Wednesday, January 20, 2010


It was the first day of school yesterday.

Which immediately brings images of white socks and pig-tails and metal lunch boxes (mine always had rows of banana stickers on the inside of the lid because nothing is quite so valuable and important to save in a neat row as the Dole sticker off a banana).

I had been so excited when I registered. I was going to do this just for me, make a plan and look ahead after a long and rather awful time of can't-go-anywhere. I set up my work schedule to fit neatly (and slightly insanely) around my classes and I checked the bookstore web page regularly just to see if the required books were posted yet (New! Books!).

And then, meh.

Not angst or worry or anything, just meh. I bought some of my books (and read them) but then sort of waffled on the others. I forgot to download my schedule to see where my damn classes even were. I didn't check my email properly and so missed the email where my online class was canceled (DUDE! How can there not be enough people interested in Information Architecture?? I ask you?) and so had to register for another at the very last minute, meaning my work schedule had to be shuffled again (and as my boss had her door closed I couldn't get in to run it past her for an okay. That was fun).

And yesterday, when I finally worked out where my classrooms were going to be and was about to walk out the door I realized I didn't even have a notebook.

How did that happen? I mean, school supplies have always been the best, the absolute best thing about back-to-school - even after I was too old for the most sacred and desirable of all school supplies, the ginormous pack of crayons. Fresh, crisp, unspoiled notebooks; neatly organized binders with dividers all beautifully labeled (not that I took notes in them in high school mind, but damn my binders were a thing of beauty); new pens, chosen after careful testing for just the right feel on the page; rainbows of highlighters; newly sharpened pencils smelling of powdered graphite and wood shavings: I loved them all. And here I was shuffling through my drawer for a pen that actually worked and tearing the first three pages off a slightly-used writing pad three minutes before I had to be in the classroom.

I'd lost it - I'd lost the school mojo and I didn't know why. I told myself it was because I was taking on something that would keep me in this arid city I hate for another year and a half. I refused to consider it was possibly because I haven't done this school thing in a long time and who knows if I can pick it up again.

But I tracked down that first class and sat in the plastic desk-cum-chair (with the weird jointed back that gives juuuust enough when you lean on it that you have a brief moment of panic the whole thing is going to topple over) and I put my notebook on my desk and clicked my pen.

This was the class I registered for at the last minute, the filler class to tick off a requirement rather than a class I was specifically interested in. I know the professor - I work in this darn department so I'd better know him - but I hadn't seen him 'on,' doing his professor thing. Nice enough man, but let's face it, the subject was a bit of a snooze. He looked out over our ten or so faces, gripped his three ring binder stuffed with yellowed paper, and began to talk - passionate, almost singing, about the wonders of prose, about prosody and tropes, about how this class, his class, was going to change our goddamn lives. He handed out a sheet of written samples and let us read through them before he picked out a few and read them out, tasting the words lovingly, teasing out hidden treasures in the shortest of phrases, pointing out that nothing, nothing at all is more powerful, more worthy of study, more human than language. And I believed him. Sitting in that dingy, scruffy, ugly little classroom I remembered how it feels to really study, really burrow into something that truly matters to you. I found my mojo.

Today I think I'll buy a pack of crayons.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Don't forget the pencil sharpener or the red pencils

Megan said...

Oooh - very true on the pencil sharpener. Although I find them a little distressing as what I really want is one that produces those lovely curly ribbons of pencil, you know with the decorative edging of yellow where it's shaved off the paint? Only THEN you have to make sure you have just the right kind of pencil (good wood, not that composite nastiness) AND that the sharpener is truly sharp AND that you twirl the whole jobby at just the right pace and pushing just hard enough. It's all so much pressure.

emily said...

oooooh...he sounds like a fab teacher, exactly what you need - i did my degree in languages and i loved all theword play and the interesting ideas :) good luck!