She’s Not There

Sarah Cate Pizarro
AMST 410
Assignment 4
March 16, 2013

Not only am I a non-traditional student who does not live on campus, I am also a commuter student who does not live in Williamsburg. I never anticipated that where I lived would be as big of an issue as it has turned out to be. I thought I could just attend classes on campus and study at home with no problem. For my entire life, I’ve operated in this isolated way and this assignment makes it clear that I’ve quarantined myself (albeit this time, unknowingly) from the campus and especially from Williamsburg. The David Glassberg piece, “Place and Placelessness in American History” was in the back of my mind while I considered my relationship with Williamsburg. If Glassberg is correct, and “we anchor a sense of self in the places of our past, and echo our relationship with those places in the dwellings we choose as adults, in the places we call home, [and] in the places we are fleeing from” (113, emphasis mine), then I am a textbook example of this theory. If I felt like an anomaly in my hometown, why wouldn’t I feel the same way in Williamsburg and at the college? While I’m trying to repair this issue because I do not wish to be isolated, the fact that I chose to attend a traditional college as a thirty four-year old undergrad essentially sets me up to repeat my childhood and young adult years; i.e., I don’t fit in. I know that this assignment is designed in a way that considers that the student may not be on campus, but it still makes me feel like the odd person out because I do not even live near the campus. This assignment reminded me of my lack of interaction with Williamsburg, which I often choose to ignore.

With that said, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I am not as alone as I thought. While looking over past Williamsburg Documentary Project map diaries on the blog to get a better sense of the assignment, I found kindred spirits in two other non-traditional students. They faced similar challenges that I do, and I had a bittersweet moment of wishing that I could have taken this class with them. It would be nice to have someone to relate to. After locating the other non-traditional students’ map diary reflections, I knew that my day would not be the exact oddity I feared it might. It would be different because I would not talk about living in a dorm, attending club meetings, or shopping in New Town, but in the end, it would still be a true account of a William and Mary student, even if she were different from most. The following is a day in the life of Sarah Pizarro.

Like many students, I must admit I love sleep. If I don’t get enough, I do not function well; I will find time to make sleep happen. Therefore, I was in bed way before 12 a.m. and woke up at 7:30 a.m. My husband was leaving for work, and I woke up in time to say goodbye to him and start my day. Between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. I drank coffee, got dressed, read email, checked out the news, brushed my teeth, and washed my face. By 9 a.m. I sat at my desk, created my Evernote to document my day, and began studying. At 9:30 a.m. I surfed the Internet to locate a movie for my History of South Asia class. Thanks to YouTube, I did not have to waste two hours of my day driving to campus to watch a one-hour and seventeen minute movie that was on reserve at Swem. This is a great success in my book.

After the movie was over, I printed out three readings for the same class. This actually took some time because the professor, as lovely as she is, cannot scan books or articles without omitting the large black shadows that will use up all the ink in my printer. So, I had to copy and paste them into Word, cropping out the extensive black portions. This may sound tedious but she won’t let us bring our laptops to class, and I cannot afford to continuously buy ink. For me, taking notes while reading takes even more time than cropping out the black shadows. Being a poor student presents a plethora of challenges that only add to the amount of time it takes to study. The readings were interesting but dry, so it took me a while to finish. By 1:45 p.m. I stopped to eat lunch and stretch. I finished reading around 3:30 p.m. and conducted some research for my WDP. I found several articles that I hoped would help me with my secondary research.

At around 5:30 p.m., after sleeping all day, my cats started crying for attention outside my bedroom door; this is the daily routine. My female cat, Tula, cries a most lamenting cry, which makes you believe she is actually dying; she is perhaps the greatest cat actor in the world. I was ready for a break so I spent about thirty minutes with them. I made sure they had food and love, and then I returned to my desk. I read a chapter for my Sexuality in America class, and by the time I finished my husband was home. It was 7:30 p.m. and I called it a day. At a certain point my brain cannot handle anymore reading or researching, and I have to stop. My husband and I ate dinner and decompressed from the day. We had to get up by 6 o’clock the next morning, so we were in bed by 10 p.m.

So, that was my Wednesday, March 13, 2013. I did not set foot on campus or Williamsburg property at all. I knew exactly what my map would look like when we discussed this assignment in class–a cross-section diagram of my townhouse. I knew this because this is how I spend every Wednesday. This is how I’ve spent my past three semesters. I don’t know if this is good or not, but I do know that my first semester was exhausting because of the constant traveling. My only real contact with Williamsburg derived from this reflection demonstrating that I’m not there. This assignment showed me how isolated I am from campus and Williamsburg in general. I don’t especially like thinking about that, but there isn’t much I can do to change it at this point. Because I’ve set up my schedule in the way that I have, I sometimes feel invisible to the William and Mary community. I slink in and then I slip out, remaining largely unnoticed. Part of me likes it because I’m inherently shy, but I fear that some might think it’s anti-social and they are probably right. In spite of this, the only time I really notice my invisibility is when I have to interact with the campus outside of my pre-determined schedule. This assignment contributed to that observation; I am involved in a self-designed, long-distance relationship with Williamsburg and the college.


The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

Add Users

If you want to add yourself to this blog, please log in.