Start of 2nd Quarter . . . Readjustment
In the year following graduation, Jan and I began pursuing education beyond our bachelor's degrees.
I spent the summer working at my fathers auto dealership. In September I would enroll at Syracuse University in the masters degree program in radio and television.
Meanwhile, Jan had not yet been accepted into a medical school, so it would be another year before she was going to be able to start training to be a doctor. She needed to find temporary employment.
First, however, she had to finalize a heartbreaking decision she had made on her last day at Oberlin. She wrote me afterwards that she did so while she and her mother were visiting her sister in Madison, Wisconsin.
Friday, June 27, 1969
As you noticed from the postmark and the return address, I am not in Madison. I am spending the summer at Lake George, cooking, keeping house, and doing odd jobs for my 84-year-old grandmother. I get room and board and $10 a day. Plus I can swim, sun, climb mountains, pick blueberries, read, think, write letters, and loaf. Its a rough life!
I was in Madison for five days, during which time I learned how to paddle Lynns kayak, spent $50 for sandals and clothes, and broke up with [my serious boyfriend].
I have sent out 19 letters of job application. I have one nibble already: a job as senior lab technician in pharmacology, doing analytical chemistry on blood serum, for Stein Medical Laboratories of the duPont Company. The job starts in August and pays $7,300 a year. If I want, I can live at home [at Kennett Square, Pennsylvania].
Wednesday, July 2, 1969
All sorts of companies, university medical centers, etc. have sent me application forms immediately. Dr. James Orr of the Massachusetts General Hospital called my home to see if I wouldnt work with him on research in steroid chemistry. Four or five other doctors from the Harvard Medical area are also interested in me.
I got a good chuckle about answering a question on the Eastman Kodak application form. They asked you to list your publications. Someone in the technical recruitment division is going to be surprised to read:
I love it here at the Lake. Its incredibly beautiful living among the birches and the fragrant pines, listening to the gurgling and the sloshing of the crystal blue water upon the shore. I like preparing meals and doing other work for Gogo, and chatting with and enjoying my aunts and uncles and cousins.
Last Saturday, six of us had cocktails (I had ginger ale; Ive decided never to drink C2H5OH) and dinner at Mary and Sids cottage next door.
Several nights ago there was a full moon and a warm, frisky breeze which chased wisps of clouds across the sky. Carolyn (one of my aunts) went down with me to the back dock, and I went skinny dipping (i.e., swimming au naturel). It was the first time Id tried it. What fun! The water is like velvet against your skin.
When Mom and I were out in Madison, Wisconsin, and staying with my sister Lynn, we werent allowed to venture outside the house in anything but sandals. Lynn didnt want to be embarrassed by our garbing ourselves in a style entirely inappropriate to Madison. Mom and I each bought a new pair of sandals cut to fit our feet exactly at Cecils Sandal Shop. I havent worn another pair of shoes since.
My parents (especially Mom) have been very good about understanding and respecting my desire and need for privacy and independence. They leave everything about choice of job, place to live, etc. entirely up to me.
Also, except for one comment from my mother, my parents have said absolutely nothing about my breakup. (Bless them for this.) My mother knew that I was in pretty bad shape emotionally for several days after I got back from Madison. She just stuck her head in my doorway one night and said, I know that right now there is nothing that Daddy or I could say that would be right, but I want you to know that although youre very unhappy about it now, I think that someday youll be glad you made the decision you did.
Live for Today
I see that youre getting scared about leaving home, and you are wondering if youll ever be happy again. I know kind of how you feel I get a little panicky myself at times but Id like to remind you not to forget one thing. Life has something valuable and something that is fun every minute, whether you are in transition from one plateau to the next or whether you are securely seated on a conveyor belt with a well-known destination.
Dont be disappointed with any moment in your lifes course. Dont wish you were elsewhere in the past or in the future. You are in the present, and each present moment is as important and worthwhile as any other single moment in your life whether it be a happy moment you remember from the past, or a future moment that you wish would come to be.
(So much for todays lecture.)
P.S. Know why I wrote the above? Cause Im scared to death, and uncertain about where Im going, and lonely. But I love it here, and I am happy!
Please do write when you can.
I did write on July 10. Among other things, I reacted for the second time about Jan's revelation that she had broken up with her longtime boyfriend, whose name I've replaced with X in the following excerpt from my scientific-jargoned letter.
I debated whether I should say anything more about the subject whether that would only make things hurt more for you. Please remember I'm not trying to be crude, or to make light of your feelings or anything. I'm trying to do what I can to help.
Let's assume that you definitely will not reverse your decision, that the breakup is permanent. If this postulate is correct, several corollaries follow. They follow immediately, but they do need to be stated.
One is that sometime in the next few years you'll have to find someone else, if you want to have a number of children, that is. There's a theorem that it's impossible to love (in this sense of the word) more than one person at a time. Therefore, if you're ever going to love someone else, you'll have to get over your love of X. (Boy, does that ever sound harsh and unfeeling. But it's true, nevertheless.)
A second corollary which follows from the postulated permanency of the breakup is that it won't do any good now to brood about it. It's over and done with, and the questions of whether you were fair to him and whether you made a wise decision and whether you should have waited longer and so on they're all irrelevant. (That also sounds harsh and unfeeling.)
This logical analysis recommends the following course of action, then: Forget about X, cease loving him, forget about the whole incident; free your mind to concentrate on your work (next month) and your studies (next year) and to learn to love someone else (whenever you find him).
All right, now I'll be realistic. What I just said is impossible. Unless there is some ground for disliking a person, it is very difficult to fall out of love with them just because the situation suggests that that might be the thing to do. You can't help thinking about him, at least not for any length of time; dismissing him from your mind, and thinking of some other young med student or whatever as a potential husband, is simply something you cannot do.
Yet you have to. The logic may be unfeeling, but it is valid. When you leave Gogo's house to go to work in a lab somewhere, you will have had sufficient time to have gotten your thoughts and feelings recomposed. So go out into the world as a free and independent person, refusing to allow yourself to brood about what might have been if only.
Making an incomplete break with X would be very unfair to yourself, depriving you at the same time both of his love and of anyone else's. You've made the break; now even though it hurts, you'll have to eventually make the break complete.
...I've come to a decision myself this summer, after watching some of the energetic brats and haggard parents that come into my father's garage. If at all possible, I'm going to avoid having children. They're just too much a disruption of the well-ordered adult life, taking too much energy and time that could be better spent in other ways. Besides, there are already more than enough kids being born in the world to perpetuate the species. Now all I have to do is find a suitable wife-candidate who agrees with me about this.
Well, I suppose comments like that also sound harsh and unfeeling to you. Sorry about that, but I'm just a harsh and unfeeling person. I don't care a thing about how you're getting along up there, whether you've decided on a job, or anything. Be sure not to write.
July 16, 1969
Dear harsh, unfeeling Creature,
You know something? Your last letter contained the soundest advice that I have received since I called my brother long-distance in San Francisco to ask for help on how to break up! Thank you.
Tuesday, July 29, 1969
Yay, Apollo 11 !!! I watched about 50 hours of TV during those remarkable eight days.
Yesterday I walked four miles barefoot in the rain to get your letter, and today Ill walk the same four miles in the rain to mail this to you.
Once again a letter from you has fortuitously arrived at one of my loneliest hours. (Good timing; thanks!) The first time was when, on my nineteenth birthday, you were the only person to remember me. Yesterday I was lonely because of the contrast between Sunday and Monday.
Sunday I was in the company of Mary and Sid, Gogo, Mommy, Daddy, Ken, our canoe Windswept, and Bruce Babcock. We canoed, hiked, and had a picnic on my island between rumbles of thunder.
Monday all of these had left.
I am utterly tangled up as far as Bruce goes there are too many conflicting inputs. He writes to me regularly, describes me as a special friend, and plans to see me again sometime soon. If I could know that he thinks of me as just a little sister, I could accept it and move toward other horizons. I am almost ready to believe this except that too many things remain unexplained.
Agonized and vulnerable, I am trapped in a prison of hope. (Actually, this experience is good for my soul. Up until this time I have been pretty much a center of attention.)
August 15, 1969
It sure is horrible to be home! Im back to the lovelies of traffic, smog (ugh), and lots of people who expect one to wear shoes! I really had it good at Lake George ... it was so beautiful, and there were no pressures of any kind.
I have been exceedingly busy since I got home just getting settled and all sorts of other stuff. One of my first purchases was a red ledger entitled Family Expense Record and Budget Control No. 1754½. If I am careful (i.e., stingy), I can have enough in my savings account by next August to put me through two years of medical school!
Yesterday I bought shoes, a jersey top and another miniskirt. Im lowering the hem two inches on this and my other miniskirt, so that I can wear them to work. (You know, they dont sell skirts any longer than mini-length anymore.)
Today I went in to Stine Labs and introduced myself to Dr. Tom Wood, plant supervisor. The ride in takes over ¾ hour, since Stine Labs is on the other side of Newark, Delaware almost to Elkton, Maryland.
Sunday, August 31, 1969
I have a pet mouse. She is so tiny that I named her Mini-mouse. The other day she caught a cold: her eyes were watery, and she sneezed two small, mouse-sized sneezes into my hand.
I have been busily applying to medical schools. Hardest is writing one brief paragraph describing all my hopes, dreams, and aspirations and the life experiences which led to the development of these hopes, dreams, and aspirations!
Sunday, September 21, 1969
Guess what? I am now a happy car owner. I own the happiest car in the Hills.
I ride to work in a carpool of two with Dr. Culik. He came to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia in 1947 with a scholarship to Michigan State U., where he got his PhD and met a young woman professor, whom he married. They have seven children. Dr. Culik is very intelligent, and has a quick sense of humor. Plus he is a very thoughtful and kind man one of the most wonderful persons I have ever met. He ranks with Miss Dolliver (Oberlins former Dean of Women) and Dr. Worby in J. Olsons Treasured Book of Heroes and Heroines.
Yesterday Bruce made the drive to Chester, PA. Hell be going to school at Crozer Theological Seminary ¾ hour from Kennett Square. He stopped at Chester to pick up his room key and then drove on to our house for supper and an overnight stay. He headed back to Chester to unpack and get settled at about noon today.
Sunday, October 5, 1969
Your film work sounds like fun. I wouldnt mind making a movie myself. I think Id shoot people. (Didnt suspect that I was the violent type, did you?)
Yesterday was a marvelous adventure. Bruce picked me up at 9 AM, and we went to a football game at Swarthmore High School. (Bruces field work is teaching high school Sunday School and being clerical advisor to the youth group at the United Methodist Church of Swarthmore.) Then we picnicked, talked, and explored at Smedley Park. Next I was introduced to Crozer Theological Seminary, about six miles from Swarthmore. We went out to dinner at a fancy restaurant and then saw a movie. We got back at 11:30 PM. (Hows that for a date?!?)
Last Wednesday I went stag (doe?) to a singles dance at the duPont Country Club. Lots of good people. Mostly 21-30 years old bachelors, masters degrees, PhDs. I met one young man (B.A. in psychology, M.B.A.) who later called me (we talked for 1½ hours on the phone; ulp!) and one evening came out to visit. He is an original. I like him all right, but dont want to date him.
Have you asked Miss 218 Miles Avenue out yet? (Or am I being impertinent to ask?)
Jan sometimes was depressed. Other members of her family were similarly afflicted. For example, she would tell me in the fall of 1992 that she had recently had a recurrence of major depression her eighth episode.
Not until 1999 would a psychiatrist officially diagnose her with manic depression or bipolar disorder. Seven years later she wrote, "I am doing fine, except for being hypomanic at the moment. That means I am in a continuously wonderful mood, am not bothered by anything (including spending money we don't have), and have lots of energy and plans. I am in touch with my psychiatrist every day or two, and he keeps increasing my medicine."
The middle of October 1969 seemed to find her in one of those manic states.
Monday, October 13, 1969
My work is exciting; library books are vividly, humorously relevant; the weather is gorgeous; and Im in love! Woops that sounds too real. It is; the world is a beautiful place! I even wrote a poem yesterday.
By now you must be sure that I have totally freaked out. Having no defense, Ill just comment: no comment.
Im enjoying my happy mood while it lasts. Correction: Ill make it last! (Happiness is not an end, but a way of travelling.) I was bemoaning my situation, when I should have realized that things will never be like this again! How much more lucky could I be, right now?
I agree with your idea of getting to know someone as a friend before getting to know him/her as a date. The best male friends I have known have been just friends first and for a long time. I know that dating is a way to get to know people and all that, and I have enjoyed lots of datey-type dates in my day, but personally, right now I have absolutely zero interest in The Grand Dating Game. Yick. It leaves me cold.
Id better not advocate this type of thinking too strongly, though some people need to be encouraged in the other direction, maybe.
You might be interested in something I wrote on a med school application. I surprised myself by frankly and honestly answering the question, without stopping to think how my answer would be read, analyzed, etc. The question (with half an inch space for the answer): What is your goal in medicine? I wrote:
Sunday, October 26, 1969
I have had problems with loneliness, too. I have discovered something which serves at least temporarily as a cure, though. Whenever I find myself getting really lonely-depressed, I give myself a good shake by the shoulders and remind myself that a person all wrapped up in himself makes a mighty small package. Then I think of some of the people I care about and realize that most of them have lonely hours, too, and that they would probably appreciate knowing that someone cares. I try to use some of the energy formerly expended in feeling sorry for myself to do something thoughtful for someone else. It is amazing how this simple change in perspective can drive the loneliness away.
As for your pessimism about meeting someone you could marry dont forget that 50% (or more) of the human race is female, and that all female humans want to get married someday! As for finding a woman who doesnt want children thats not likely. It is instinctual for a woman to want to bear and raise children.
About a week ago I bought a second-hand English bike from Dewey (my boss). Now I have a vehicle for every occasion, almost a car, a bicycle, and stilts (for picking apples and watching parades).
Sunday, November 9, 1969
Dont give up on a girl after just one date! Lawdy! Shy, quiet people take time to know!
Last week I was feeling unbearably oppressed by living at home with my parents. You see, they are extremely overprotective in some areas. For example, they worry excessively about my being out at night. One night when I stayed out very late, they became frantic and called the State Police in three states. They were certain that I had had an accident or had been mugged or something. I was very sorry to have caused them needless hurt and pain, but my gosh! There just isnt any reason for them to be so darned fearful!
Now I am expected to tell them just where Ill be, and when Ill be home (by 11:15 PM). Back to pre-high school days. I can scarcely tolerate it.
Then it occurred to me that there is absolutely nothing keeping me at home. I can leave any time I wish. I have a car completely paid for and more than $1000 in the bank. I can pick up and move to Colorado if I like. And maybe I shall.
Ive got another plan, though. At the end of next summer, I am going to take six weeks and set out to see the United States. Camping, of course. Actually I wont see all the U.S. just the southwestern states (Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Las Vegas), California, and then to the Tetons and back across the Dakotas and the plains states. Ken (my younger brother) wants to go with me, and well include one or possibly two other persons (friend or relative). I cant wait!
Sunday, November 23, 1969
Today I am feeling so happy that I can hardly bear it. Je crois que quelquun qui a pris mon couer me tient chère.
Not knowing French, I showed this sentence to Su Morris, a classmate at Syracuse, and asked if she could translate it. I believe that someone who has captured my heart holds me dear, she said, giving me a strange look.
My interview at Jefferson was rather blah. I only talked with one person. He said that Jefferson looks at grades and MCAT sores. My grades are un-extraordinary, although he admitted that my MCAT scores astounded him.
I have appointments for interviews at my all-time favorite Rochester on December 15th. December 15th is one of my lucky days. That day (in 1964) was when I received my letter of acceptance from Oberlin.
Friday, November 28, 1969
Last Monday I received an engraved card which read:
JANET ELAINE OLSON
is a pleasure to inform you that you have been
So I can be a doctor!
I will go to Rochester on December 15th as planned, and will also continue to consider Hershey and Yale.
At work, I am helping to plan the experiments we do, and I am almost completely responsible for the statistical analysis of the results. I am using all the statistics I learned at Oberlin from Mr. Goldberg and then some.
Over the holidays, Jan was one of the bridesmaids when her brother Carl was married in a 5:13 candlelight ceremony.
Sunday, January 11, 1970
Christmas week at the Olsons was one busy bustle of panic and commotion: parties, bridal-and-groomal shower, family photograph, Christmas, wedding. Carl and Joanne had their honeymoon in the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama.
Starting February 2nd, I will be taking an extension course at the U. of Delaware on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:30-6:00 PM. The course is Applied Statistics: a terminal course for engineers and physical scientists. The duPont Co. will pay the $120 tuition if I get a C or better.
Wednesday, January 21, 1970
The most exciting thing that happened to me this past week was that on Saturday I was vacuum-cleaning my room, and I blew a fuse! (I protest; it had only been a week since I last vacuumed the room. It couldnt have been that dirty!)
Recently I have been amusing myself by painting with water colors. You know, its great to be able to come home and waste time any way I want without feeling guilty in the least! I really recommend a year off after 16 years of studying.
Sunday, February 15, 1970
Did I tell you that Yale turned me down? I discovered (too late) that I was a dumb-dumb even to apply there. There are exactly four schools out of 102 which discriminate on the basis of sex in their admissions policies. The four are Albany, the U. of Tennessee, Womens Medical College, and Yale.
Friday I went to Penn State Medical School at Hershey. WOW!!! Mark my words: in ten years, Hershey is going to be recognized as the best medical school in the nation. They are starting something really fantastic. If you come to visit here, Ill tell you about Hershey. Ill still go to Rochester if accepted there just because Hershey is still a little too new and unfinished and in-the-middle-of-nowhere to beat Rochester.
The most marvelous thing that happened to me last week (excepting the events of Friday the 13th) was that Rhonda, one of my pet rats, had fourteen babies! I spend most of my free time at work peeking into the box which is Rhodas home and watching Rhonda and her fourteen red, squirmy, wrinkly, little baby rats. They were born some time Wednesday morning early. (Rhonda bore them, and as each one was born, she bit off the umbilical cord, ate the placenta, and licked the baby dry all by herself in the dark of night without any previous instruction!) By Thursday, the little rats had already doubled in size. When I go back on Monday, they will be covered with fuzz, and their eyes will be open, and theyll be struggling to walk. And though I havent run out of enthusiasm, Ive run out of space!
Tuesday, February 17, 1970
Sunday, March 8, 1970
I saw Funny Girl last night. (Have you seen it?) It really packed a wallop emotionally. I identified very strongly with the heroine. On the way home I couldnt even speak. I dont know quite what happened, but that movie hit something deep in me and left me (temporarily) practically autistic. I couldnt even cry until this morning when I bawled for half an hour.
Do you get the impression that this correspondent is well batty? ...I get that impression, too. (Its probably some serious psychological hang-up.)
Wednesday, March 18, 1970
Did you have a happy St. Patricks Day? I wore my bright orange blouse [as I did at Oberlin] and was rewarded to hear the comment, There goes a Troublemaker.
Today I had my first exam of the 1969-70 academic year. I may have gotten a 100, or I may have made some careless mistakes. Well soon find out. (With only one course to concentrate on, and only one male nearby to date, surely I should get an A!)
Speaking of that male, guess what. Nothing serious will come of our relationship. You know why? Because I decided that (a couple of nights ago).
I was getting into such a turmoil of ups and downs that I actually made myself physically ill. (Sleepwalking and fitful sleep, loss of appetite, upset stomach, etc. leading to the Gruesome Green Heebie-Jeebies and a temperature of 99.5° F.)
Briefly, my feeling is this: Any guy who has known me casually for three years and on a dating basis for six months and has not fallen totally head over heels in love with me just does not sufficiently appreciate my charms. Hence I shall move on.
(Whaddya think of that?)
I guess that is just as well; Ill be a free, unattached young lady in medical school and will be able to concentrate wholly on my studies....
Here Jan started to write another word or two, thought better of it, crossed it out, then added an asterisk leading to a footnote: Curious?
Meanwhile, I have written some darned good poetry. Its great for reliving anxiety and frustration. When I am rich and famous (three-time Nobel Prize winner and president of the AAAS) and dead and gone, theyll publish my poetry posthumously.
Tuesday, April 7, 1970
My sister got a job offer today from Bell Labs. This is really wonderful especially as nobody but nobody is hiring PhD mathematicians, physicists, and aerospace scientists this year because of the cutback in federal funds for research and because of the business recession. The starting salary is incredible more than ten times my fathers starting salary with the duPont Co.!
Now Ill know whom I can borrow from if I get desperate.
If Lynn decides to accept the job, shell start working after Labor Day. Her work: Research on anything that interests her in applied mathematics! I have seen a copy of Dr. Lynns thesis. I cant even understand the one-paged abstract!
Crozer Theological Seminary of Chester, Pa., is going to merge with another school to avoid bankruptcy. Of all the cities in the U.S. they could move to, guess where Crozer Theological Seminary is going next year?
Hint: They merged with Colgate Rochester Divinity School. That fall, both Jan and Bruce would be studying in Rochester, New York, within walking distance of each other. Would this lead to a reconsideration of her decision the previous month to move on? Stay tuned.
Enclosed is a sample of my poetry.
Up in snowbound Syracuse, I received Jan's poem on a Friday. I had always found it easy to fall into the rhythm of iambic pentameter like this and this, so that same night it took me only three hours in my room to dash off 78 lines which I titled In Reply.
Sunday, April 19, 1970
Thank you very much for the poem! I have read it over a number of times and still find something new with each reading. And the ending: a parenthetical remark which is a sonnet in itself! Wow!
The advice isnt exactly applicable to my present situation, though. Its not as if he doesnt know that I am and/or have been interested in him.
We went up to Oberlin last weekend. Fun! And very rewarding. Only Jay Bassin and the Havilands knew that I was coming, but it was absolutely uncanny how just the right people showed up at just the right times! For example, I was in one of the South Hall lounges talking to Bernice (a good friend of mine, one of the maids), when who should walk by but Audrey Daines. I said, Hi, Audrey! She said a nonchalant Hi, and then did the perfect double-take. JAN!
Of course it snowed in Oberlin on Saturday! Meanwhile I was getting caught up on all the news of my last years section from Nancy Alexander, who lived next door to me. I felt as though I could have left Oberlin yesterday except that now I am peaceful and pretty happy there, whereas when I was an inmate, I was frequently miserable.
Monday, May 4, 1970
I am sitting glaring back at a most ugly black beast with buggy eyes, a snout, and thirteen creepy legs. My boss gave it to me because I have severe arachnophobia. (It was the closest thing to a spider that his wife could find.)
Sunday, May 31, 1970
I had my final exam in Applied Statistics on May 20th. Mr. Hoerl said that I had done very well and that I had earned an A without any question. He said I ought to be a statistician.
I got a letter from Rochester about a week ago listing students looking for someone with whom to share an apartment. There were four women on the list. Two of them were first-year medical students: a Janet E. Olson, Oberlin graduate, and a Jean L. Olson, Mt. Holyoke graduate. I wrote to Jean and asked if shed like to share an apartment with another J. Olson.
I got another letter from Rochester advising me as to what kind of microscope I need, as well as what books, dissecting instruments, and lab coats I will be required to purchase. It is beginning to look as though someday I may actually be in medical school!
Tuesday, June 2, 1970
For the past couple of weeks I have been running around getting lab tests, being bitten by smallpox bugs, etc. Monday (when I become 23) I get my physical exam and polio booster shot (or sugar cube), thus completing the medical requirements which are a prerequisite to entrance at Rochester.
Jean Olson and I are rooming together in an apartment in the Graduate Living Center. The apartment will have stove, refrigerator, and sink garbage disposal, and it will be furnished. Cost: $67.50 a month (per person). Not bad.
. . . End of 2nd Quarter