Memoir Monday: The Cool Girl in Grad School, or Why Gravity’s Rainbow is My Least Favorite Book

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Today is Memoir Monday, hosted by Travis at I Like to Fish. Head on over and check him out to see what all the fuss is about!

When I was in grad school, there was a girl in my program whom I idolized. She epitomized everything I did not: strength, confidence, intelligence, and independence. She had a funky cropped haircut, wore tiny glasses, and came to class wearing her vintage cowboy boots almost every day, no matter the weather. Coincidentally, her name was Erin.

I remember the day she officially became my girl crush don’t worry Natalie Portman, you will always be # 1. Sitting in our Postmodernism class discussing Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, she was completely at ease, while I was sweaty and nervous. I remember curling into my chair trying to disappear so the professor wouldn’t call on me. If you’ve never read this book, don’t bother. It’s unbelievably complex with about a bazillion characters, dialogue that drons on and on, and lots of talk about sex and drugs and weapons of mass destruction. I never finished reading it because I couldn’t comprehend a word of it. Stupid didn’t even come close to describing how I felt in that class on this particular day.

The professor started a discussion and I remember Erin was the first to respond. The words that tumbled out of her mouth took my breath away. “I found this really accessible,” she said, crossing one leg over the other. She continued but I didn’t hear a word of it.

I dropped out of the Postmodernism class later that day after dissolving in a puddle of tears in my advisor’s office.

I’ve been carrying this around for so long–this feeling of not being as good/as smart/as fun/as awesome as the next person. And you know what? I’m done.

I’m not a quitter.I am not going to be intimidated by cool girls in cowboy boots anymore. Or anyone else, for that matter. I am learning what I’m worth.

You’d better watch out. I’m gettin’ a pair of cowboy boots.

**Congrats to Mindy of The Inquisitive Mom who won my Funky Mama cd giveaway! Mindy, it will go out in today’s mail! Thanks for entering, everyone!**

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  • Danielle

    I always have a hard time in college because I too find myself not as smart as all the others. It sucks. Glad you got your confidence back though. Where can I get some?! LOL

  • The Boob Nazi

    Hm, I'm definitely not like her haha

  • Ami

    Great story, Erin. This is a lesson I think we all eventually learn. I used to (OK, and still do sometimes) envy other women for their looks, or their career, or their family, or their big house that is spotless and perfect. But then it occurred to me that what I envied of them wasn't the whole story. They may have seemed to have it all together, but we're all good at pretending, aren't we?

    I'm trying not to compare myself to others anymore, and you know what? It turns out I like myself and my life a lot more that way.

  • Two Normal Moms

    I still feel sucked back into "doubting myself by comparison" sometimes, but I work hard not to do it anymore. Good for you! Maybe you should get a little sparkle on those boots :)

  • purejoy

    i want a pair of cowboy boots, too!!
    as a designer, i picked a terrible career for someone who seeks approval.
    rarely is something i do right the first (or second or third…) time. constant criticism.
    and top that off with being a Christian, and the self loathing can heap up without me really even noticing until i'm paralyzed by guilt.
    and this is not the life Jesus has called us to.

    and who writes a book like gravity's rainbow?? it sounds like trying to weight down one of nature's glorious gifts.

    i wish you a rainbow in your heart today. loved your last post, too.
    you are a brave, courageous woman. i heart your heart.

  • Matty

    The lesson of the day is…..just be yourself.

    And for the record, I like cowboy boots.

  • LMJ

    I could have written this whole post myself!!!!

    I CAN totally relate!!

    I love love love love ittttt!!!!

  • IASoupMama

    I hate feeling like the low-woman-on-the-brain-trust totem pole. I'm so lucky that I get to feel that way nearly daily as I work at a college, but not as a professor. I just take a deep breath and remind myself that, while I may not have a Ph.D. in Being Smart, I can function in the real world, something not all academics master.

  • BigSis

    I totally relate. Even if others aren't comparing me, I am.

    You are a cool girl – with or without the boots.

  • suzicate

    Amazing how someone can open their mouth and our total perception of them is shot to hell!

  • Travis

    That's the kind of chick I'd have pissed off in about 10 minutes. Someone who thinks that they can just run shit.

    I appreciate you playing along two weeks in a row!

  • Amie

    Oh I totally relate to this post. This could have been plucked from my own grad school days.

  • Menopausal New Mom

    Hi Erin, too bad we didn't have all this wisdom during high school and grade school when we really needed it!

    So I wonder whatever happened to Erin, then again, some things are better left alone!

  • MiMi

    Okay, but seriously, that book sounds lameballs to me. I mean, "Gravity's Rainbow??" Unless some dude was named gravity, I have no clue how to decipher even the title.
    And you wanna feel really smart?? I dropped out of photography. The day after I could get my $$ back. Why? I don't get it. At all. To this day!

  • Lizzy and Elle

    Stopped by and

    btw we took stuff….

  • Semi-Slacker Mom

    I've felt that way before & still do sometimes. But I have some cowboy boots & some happy pills & a wonderful family, so I'm good to go!

  • Melissa

    You never know, you might have been "that girl" for someone else. You might be now:)

  • Mindy

    Yeah for winning!! Can't wait to rock out with the kiddos! :0)

    I agree with Melissa. I bet you might be "that" girl and you'd never know it. :0)

    I actually loved my postmodern lit class, but we did not read that book. I loved it, though, b/c we had this incredibly difficult challenge each week to read a book and write a 1 pg paper on 1 very specific topic. No more. No less. It truly helped me to learn to cut out the fat in my writing and even to let go of unnecessary stuff (even if it's really great). (You can't tell that now). I had the most incredible teacher and getting positive feedback from her was like receiving gold!


  • Secret Mom Thoughts

    Good for you. I need to get a pair of cowboy boots too.

  • Existential Waitress

    Erin, everytime you write a post I am soooo glad that I found your blog! I really relate to this too, as I remember those "cool" intellectually-superior girls who found the most difficult of texts accessible. I rememeber grad school being fun in so many ways, yet freakin' HELL in others (like this). And funny, recently I determined that I'm 35 and I refuse to shy away from trying things that might may me look stupid (like pretty much anything and everything) and to try to do things I've always wanted to do – especially those that take me outside my comfort zone. Great post – thanks for sharing this!

  • MJenks

    You should have made every comment in that particular class relative to the episode of the Simpsons where Marge writes a book.

    Thomas Pynchon is in it, in case you haven't seen it.

    Which would make the first comment really pointless.


  • unabridgedgirl


    Okay – - first time reading your blog, and I love you already. Fabulous post, and I am glad you're going to get your own boots! :)


  • Daffy

    …them boots are made for walking, that's just what they'll do. Them boots are made for walkin…they're gonna walk all over you….

    That song will be in my head the rest of the day – most likely because Funky Mama won't be in my head….

    Congrats to the winner!

  • Tami G

    oh girl – I went BACK to college as a "non-traditional" student. I signed up for algebra and dropped it after the first day.
    He wrote all the "properties" on the board…. distributive property, (see that's the only one I even remember)
    and everyone (all the 12 year olds) in the class knew exactly what he was talking about. NOT ME! I was lost already.
    dropped that class immediately.
    never felt so stupid IN. My. Life!!! :(

  • Mama Bird

    You better go buy those boots and wear them with ATTITUDE! I think you are cool and I am cool so there!

  • Beck

    It's SO true – I spent too long comparing myself to other people and coming up LOSING. Great post!

  • Alyssa

    I think you are going to have to pick me up a pair of boots and I will send you the money- we don't get any cool boots here in PA but we do have good snow boots if you need them!

  • Secretia

    Good girl, put on those cowgirl boots and kick your troubles in the ass! Kick 'em out the door. Run 'em out of town, that'll teach 'em, they won't be back!

    Country big-girl talk!


  • leigh

    Strap on those boots and read some Postmodernism in the sun!!!! I'm SO happy to read this post!

  • leigh

    BTW…my post today is all about my cowboy boots. Creepy.

  • Salt

    That definitely sounds like a class that I would fail miserably.

  • Rondell

    Look at all these comments you got up on you page!

  • RN Mama

    You go girl! Way to cowboy up!

  • DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom

    Forget the cowboy boots. Go steel tipped combat boots all the way. They are made for kicking ass and taking names. You go girl!

  • LB

    You should've gone to class drunk. It would have definitely diminished all those feelings of inadequacy. Of course, you would have looked like a blubbering idiot…

    I cannot imagine you feelin inferior to her. Her perceived confidence was probably her way of hiding her bulimia. No one is ever as cool as we think they are.

  • Kate@And Then I Was a Mom

    You know what? There is NO way anyone finds Pynchon "accessible," and small-glasses girl knew that. I bet you interpreted it just as well as she did, if not better. And you didn't have to sleep with cowboy boots on to do it.


  • Vodka Logic

    Great post and I'm with you… why do we let ourselves get intimidated.

    And why does it take until we are grown ups to realize.

  • Annie @ astonesthrowfrominsanity

    OK- Back from vacay and had to get my "Load" fix. Why oh why get cowboy boots?!? Start your own trend with some red F.M. pumps . . . :)

  • Robin

    Wow.. those feelings never leave us…I had a similar situation in grad school too..a girl, she was really nice but always had such an abstract take on issues and our readings as well…I thought I was doing really well and even wanted to go for my PhD, until one day we got back papers..I got a B with much criticism, and she got an A+ with a comment in the margin that said "You really must go for your PhD"….I never did, nor do I want too now..but I still feel that gnawing in my stomach when I think of how it made me feel that day ..but at least I was there for my daughter when a similar thing happened to her and we talked and laughed about it, now she is getting all the A+'s..I think we all have our time to shine…in the end, and 15 years later, it really does'nt matter..nor did it ever..!!

  • JoeyRes

    I did a short stint in some kind of Art class during my freshman year of college where we were supposed to find triangles in these famous portraits. I couldn't have been more lost if I was trying to decode a "magic eye" puzzle. I figured all the other kids were talking out of their bums when they claimed to get it. I dropped that class and changed colleges.

  • singedwingangel

    OH I so hear ya hun sooo hear ya.. I am always comparing myself to this person or that person cause it always seems to look better over there..

  • Veronica

    Those very same feelings and I still get them. I'm working on trying not to let them rule my life anymore. Great post girl!

  • Maven

    Erin, I so related to this – I am just growing to adore you!

    And TOWANDA woman – you really are Just. That. Fabulous.

  • JennyMac

    Put on those sassy boots and get to kicking ass Mama.

  • adrienzgirl

    Oh Erin, you will always be cool to me. Glad you are finding your confidence. It will feel good on, I promise!

  • The Blue Zoo

    I didnt even feel smart enough to go to college. I was such an idiot.

    Anyhow –

    I think you should totally get some kick ass cowboy boots! And post some pics for us.

  • ScoMan

    Weapons and destruction?

    Sounds like a good book.

  • Tracie

    The other Erin sounds like a pretentious ass to me. You, however, are awesome.

    PS My theory is 'Be yourself because everyone else is screwed up too'.

  • Millennium Housewife

    Yeeee ha!

  • Homesick Cajun

    I have an award for you in my blog if you'd like to come by and pick it up!

  • Aunt Juicebox

    It's always interesting to see people who just exude confidence like that. Makes me wonder how they develop it, you know, and I don't have any. Sigh.

  • Arizona Mamma

    You are so one of the cool bloggers if it's any consolation!

    I can relate to your story though. I felt much of the time that I lingered just on the cusp of the cool crowd…never really fitting in with them, and never fitting in with the uncool crowd either. So nice to grow up and realize you are your own person, and that's enough.