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Overachieving

Published: Thursday, April 24, 2014 11:37 a.m. CDT

When the paramedics were called, I realized that my efforts to relive my college years perhaps had gone too far.

I’ve always been an overachiever in the most ridiculous ways. I’m not referring to obsessively removing milkweed from the garden for lactose-intolerant butterflies. That would require using my superpowered hyper-focusing ability for good. I only switch gears into overachiever drive in efforts to be contrary.

When my professors would ask for a 10-page paper proving their set point of view, I would hand in a 20-page paper disproving it. Double the work, double the grade deduction. I may be history’s only overachiever who does extra work to fail.

Last week, I returned to the classroom, attending the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton. This time at college, I came ready to listen, to learn, to write my assigned papers for the assigned number of pages and to go into overachiever overdrive by partying like the Mad Hatter on steroids.

Only an hour’s drive from where I attended Miami University, I went against the consensus to rest during my free time from the conference and instead used this first trip away from my baby to do double duty: enhance my adult vocation by day, enhance my alcohol tolerance with old college friends by night.

After a full day of seminars and workshops, I’d return to my college pal’s apartment by 10 p.m., hit the bars until 4 a.m. and wake up at 6 a.m. to do it again. Folks said it was impossible. That I would burn out. Pass out. “Leave the partying for the undergrads. You’re a mom now.”

I’ve always been an overachiever in the most ridiculous ways.

I needed to show the world I could be it all. To justify still owning a pair of hooker boots. To see 4 a.m. because I wanted to watch the sunrise, not because I was woken by a gassy baby. To prove to myself, even if it was just for a few days, that I could still walk that line, that I could be multiple versions of me at once: Professional. Mother. Party girl. That I could reside in the in-between.

I nursed beers while wearing old nursing bras. Handed out loose business cards from a baby wipes travel case. FaceTimed with my son from inside crowded classrooms, crowded bars and the back seat of my car after taking five-minute catnaps. I forced separate parts of my identity to coexist.

I wonder whether this is how the idea for “Sharktopus” originated.

The last night of the conference, I drove to my old college campus, a final push to prove I was still young, sexy, fun. To prove I still belonged. I should’ve known it would be a losing battle when the marquee for the bar we always danced at on ‘80s night read, “Tuesday: ‘90s Night!”

I wasn’t alone in this venture. Three of my college friends joined me in the overzealous pursuit of momentarily incorporating our younger selves into the adults we’d become.

At the bar, a group of seniors celebrated finishing their final assignment before entering the adult world. They asked how old we were and laughed when we told them. “Aren’t you a little too ancient to be here?” one of them asked.

Rounds of shots, spilled beer, sloppy dancing and a million songs on the jukebox later, we closed down our college town. Take that, 22-year-olds! The procreating professionals are in the hizzouse — or whatever kids say these days.

The next morning, we had our answer to that senior’s question. Holy hangover, yes, we were too ancient to be there.

While my friend puked up the previous night’s ambitions, the rest of us explored new buildings that were built over the old ones we had attended. The campus was no longer ours.

I was in the university bookstore when my friend called to say paramedics were bringing her to the hospital for dehydration. She joked that we had done right by our younger selves. She, too, was an overachiever in the most ridiculous of ways.

Before heading to the hospital, I purchased a university decal to place on my car window next to my “baby on board” sign and my work’s garage parking permit.

Sometimes being it all is not about proving it but about just owning it.

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