One weekend during the mid 80’s, I was a client in a psychotherapy intensive. Early on in the intensive, one of the therapists asked us to divide up into three groups depending on whether we tended to take rebellious, over-adaptive (I.e. tendency to do what pleases others), or victim attitudes. I immediately joined the over-adaptive group.
The therapist, who was considerably shorter than me, walked close and looked up at me. “Who do you think you are kidding?” she said. I was surprised, because over-adaptive seemed like a reasonable choice to me. She then started rattling off a list of things I had done during my life. Hmmmm …. when I thought about it from that perspective, I realized she was right. I marched over to the “Rebellious” group.
I grew up in a military family where I spent a good part of my life in my room pouting. Another big chunk I spent with my nose in a book. When it was time to leave home to go to college, I picked Seattle Pacific College (SPC), a tiny conservative Christian school in Seattle, Washington. It turned out to be way more conservative than I was. Some rules were of no concern because I didn’t do the behavior anyway; no alcohol, no drugs, no smoking, for example. In addition there was to be no dancing or card playing on or off campus, and no pants were to be worn on campus except on Saturdays or when we were in our dorm. Permission to go to movie theaters had just recently been granted.
We had to live in the dorm at least a year. The first quarter our curfew was 8:00 p.m.; after that it was 10 p.m. I really enjoyed dorm life. I remember we played a lot of pranks on each other, like short sheeting our friends’ beds and putting shaving cream under doorknobs.
When the time came that I was allowed to live off campus, I did. I moved into an apartment with one of my former dorm mates. The incident I remember most clearly about that period was when I invited a boyfriend over to my apartment for Sunday lunch. Shortly thereafter, I received a call to come to the office of the Dean of Students. When I presented myself there, he confronted me for having had a man in my apartment. I remember he said, “My dear, we don’t even allow our engaged students do that!” I couldn’t believe it was against some unknown rule to invite someone over for Sunday lunch. My resentment towards the college took a big leap.
I became more and more disillusioned as we entered into the period of the civil rights and Vietnam War protests. I judged that students and faculty had their noses buried in their Bibles and had no interest in things that were truly important. At some point, I discovered the First Avenue Service Center, a place where homeless and poor people could gather during the day. The Center gave them the opportunity to be off of the streets, have friends to talk to, play cards, do their laundry and have meals. I became a volunteer in that center and it became a major part of my life. The homeless taught me to play double-deck Pinochle and I loved it. I spent hour after hour enjoying the company and the game even though I knew playing cards was against the school rules.
My fellow students couldn’t understand what I was doing. One told me, “I wouldn’t even take a bus on First Avenue. My mother obviously raised me different than yours.” I retorted either aloud or in my head, “I doubt it!”
I wasn’t content seeing the people only in the Center; I began to socialize with them outside of the Center as well. I loved being part of their lives. Except in one instance, I never felt in any danger.
I was so excited about the life I was living and the people I was meeting. I remember writing my mother and saying “Oh Mom, I’m having so much fun. I’m meeting and getting to know ex-cons, drug addicts, drag queens and other interesting people. It is wonderful!” Needless to say, my mother did not share my attitude. I was upset and shocked when I received a phone call or letter back from her saying that she was sending me a plane ticket home. I knew I wasn’t going to go home but I don’t remember how that scene played out. Whatever the process, the result was that I stayed at SPC.
I was definitely putting my mother through the wringer though. In later years she would say, “You were just fine until you went to college.” During this period of my college years she would get a notice that I was on the Dean’s list (i.e. honor roll) one quarter and on probation the next. Once she even received a letter saying there was a warrant out for my arrest. That even shocked me. It made no sense whatsoever. When I investigated, I discovered it was due to an unpaid traffic ticket, but the officials hadn’t bothered to put that information in the letter.
At some point I moved back in the dorm. That meant I had to deal, or as it turned out, not deal, with the college dorm curfew. If we weren’t in by the time the curfew came, we were locked out. With my new life style, I wasn’t always back in the dorm by 10:00 p.m.
As an aside, let me say that Al, the man I would eventually marry, arrived in Seattle in 1968 on the day that Bobby Kennedy was shot. I met him when he also became a volunteer at the Center. We never dated until I moved to Oakland after graduating from SPC, but he became my best friend during those years. There were numerous times when we sat at the waterfront all night talking because I couldn’t get back into my dorm. I really appreciate that he helped keep me protected during that period of my life.
During those years, I started wearing a headband and moccasins, taking on the hippie image that I still identify with today. I consider that headband to be my most prized possession from my childhood and young adult years. When I called Al yesterday to ask for help in figuring out some of the timeline for this post, he commented that I didn’t wear the headband very long because a boyfriend I had at the time objected. He went on to say that I wore the moccasins for a very long time, in all kinds of weather. I remember wearing them walking the three miles from SPC to the Center in the snow! I recall the headband as being a very significant part of my life, however, so maybe I wore it before I met Al and/or after I later moved to California. I don’t remember. But I do know it was, and is, an important symbol from my time growing up.
This was a time period when a program called Urban Plunge was developed. The goal of Urban Plunge is to give students “a personal experience that will equip them to engage the homeless population with empathy and compassion.” The groups of students left the comfort on their homes and engaged with the homeless over a five-day period. They spent the night in church basements. I thought about taking the Plunge and then realized I didn’t need to. A good part of my life at that time was an “Urban Plunge.” [A few years after I moved to California, I learned that Seattle Pacific had started sending nursing students to train at the First Avenue Service Center. When I googled Urban Plunge as I was writing this post, I not only discovered that it still exists, but also found that the Seattle Chapter is sponsored by Seattle Pacific University! Oh how times have changed……]
While I can’t place them on a timeline, I know I had many other experiences during these years. I spent time in San Francisco, especially in the Haight-Ashbury district, land of the hippies. I loved it. I think it might have been there that I stayed a night or two in a Salvation Army Shelter. I was never part of the sex, drugs and rock and roll aspect of the hippy lifestyle, that was not me, but I was into having as many life experiences as possible. I particularly loved hanging out in Golden Gate Park with the drums playing and everyone dancing.
Seattle Pacific College could not offer the Psychiatric or Public Health portions of the nursing curriculum in those years, so the SPC students attended the University of Washington for two of the last three-quarters of their undergraduate program. I decided to move into a commune in the University District. I found I loved the community life style.
When it was time for me to take my last quarter at SPC however, my chosen residence became an issue. Returning students who were living off campus had to sign a form agreeing to not having men in their homes. (As I reflect back on it, I wonder if they added that statement to everyone’s contract after I had made the earlier “mistake” of serving lunch to my boyfriend in my apartment!) I was in a dilemma. If I told the truth school officials would be upset. But I wasn’t willing to lie. I told them I couldn’t sign that contract because I lived in a commune and of course men lived there. They gave me an immediate ultimatum; move out of the commune or leave school.
As much as it was tempting to make a political statement by leaving school, I was too close to finishing to take that self-destructive move so I moved out of the commune. I still stayed in rebellion though. When I left the commune, I moved into a small room in a house north of SPC. Living alone was also against the SPC rules but at that point I didn’t care.
Instead of living in a bustling community, I was now living alone, eating hamburgers at Dicks Drive-in and whatever I could take out of a can and cook on a hot plate in my room. Soon I would be able to leave the school and its rules behind.
When I graduated in 1970 with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, there were no nursing jobs available in Seattle. Boeing was on strike and the wives of the Boeing men had to go back to work. Many were experienced nurses so they were hired for the available jobs. As a result, I moved to Oakland and started working at Highline County Hospital.
In Oakland, I continued having a myriad of experiences. I went to San Francisco frequently. I spent time listening to the drums in Golden Gate Park. I attended church services at Glide Methodist Memorial Church, a church that brought people from all the life styles together. (Their services were a major celebration of life.) I remember going to some Black Panther meetings in Oakland or Berkeley. This was a time of great turmoil and change in the United States. It was also the time when I started dating Al, so driving back and forth between Seattle and Oakland became regular events in both of our lives. My life was full, and happy.
I think I will end my narrative with a memory that is so important to me. I don’t know when it happened but I remember the impact on me when the father of a friend of mine said, “You are one of the true hippies.” While it is not a matter of good versus bad, right or wrong, I knew there were differences in those that called themselves hippies. I was not interested in drugs and partying. I believed he was acknowledging my willingness to immerse myself into experiences and into the lives of others, to be of service, to be an agent of change, and to being a bridge between communities. All of those have continued to be themes throughout my life. In fact, I consider them to be my purpose in being here in this world. I knew his comment was meant to be a complement and I took it that way.
I still have my headband, and have worn it from time to time in plays. I even wear moccasins every now and then!
Two years ago I went to my friend Marla’s 50th birthday party. We were asked to wear costumes. I, of course, chose to be a hippie. I decided to make a fancy headband for the occasion, but it was still a headband.
I was, and in some ways still am, a hippie…. and I’m proud of it.
Written for Writing 101 Assignment #20 : Write a long post about something you Treasure