Yesterday was the “progressive dinner” of high school college fairs in this area of Massachusetts. If you’re not familiar with the term, a progressive dinner is one where the participants move from one houses to enjoy different courses- the Jennings for cocktails, the Gorbenski’s for apps, Jenny and Rob always serve the roast beef, you get the idea.

I had to be a Milton High School at 8 am, followed by Braintree at 9:30, Blue Hills Regional Technical School at 1, and Randolph at 220 pm. I had a lot of company, about fifty to sixty other colleges attended, some from as far away as Florida. We all wore comfortable shoes, lugged portable suitcases stuffed with tiny phone chargers, stress balls, little notebooks, flyers, viewbooks, pens, inquiry cards, invitations, business cards, pop up signs and polyester table runners in school colors.

We walked from the parking lot thru Milton High School’s front door like we’d been there before. (I have actually spent a lot of time walking in and out of Milton High School’s front door. My son was asked to leave three months before he was to graduate.) Yesterday morning, I was there to speak to his classmates about coming to school at Quincy College while Colin played NBA All Star Draft in his room.

Admissions representatives don’t speak to each other much, at least that I’ve noticed. Walking in and out of the high schools, we’re rushing, to get to our tables, hoping for coffee, trying to get our display set up and inviting before the first class descends into the cafeteria or the gym, trying to find our car to get to the next college fair, or home, or to a hotel. We are rushing from one place to another, phones in one hand, suitcases dragging behind us. We save our smiles and conversation for the prospective students, that want to us to tell them that Criminal Justice is a terrific major, there are careers for people that study Art, or that they’ll get into Nursing School. I try to be as honest as I can when I speak to the teenagers.

It’s easy for me. Quincy College, where I work, is affordable, so it’s a good fit for most seventeen year olds without a clue. And most seventeen year olds are without a clue. Even if they think they have a clue, they really don’t. Not about the future, anyway. But they do have a hell of a lot of time to figure things out. Not as much time as my son, but they’ve got time, especially if they spend a year at Quincy College, where tuition is affordable, and they can save on housing costs by living at home.

As an Admissions representative, I don’t say much to my colleagues because I’m saving all of my energy for the conversations with the seventeen year olds. I have tired conversations about how Monday’s suck with friends, how irritating work politics can be with people the next desk over, how much I hate the morning with my daughter every morning. The teenagers at the other side get to see Julie, the empathetic, interesting, and interested version. And I get to listen to them, and remember what it was like to be seventeen with the whole world, and a whole life, spread in front of me.

I imagine a few years ago, Admissions representatives might have spoken to each other on the way back to their cars, after the first fair, on their way to the second about the best way to get from point a to point b. But now, we all have phones, with apps like Waze, Google Maps, good ol’ Suri, to guide us to the next stop of the route. So we walk to our cars, separately, calculating if we have enough business cards, summer schedules, and pens for the next stop. In between, Suri does the talking.

During the events, we listen, ask the right questions, and thrust inquiry cards at the students, saying- just fill out your name, email address, high school, interest and date of graduation. The cards they give back are hard to read, and a lot of the time, the workstudy who enters the address gets it wrong. Soon, we’ll have tablets. Soon the inquiry cards will be as automated as our directions.

I’m grateful for Suri. I can’t find my way to the corner store some days. My work study will say a prayer of thanks when we start having prospective students type in their information on a tablet.

Hopefully, there isn’t a technology waiting in the wings to take over the conversations with juniors. They look me in the eye, they listen to my answers. They tell me their plans, they tell me their other plans, sometimes, they tell me they’ve got no plans. I could spend all day going from high school to high school, five days a week.

 

Last week I wrote a piece about the places in my life that make me happy, that make me feel at home, and let me move thru them without stropping to try to remember where the bathroom is.

Right after I click publish, there is a brief period of post-post afterglow, (sometimes I think that brief period after I’ve put something out there for the “public”, when I’m just thrilled with the simple fact that once more- I found something to say- it’s bliss, it’s relief, and there’s a dash of excitement in the mix… What if nobody reads what I so carefully offered to them, what if there are better things out there on the interweb, and all of my readers finally found out about them! Oh sorry, that causes a mild blip of terror, the excitement sings when I think about what if someone new finds my words, and they work in publishing, or run the New Yorker, or are a big time Broadway producer who thinks so far out of the box she can imagine my musings as having the potential to make a wonderful musical. Off off Broadway. (As long as I got rid of my son, the snakes and the turtle, and at the beginning of the second act lose my husband for a while to a crack whore, later saved by my 9 year old daughter, who put on a show so Daddy could go to rehab.) You never know, I suppose, but for the record, I wouldn’t get rid of my son or the snakes, but the turtle, well, I would be open to a discussion.

Right after the brief period of post-post afterglow, I remembered what I forgot. Nowhere in musings did I mention one place that I have had a love affair with for years. So intense was this relationship, I went back to school so I could get a job to work at this place. It is the Quincy Y,a local branch of the South Shore Y.

We first joined when my daughter started attending preschool at their Early Childhood Education Center. We moved up to next level when she signed up for swim team, and I began to work out while she was at practice. I’ve never been a mom that could happily sit by any pool, even to watch her youngest swim laps for an hour. Pool sides are for when you are in St.Croix and I have a thick book and a really hot waiter that wants to bring me martinis. I am a kind person, if someone wants to bring me martinis, I accept them, with grace. Pool sides at the Quincy Y are places where I put my stuff before I go swimming. My daughter didn’t think it was a terrific idea for me to do laps with the team. And so…

I ventured to the world of strength training and cardio. Soon I flirted with the classes, found out I loved Zumba, and Body Pump and Definitions.

Katy left preschool, and I signed her up for a cheaper swim team in Dorchester, but I found myself spending more a time there.

Long story short, and I could essentially turn my slow journey into the world of the workout into a very, very long story, I decided to go to school to study Exercise Science, in hopes of one day working at this place that had become such an integral part of my life. I took the classes and got the job, and am proud to say I am an Ace Certified Personal Trainer working at the Quincy Y.

I’ve only been there about six months, but in that short span of time, I’ve made many friends. When I walk in that door, and glance at the woman at the front desk, I know her name. I know where the lost and found is, and that a pair of headphones wouldn’t be found there. They go in the drawer behind the desk. I know what to say to the six teenage boys sitting in a corner on Nautilus equipment, texting their friends and showing off their sneakers, I show them how to get to basketball court. In case they forgot since the last time I showed them yesterday.

But I hadn’t gone all the way, and it wasn’t that the Y didn’t make me feel welcome. So many of the trainers have become really good friends. And the members remember my name, even my name tag on order.

It’s this. I am a exercise science major. I passed my Ace exam and am a real, certified by the great people at Ace to train people.

And I’m not in amazing shape.

I work out every day. But this summer, I became a little obsessed with swimming and hiking. It has been… um… two months since I’ve lifted anything, other than my daughter off a wall. I thought about doing a plank when I was looking for my car keys under the sofa, but then I found them so I had to drive someone somewhere. But by the first week in September I knew it was time to get to the business of building the muscles, and I really do want muscles, I have wanted muscles long before Michelle Obama started wearing short sleeve shirts. So when fall came, I was happy. I knew that cold weather would soon send me inside to the elliptical, onto the sweet seat of the chest press and the assisted chin, and others.

And I would, with the help of my fellow trainers, build and lift and wave ropes around in the air until I finally got a body that looked like it belonged on a personal trainer. Since I am a personal trainer, this is probably a good idea. Swimming and hiking all the time count for something, but mostly they give you really bad hair, and an excellent cardiovascular system.

I knew once I had some muscles, the Y would be right up there with church,kids, woods and water as one of my homes away from home. And it would have to stay that way iif I wanted to keep all those muscles.

But two weeks ago, the Quincy Y succumbed to time, a water pipe exploded and the building shut for good. They are hoping to reopen the new facility the end of October, the beginning of November.

And so I’ve been missing it. I miss my friends, the seventy two difficult teenagers, and that feeling I’d get when Kim, my boss, 6’2″, told me she had something to talk to me about. I miss hearing Dani talk about Crossfit, and Angela telling enthusiastically showing off the bruises she’d gotten in kick boxing class with Mickey.

So tonight, I realized I have some work to do. I need to squat those squats and curl those hammers, I need to conquer the world of free weights, and work on my push
ups. I am going to ready when the new Y opens. I will be ripped, and taut, and strong. People will look at the new Y, and look at me, in my tank top, and they will wonder if I built it all by myself.

On opening day, when I walk in to our new state of the art facility, I will be worthy. And if I’m not quite there yet, I know I can count on a little help from my friends.