For some, summer vacation means huddling over a microscope, saving the world from bacteria; interning for a congressman, saving the world from politicians; or working for an independent production company, saving the world from massive blockbuster movies. Others don’t save the world at all but still find summer jobs, like working in a bakery across from the Green Hills Mall. For every student, summer comes to an end at some point and they must return to the hustle and bustle of Vassar’s campus. Rather than dwell on how frustrating their commute was due to the huge construction projects shoving oversized buildings into undersized lots in formerly residential neighborhoods where there isn’t parking or appropriate infrastructure for a whole huge apartment building, students must leave the summer behind them to focus on academics and creating beautiful memories with their fellow students that will last a lifetime.
Take me, for example. As I drove away from my home in Nashville, TN, I vowed I would dedicate my full attention to succeeding both inside and outside the classroom. I swore I would focus on my assignments while still finding time to care for my friends and myself. I’d let go of all the things customers said to me, like that it’s hard to find a husband at an all-women’s college, and focus on the affirming environment for trans* individuals that the people I’ve met on this cam- pus work to build. No longer would I grumble to myself about how the new owner would point to me and say, “The girl will ring you up,” and sure, I wasn’t out as trans* at work, but for Christ’s sake!
“The girl?” Are you kidding me? My name is one syllable, one freaking syllable. How is it easier to say “the girl”? Just say “Blair.” Professors who have never met me before I walk into their class- room, much less have my social security number on file for payroll, manage to just say “Blair.”
That’s the kind of thing I won’t focus on throughout my semester. It’s over, I don’t have to work for him anymore, it’s done. Finished. Fin. Fine. I can focus on the things I love: wearing pajama pants every day, dancing, writing for the Misc, not being hit on by customers. It’s not hard to say, “Can I have a sample of that?” without say- ing, “Give me a sample as big as that last guy’s, otherwise I’ll know you think I’m ugly.” What the hell does that mean? We give big samples because the baked goods taste great, and muffins go stale really quickly sitting in the open air. We don’t ration based off of attractiveness. How can anyone think that’s at all appropriate? I’m there to make sure you give us money so we can bake more bread so you can give us more money, not to pass judgement on everyone’s appearance.
Sometimes I would slice the bread and put it in bags, but I’m done with that job. I can concentrate on my role as an org leader, honing my skills as a communicator and dance teacher, not wiping down counters because, according to my boss, “That is a job just for YOU.” Don’t get me wrong: I am not above wiping down counters. I will work 1,000 jobs where I have to wipe down counters. What I’m above is a middle-aged man pointing at me up close, like the ghost of Billy Mays, and saying, “You were the first person I thought of when I knew this job needed to get done—I saw it and I thought, this is perfect for the girl. You get to wipe down the counters.” That is what I do not like. I don’t want to be sold on the job I sought out and showed up for five days a week. Of course I have to wipe down counters. I’ve wiped down counters at other jobs and I wiped down counters at that bakery before the new owner took over, but if that is a job that is “just for me,” I guess I seriously need to reevaluate my skill set. I think pretty much everyone can do at least one other thing besides wipe down a counter, and it’s not like I was at a loss for things to do in the bakery. I was in the middle of finishing wholesale orders and filling out the bills when he said that, and Jake was also working that day, so what was he thinking?
Who wipes down which counters and why is beside the point. The point is: No matter what we did this summer, whether it was bring sustainable irrigation to the entire continent of Africa or listen to our coworker say “shabbat shalom” to everyone who bought challah on Fridays (90 percent of whom didn’t know how to pronounce it), summer is over. It’s time for us all to move on and be present here at Vassar.