our miss february has a case of the in-betweens; for her, it's best to take it easy and take stock
A year ago, Californian Justine Greiner underwent the kind of trauma only another Californian could understand: She went to Kansas. Her plan was to attend the University of Kansas in Lawrence. What she experienced there shook her to the core of her 5'9" frame. There were no palm trees. There was no ocean. The sun, when it dared to come out, shone down on some peculiar white stuff that covered the ground for acres around. Mars, they tell us, has more forbidding terrain, but the Kansas wheat fields were enough for Justine. At the end of her first term, she tucked her skate board under her arm and flew back West. By the time the first summer rays were hitting the Santa Monica beaches, a happy Justine wasn't in Kansas anymore. "I was homesick, I really was," she admits. "I mean, people there are still wearing bell-bottom jeans! I made a lot of friends while I was there, but it wasn't the place for me at all."
Although she displays little loyalty to it now, Justine was born in Boston and actually spent the first half of her life in that area. That experience blurred to a few half-forgotten memories when the family hopped westward. In California, Justine found the perfect place for her easy-going personality: a sun-drenched hammock.
"You know how you can fall into a group of friends who tend to be wild or friends who tend to be studious?" Oh, do we! "Well, I think I had the wrong group of friends. I wasn't superradical, but I wasn't superstudious, either.
"I wish I'd divided my time more evenly, devoted more time to school and my family and also kept my partying and friends. Instead, I went for the partying and friends. I thought I was sooo bitchin'. Really. I just thought, Hey, it's cool.
"I didn't know I'd missed something until I ended up in Kansas, because then, I realized I could be going to school in California. All my friends were goin to Santa Barbara or San Diego or Berkeley or Chico -- someplace like that. If I had just pulled a little harder, I could have gotten into one of those schools. Which would have been a lot better."
Before we continue, we should say that we've been to Kansas and had a nice time there. It's not heaven, but it's not a purgatory for Golden State underachievers, either. The lifestyle, though, is different; and in California, lifestyle is everything.
"If you do something different here," Justine explains, "people don't look at you; you're not even noticed. But if you do something different in Kansas, people say, 'Whoa, are you sure you know what you're doing?' When I told people I was from California, they'd look at me like I was crazy. My roommate, for instance, had never been out of Kansas. I think she'd been to Missouri, which is right next door, and she thought California was on fire, you know. Really. I'd tell her 'It's not like that; it's beautiful, the ocean and everything.' But some people have definite ideas about California."
Since she returned to the California womb, Justine has been doing what she does best and wants to do most: kicking back. For those unfamiliar with the term, kicking back is what you do to achieve a state known as laid back, which is the ultimate state of consciousness for a Californian. "To make it here," Justine instructs, "you have to have common sense. You should be aggressive but not too aggressive. Too-aggressive people belong in New York. They'd just get frustrated here, because they couldn't get anywhere real quick." Justine herself isn't really interested in getting anywhere too quickly. She's currently on a regimen of introspection that includes lots of music, a little poetry, a daily journal and some deep meditation in front of the household fish tank. At the age of 20, there are things to think over, to sort out. It's an age that comes on abruptly, leaving you stunned and wondering how you got there.
"When I was younger," Justine remembers, "I don't know what I really saw myself becoming. I think I saw myself living in a nice house, with a nice car and a cute husband. That's how I always imagined myself. I don't think I imagined myself as being one certain thing. I thought I'd find that out later, that it would come to me. Something would hit me across the head and say, 'This is what you should be.' I never had something that I wanted to be or someone I wanted to be like.
"At one point, I was thinking about going into resort management. You know, get involved with Club Med or something like that. I'd still like to do that, I think. Modeling is easy, but that's not what I'd like to do forever. Right now, it's good for me, because my face is still young and I can work with it."
The truth is that her possibilities are endless, a condition that can be at once liberating and paralyzing. Justine, if she takes any steps at all, always takes them one at a time; stability is important to her now. She has pared her friends down to a few good ones. She is organizing her life. For the time being, she is content to be an observer, taking it all in and trying to make it relate to her.
"If you don't know yourself, you can't really do what will make you happy. I think I know myself pretty well, but there's definitely much for me to learn. As things come up and I see how I react to them, then I'll know myself better. I'm still learning, you know. There are a lot of people who don't even care about knowing themselves."
The process of self-discovery takes a lot of energy and time. Justine is long in both suits.
"I haven't heard any calls yet. Maybe next year," she laughs. "Soon, I suppose, something will strike me and I'll have to do something about it or just get frustrated. But nothing's really hit me yet. I mean, I feel my being here is important, but what it's important for hasn't yet been decided; it's yet to be determined."
Photography by Ken Marcus