I am a college graduate. I am officially employed. Both are temporary. Why does life (Life) never move at the speeds we wish it to? Just last week, I had a baby. I’ll be damned if I didn’t just turn to put something away, and here’s this behemoth of a man standing in my kitchen, taking up all the room, and saying thank you for the birthday gift. His nineteenth birthday. Who stole all that time? Then there’s the baby. She gave me advice today on what bra I should purchase. Most of her comments began with, “Well, I like this style because…” while vaguely gesturing toward her slay-all-the-boys-in-range body. I swear, it was only a night or so ago she poked me in the cheek and told me to move over so she could curl up in the big bed to get over a nightmare. Was it only my imagination?
And here I am with a degree, feeling not a bit better schooled, but realizing that my brain doesn’t squeak like it used to. I can hold my head steady when I have intellectual discussions, and have a sturdier spine to hold it there, instead of allowing my chin to genuflect toward someone else’s shoes because of their presumed superiority–because they have been Educated. Check. I joked with my husband that my degree has ruined me for normal life, this after spending five minutes analyzing a bumper sticker. I can’t even recall what the phrase was, but after I had parsed it out, chased down all the possible definitions and innuendos, it was the stupidest thing anyone had ever committed to print, and I was actually irritated to be driving behind someone so dumb who would display it on the bumper for all to see. I wanted to heap public humiliations upon the driver, and grudgingly accepted my husband’s refusal to pull up alongside the car so I could deliver my “You’re such a weenie–” speech. Five years and *ahem* dollars invested, all for this? Well, yes… and the ability to interpret the nuances of words, see the generational patterns of thoughts and opinions, and find my way through the stream of them. Huh.
And then there’s the “job”. I am being paid (very well, considering I’ve not had a paycheck for 10 years) to go into a building teeming with life, diversity, and youth. I get to exchange ideas, encourage and develop budding personas, straighten the wayward paths of those who think they are the round pegs in the square world–or better yet, the sharp tacks surrounded by vulnerable rubber balls–and I have so much FUN. Work ≠ Fun, I learned that a long time ago without college. I keep waiting for the door to open and the principal to ask me to step out into the hall, that my ruse has been discovered, that “we don’t do things that way around here” will slip from his lips without hint of a smile, and that I will be home in a blink. Did I mention they read Shakespeare? By themselves, because we had poetry analysis to do. Did I brag to you yet about the debate one class had about the reasons people cheat on their boy/girlfriends? Given the time and freedom for conversations to meander during work time, this naturally formed discussion rivaled anything at the Lyceum. There was rigor to their defenses, carefully worded attacks and rebuttals, and most of all, genuine thought and respect for others’ opinions. It was a joy to watch. And the Shakespeareans? They’re performing scenes they think are crucial to the play, defending their choices, and suffering right along with the characters, because they ARE the characters. How’s that for analysis? If you ask them about it, they’ll say it’s been a blast, and way more fun than any English class they’ve ever had. That probably means I made a mistake somewhere, because they were supposed to be working. Oops.
Classes will be over this week for them. Mine are over and beginning: undergrad courses are nevermore, but grad classes have arrived, and with them the droning voices of the past delivering surprisingly current messages. Who knew the answers for motivation had been covered by Quintillian two thousand years ago?! Apparently everyone has forgotten his advice: “the powers of boys sometimes sink under too great severity in correction; for they despond and grieve, and at last hate their work, and, what is most prejudicial, while they fear every thing, they cease to attempt any thing.” How true, and how evident every day, when I look into the face of a student determined to keep his ears plugged into the rap lyrics that define his life (cops on the doorstep, mama’s boyfriend hustling down the fire escape, baby sister crying and the drug stash under the mattress waiting to be discovered…) instead of my rhapsing inelegantly about the benefits of literary analysis. But I asked that student to analyze a film using his songs to identify key points and literary elements, and he was eager to share his beliefs about “shades of racism in everyone and everywhere in our modern society”. His classmates were riveted during his presentation, in which he paused frequently to apologize for the explicit lyrics while rationalizing their intent was to “provoke anger, and through anger, change.” He would not have understood my tears, so I held them, because people in his world do not cry from feelings of intense pride.
I have no idea what I am doing next week. That frustrates and scares me, it angers and saddens me, because this has been such a fascinating, exhilarating ride. I don’t want to be cast aside to the shores while that river shivers past. I want to drown myself in it.
But sleeping past seven will be nice.