Back to School

Holly Randall
I felt like I had come back home.

The street bustled with students in UCLA sweatshirts, conversations of exams and groups of sorority girls planning their next soiree. Boys rolled past me on skateboards while teacher’s assistants rushed to class balancing a towering stack of books.

Although a small part of me felt like I belonged here, a bigger part of me knew I didn't — that I had moved on from school, in a conscious decision to pursue a career in the porn industry.

Growing up, I had either wanted to be a famous fashion photographer or an English teacher. Knowing that the chance of making it in the first chosen career field was very difficult and quite unlikely, I had settled on the idea of being a teacher. Sure, it would be a minimal paycheck, but I thought of all the lives I could touch, all the students who could remember me as their favorite. I could be somebody who taught them to love Hemingway, to appreciate Dickinson and to understand Shakespeare.

For me, books opened up a whole other world and provided an escape from the lonely one I lived in as a child. I wanted to help open that door for other people, too.

I absolutely loved college; high school not so much. In high school you had to take classes in all fields and I absolutely hated math. College was the ultimate dream for me because then I could finally pick a major and choose my own classes. And of course there was never any doubt that I would be an English major.

I started off by attending community college in Santa Barbara, Calif., and then switched to photography school at Brooks Institute. About a year later my parents begged me to return to Los Angeles to help them out with their budding website, Suze.net.

Though I foresaw a career in adult working for my parents, I refused to give up my goal of obtaining a college degree. So I applied to UCLA, and I must admit I was a bit surprised when I was accepted. My time at this college was the pinnacle of my learning experience and I was absolutely in love with the classes and their professors. Finally I was at a school renowned for its literature program, with classes that were challenging and absolutely fascinating. I learned how to really read literature — to understand its deeper meaning and appreciate the underlying message.

So when, years later, I decided to take a video editing class to help me direct and shoot my porn scenes, I immediately enrolled in UCLA extension. Though the classes weren't directly on campus, they were located on Westwood Boulevard, in the heart of UCLA. I wanted to be back in my element, to touch the ghost of Holly the college student who had never left the campus.

As I watched the students pass me by, I envied the state of the undergraduate — the uncertainty of one's future mixed with the excitement of its infinite possibilities. I thought how some of these kids might end up lawyers, doctors, foreign diplomats.

They would befriend and mix with people of high intellect and earnestly discuss the state of worldwide politics at parties. They'd have a subscription to Time magazine and a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez on their nightstand.

But I presume too much.

My envy is only speculative for these students have yet to uncover their futures. I assume it's full of classy cocktail parties, academic brunch parties, happy marriages and an ultimate sense of fulfillment — all because they might have an esteemed career that a part of me covets.

And I should really know better. Did I not have an affair with a married Cambridge professor whose wife and children spent most of the year in her family's country in the Middle East, far away from him? Do I not have that intellectual novelist friend whose bitter divorce leaves him depressed and often unable to get out of bed until 5 o'clock in the afternoon?

It's easy to wonder and fantasize about "what could have been" and assume the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. It's harder to take what you have made of your life at face value and appreciate what you have, rather than yearn for what you do not.

And when I look at my life, I have to question: What is really so bad about it? I have a wonderful family, great friends, a fantastic house and most of all I love my job. I really do. Perhaps the life of a pornographer does not suit the students who mill around the bus stops and coffee houses of Westwood Boulevard, but it suits me.

And if I really wanted to, nothing is stopping me from pursuing a higher level of education. I could certainly read more, I could join a book club — I could go back to school and get my masters degree. These are just a few of the possibilities before me that I have chosen to ignore.

When I signed up for these six weeks of classes, and when I drove by the campus that I missed so much, the old crossroads that had come before me when I graduated years ago confronted me.

I can strain to see down the path that I'd elected not to take, but I will never know where that path would have brought me. I know that the path I've chosen has brought me here, to today, and to these last few words. And as I think back on everything I have and everything my future holds for me, I know that I'm alright with that.