place, the people, I bought a Swatch watch after my finals in the spring. It’s gold-colored, with the numbers 1-9-9-6 scribbled on the face. It was fitting, I thought.
And today I found out that the watch was dead. I took it in to a watch shop just to get a new battery for it when the salesperson delivered the news: Your watch is dead. I stood there for a moment and mourned.
First, I thought I was only mourning a fashion accessory. But as I walked back to my office, I realized that my watch’s death was somewhat well-timed. For the past couple of weeks, Drew and I have been trying to figure out where we are headed with our lives. News jobs loom on the horizon, we are trying to sell our house, we are trying to figure out where to live next, whether to have another child, where Sam should go to school… Big, heavy, grown-up stuff.
A part of me wants to scream and run from the responsibilities and the 30-year mortgage and the fact that I am someone’s mother. Gasp! How did all this happen between 1996 and now? Did anyone ask my permission before loading life on my shoulders?
And now the watch — and 1996 — are dead. “You got 17 good years out of it,” the watch repairmen told me.
He was right.