I got a letter in the mail a few days ago. I had been expecting it but not watching for it, waiting patiently but not wondering unduly. After a while, I even forgot that it was supposed to be coming.
But I came home the other night to find an envelope lying across my bed. The front bore the name and address of my university, and the name of the college. I already knew what it was all about, of course. Funny, I thought, how even the letters asking for registration fees and tuition payments are far more formal-looking than this one. I had expected more from this one, you see. I tore a strip down the right-hand side of the envelope and flipped open the letter itself, which was unprepossessing in appearance, to say the least. The elegant university seal at the top was nice. The stamped signature at the bottom of the page – belonging to the associate dean of the college – was not so nice. I mean, please, how difficult must it be to get a real live signature using a real ink pen on these things? Someone could have at least had the heart to fake a signature, but using a pen. It’s not as if I would have known the difference anyway. And the paper. Good Lord, the paper! So flimsy, I could almost see right through it, even though I wasn’t holding it up against the light. Even the paper we buy for our household printers/copier/fax usage is much better quality. The largest university in the UC system…please don’t tell me they can’t afford quality stationary for such monumental notices. My fees just increased by 30%, so I know they can.
The letter starts off:
Dear Yasmine:Nice. Alhamdulillah. ‘Bout time, peoples. ‘Bout time, Yasminay. The funny thing is, though, that I was being facetious when I called it a “monumental notice.” I feel I’ve mentally been a Human Development major for so long that a piece of paper doesn’t really make all that much difference to me. Actually, I’ve mentally been a non-NPB major, pre-med or otherwise, for so long that it’s almost ludicrous to receive a formal notice confirming it. A couple weeks ago, I got a letter stating something along the lines of, “Please stop by the Division of BioSci and make an appointment to see an advisor soon. We are concerned that you have not been fulfilling the requirements for your NPB major.” I laughed, and said with mock incredulity, No way? ‘Bout time you figured it out, and tossed the letter into the trash bin.
Your petition to change your major from Neurobiology, Physiology, & Behavior to Human Development has been:
X Approved and filed with the Registrar.
_ Denied because of insufficient scholarship.
_ Held, pending an appointment with the undersigned Associate Dean.
If I had thought of this letter as important, I would have mentioned it to my family as well. But I didn’t, and so I tucked it away in my bag and didn’t even bring it up. The other night, though, I made an offhand explanatory remark about my change of major while conversing with a guest. My sister’s jaw dropped, and she sputtered, “You didn’t even tell us!” “Get over it,” I said impatiently. “Daddy!” she called across a roomful of guests, “did you know Apaji got her major changed?” I rolled my eyes. The daddy-o raised his eyebrows inquisitively and retorted, “Which one?” I laughed, and so did the guests, though they really had no idea what it was all about. It’s a family joke – with some basis, I might add – that my major changes every quarter. My father finds my academic vacillation extremely amusing, which is a good thing, since he’s the one paying my enormous tuition in full.
But hey, at least, I can finally stop responding to the inevitable, “So what do you study?” questions with the long-suffering, “Well, technically, I’m a pre-med Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior major, but…” Too many explanations and stories and details and exclamations involved in that. Fine, I admit it: This makes life easier. Sort of. But not really.