Life after Linfield


Sam Brinda

Melrose Hall on the McMinnville campus.

When I was in my final year at Linfield in 2016, I worked on the Linfield Review. As the only senior on staff, the advising Professor Bradburn asked me if I would write an article over the summer for the incoming fall semester titled, “Life after Linfield.” I said sure. He said, “Do you promise?” I said yes.

What followed after my graduation was possibly the most stressful period of my short life—excluding, perhaps, the one semester I lived alone and became so depressed I gave myself ulcers. 

I couldn’t find work. I had applied for an English teaching program in France (where my boyfriend was) and had been waitlisted. What I really wanted was to stay in McMinnville, near my friends, and pretend I hadn’t graduated a year early. I ended up temping. The temp agency offered me a job in their payroll department, which I, a creative writing major, was ready to accept for $11/hr. 

Then I got news that a spot had opened for the English teaching program, but on the opposite side of France from where I wanted to be.

What followed was an emergency trip to San Francisco to apply for my visa and an extremely tense month where I didn’t know exactly where I’d be working, so I couldn’t make living arrangements. This information arrived two weeks before my scheduled flight, and my passport with my visa two days before the flight. I got gray hairs that summer.

So the fall semester was going to start—without me—and I felt like I had nothing to say about life after Linfield, because what I’d just been through wasn’t life. That was hell. I saved my meager drafts for this article and hoped to come back to it once I was settled, in my apartment, totally alone.

Wouldn’t you know it, I was wildly depressed there too. I hadn’t been sent to Paris, or the beautiful golden South, or even anything that could be remotely called a city: I was in a tiny village called Le Trait, but the term “village” implies that it was cute, picturesque. Le Trait is a concrete, miserable, rain-soaked port on the Seine with a high-speed road slicing it in two. No one ever stopped in town because there was nothing to stop for. 

From my apartment window, I could see the crane on the river lifting shipping containers. If I walked down an asphalt hill I could buy decent bread; it was France, after all. In my six months there, I never saw anyone else near my own age. I worked at the Le Trait middle school, and the middle school in a neighboring village called Duclair, which had some charm but strangely no phone service. When I told a Duclair teacher where I lived, he gasped and said, “Isn’t it sad over there?”

I was two and half hours from Paris by bus, and my boyfriend three and a half hours by train, so we met in Paris several times. But I always went back to that dreary apartment in Normandy, with three empty bedrooms and only a pull out couch for furniture. I almost lost my mind.

Was this my life? How could I spin anything inspiring for the underclassmen at Linfield? I felt like a failure—not writing, not living, out of my mind with loneliness and forced to face any spiders alone. What could I possibly say? 

“Life after Linfield is pretty rough, actually. Have you considered being a super senior?” 

Every time I went on social media I saw the friends I had left behind, enjoying their senior year like I didn’t get to. I hated my life and my choices.

By 2017 I was able to move with my job to my boyfriend’s town. Compared to the stress of the first time around, it was almost laughably simple. I sent an email directly to his town’s school district and asked if I could work in a high school in Aix-en-Provence. Twenty minutes later, I had the answer. Some wisdom from this experience is: ask, and you shall receive. They can’t tell you yes if you don’t first ask.

This time around was much better. I met lots of wonderful people from all over the US and Europe. I traveled and I taught high school students who were truly passionate and interested in English, and literature, and I loved every second of it.

And yet I still didn’t write my article. I tried every few months, but never managed it. 

“Life is so much better when you have friends and a support system” or “Have you talked to people you love today? Try it now!  It really works!” Those things are true, but I still didn’t feel like I had truly lived an accomplished post-Linfield life.

I graduated almost seven years ago now. I did a year of a master’s degree here in Aix-en-Provence on a subject I wasn’t passionate about. But I got to be a student again, and I had missed that. Then I got the right to work, and a job doing document control for an international research project. Now I’m being desensitized to my cat allergy and my boyfriend and I are now compagnon et compagne (lifelong companions). I have stability and a big stick with which to beat back my depression. I am settled. And finally, I have some encouraging wisdom to share.

“No matter where you go, there you are.” This is so cliché, I know. My father used to say this all the time, meaning that if you’re the problem, you’ll be unhappy wherever you go. Changing the scenery won’t help unless you change yourself. But I understand it differently now.

Anywhere you go, you will survive it. You will go to strange new places, maybe completely alone, and you will figure it out and find your way around. You will ask strangers for help and they will give it. You will eat alone in restaurants and you will even enjoy it, just because you’re there. You will spend nights on end wishing you had chosen a different path, but no matter what path you’re on, you’re there, and you will walk it. Stability and love and joy will come if you can persevere, step outside despite the sad gray comfort you have constructed for yourself, and dare to live the life you are living.

Despite it all, you might wake up one mundane day and think: I did it. I am living A life after Linfield, and I really do have everything I need.