38 / CHRONICLESnLetter From Bedlamnby R.E. LiebnSmile When You Say ‘Psychiatrist’nI did not mean to harm anyone when Inbought a Bachelor of Arts degree innChild Psychology for $100. I meant itnto be a bitter joke on myself I wasngoing to hang it up in my room, muchnas an important man might hang anPlayboy cartoon on a wall in hisnhome.nI had had a very unhappy childhood.nAlong its tortuous course, I fellnin love, at 10 or 11, with a picture ofnCinderella in a schoolbook. (A classmatendrew a Stalin mustache acrossnher face, and I hated him for manynyears.) At 14, in an institution fornorphaned and unwanted children, 1nsaw Cinderella again: golden-haired,ngreen-eyed, slender, about 15. Liventhis time. The “home” was a toughnplace where boys fought over slices ofnbread. Boys and girls were kept strictlynseparated, in different buildings. Butnwe found means to communicate. Shentook a sweater of hers apart to knitnsocks and mittens for me for Christmasnand saved almost all her Christmasncandies to give me on my birthday innFebruary. But then she was moved tonanother place, and so was I; and ofncourse we were not permitted to communicatenany longer.nWhen I was 15, I was interviewednby a social worker. Plans had to benmade for my future. What did 1 wantnto become? I understood well what Inneeded: a sense of identity, stability, ansense of belonging. Privacy. And 1nwanted to be my own boss. 1 told her,n”I want to be a farmer.” I had visionsnof apple trees and of a frog pond, ofnquiet meadows and forested hills andncows and cats and a dog. But shenlaughed shrilly.n”A farmer? You are much too intelligentnfor that: You must becomenCORRESPONDENCEnSomething Better!” But 1 could notnthink of anything that I wanted more.nI ran away from an institution at 16nand became a drifter, working at allnsorts of menial jobs. At 21, I was hirednby a pulp mill in a place which seemednto me to be almost the far end of thenworld.nIn that pulp mill town, 1 discoverednanother Cinderella. But she wanted tonmarry a college man who would takenher away from that company town to annice big city suburb. She was not verynkind. After a while, 1 could see myselfnthrough her eyes: an ungainly, gracelessnfellow whose moderate habitsnmade him even more dull, destined tonwork forever in mines and mills at thenfringe of civilization, or else live innurban slums.nI happened to see an ad in a magazine:n”Diplomas. Fast. Inexpensive.” Inwrote. I paid $100. I passed 12 “courses”nin three months by rephrasing allnthe gibberish about cosmic rays andnsuch stuff that they contained, and Inreceived my diploma, a lovely diplomanwith some gilded letters and an embossedncoat of arms and a red seal andnbold signatures.nI was going to hang it on the wall tonremind myself of all that I was not, butnthen the devil got into me. Within anfew weeks I decided to move to a citynand try to get a job in my new profession.nI was sure that I would be unmaskednas an impostor within twonweeks. I hoped I would be broughtnbefore a judge. I was a nobody whonwanted to be heard, even though henhad really nothing to say. I wanted tonmake an angry speech. I dreamed ofngetting into the news, of being famousnfor a few hours.nI had saved a bit of money. I rentedna room in the city and went to thenbook department of a large downtownndepartment store and bought a copy ofnevery paperback book with the wordn”psychology” in the titie. There werennnabout 20.nIn the mornings, I walked a lot andntook bus rides and explored the city. Innthe evenings, till well after midnight, Inread my psychology books in an allnightnrestaurant. After a week, I wasnthrough and felt ready to look for anjob.nI telephoned the director of onensocial agency. He said that he couldnnot receive me for an interview till thenmiddle of the next month. I took a taxinand confronted him in his office. Henyelled at me, waved papers in my face.nHe told me his whole itinerary for thennext three weeks. He was hurrying toncatch a plane. No, he could not talk tonme till about a month from then.n”And what if I starved to death bynthen?” He apologized, slightiy. Hengave me the name and address of thendirector of a subordinate agency.nI spent a whole afternoon in a stuffynoffice with a short, bald, drowsy mannwho kept on piling papers from onenside of his desk to the other. He spokenof positions for which he would like tonhire me, queried me about whether Infelt I could fill them efficiently, let menget all excited, and then said thatnunfortunately the position did not yetnexist because the agency didn’t havenenough money. He played with menthus till closing time. Then he gavenme the address of a director who wasneven lower on the feudal scale.nMr. C. directed a boys’ home in anrundown part of the city. It wasnhoused in a narrow, solid, three-storynbuilding of gray stone which belongednto a religious order. He could exude anwonderful air of paternal benevolencenwhen it suited him but was more oftennchildish and arbitrary. I found outnbefore too long that the institution hadnhad over 40 consecutive supervisors innabout four years time. None of themnlasted longer than two months.nMy salary was to be about one-thirdnof what I had earned in the pulp mill;n