Ill-Fitting In

firmly stuck between recently ended college life and ... Eau Claire

Charlotte Pike, illustrated by Erik Christenson

I understood the world when it orbited around UW-Eau Claire. I spent five-and-a-half years finding my comfort zone in that world, and just when I got the hang of it, suddenly they’re kicking me out. I’m not spending my last days of summer moving, buying books, or rearranging my class schedule. When I open my planner now, all I see is empty white space. School and homework used to be the hinges that held my life together and they gave me something to strive for. Now I have the coveted freedom I would have killed for in my fifth year of school and, frankly, it makes me nervous. Without the controlled social environment of campus, the student loan financial cushion, and the end target to keep me focused, transitioning from student of UW-Eau Claire to adult citizen of Eau Claire has proven difficult.

Since I was not one of those lucky people (namely business majors) who had a job lined up after graduation, my commencement march took me from college to a big empty abyss. Since I had no reason to leave Eau Claire, I stayed.

My first priority: to find a place to live. There comes a point in every person’s life when stumbling, yelling people at 3 a.m. stops being funny and starts being intrusive. Never having lived north of Chippewa Street and south of Menomonie Street, I wasn’t sure where to look for a home, so I did what any logical person would do: found the cheapest place available. The lesson: cheap means drains that don’t drain and nonexistent kitchens. Also, crying children in the next apartment are not less distracting than drunken college kids. 

My next challenge is to maintain some semblance of a social life even though almost everyone I’ve known for the past six years is now elsewhere. In a moment of regression a couple weekends back, I revisited my favorite college watering hole which is named after a German sausage that is best when boiled in beer. What I once found an endearing establishment in which my girlfriends and I ruled the dance floor, looked (and smelled) so different to my older, wiser eyes (and nose). Where the bouncer used to greet me by name, I only got empty glances. Where there used to be familiar faces, there were only kids who had to be too young to be there. I was taken aback by the prospect of actually wanting to enjoy a drink with a couple of friends in an establishment where the music is good and at a volume that encourages conversation.