Thursday, August 28, 2008

On Class...

English 1010: Prof. Alisha Geary

I come into class about three minutes late. This does double duty as the fulfillment of two nightmares: walking into a room full of people with everyone looking at me, as well as interrupting my professor in mid-sentence. She doesn't seem to mind however, and I slink to an empty chair on the far side of the room. It's in the middle of the row. Joy.

I pull out a notebook and take a good look at my first professor. She has a generous face with eyes that sparkle as she launches into an explanation of how she started teaching and how much she loves it. Her hair is pulled up, a large flower woven into the knot on the back of her head. She is dressed in a black jacket and she talks animatedly about writing, about literature and about words. She is in love with language, with words. Occasionally, she will pause and take a deep breath, seeming to drink in her own craving for words and finding it sweet. She says, "Those of you who love writing, I hope that you will not go crazy in your lifetimes, because writing can be obsessive." She pauses, taking that deep breath. "I am obsessed with words. I LOVE them...." I smile inwardly. I think I will like her...

I shake her hand at the end of class. I want to make sure that my professors know how much I appreciate their willingness to share their passions with us, how much I appreciate that I'm able to be here, to walk these halls, to get a new start. I don't know if any of this can be conveyed in a handshake, but I hope that it will serve to let them know that I am there and listening.

Prof. Geary's more memorable quotes on this day:

"There will be retribution if you're not doing your reading."

"I have the prerogative to change the syllabus. I will let you know if this happens. It is not arbitrary or capricious, which are two big words that mean... uh, RUDE."

"I do not want to see your cell phones. I can see you texting under your desks. Yes, I can see you. I want them off and out of sight. Not on vibrate. Not on silent, but OFF. You should be learning. I should be learning. We should all be here and happy, not texting with poor grammar and too many abbreviations."

Health 1100: Prof. Ursula Sorensen

She wants us to divide into groups of four near the end of class and tell each other our names, where we're from, our majors and goals in life. My heart races as she says this and I feel a sudden sense of panic. Sometimes the most mundane things feel as if they'll send me screaming from the room. The four of us turn to each other and introduce ourselves. Their names already elude me, but I remember the majors:

Technology Management: "It's a wide open field. People graduating from this program here at UVU are starting at $180,000. Right now there are 10,000 more jobs available than people graduating."
Nursing: "Four of my sisters-in-law are nurses. They talk to me about it and it seems like something I would be good at."
English: "I had no idea what to major in, and that's what the English Major is for."

Their lifetime goals all involve academic achievement. It seems so limited. No judgement here, of course. I just don't think, if I was allotted ONE life goal, that I could limit it to getting a Master's. No, my lifetime goal is to have ten perfect days. Just ten. There have been lots of perfect moments; moments suspended in time, snapshots of the exquisite. Sometimes they're more powerful taken out of context, sometimes they carry more weight when everything is considered. But there aren't very many times where perfect moments have been strung together to form the perfect day, sublime in its totality. I'm talking about the sort of day that, at the end of it, you are quite sure you could die and not regret one single thing.

There are children everywhere. I feel like an impostor, walking among them unknown, like I've put on a disguise so they won't notice me. It's surreal, to be surrounded by these busy, twittering, texting youngsters. They seem like a different species. This place is seething with them. I push down my anxiety. They're like bees, I think. Don't bother them and they won't bother you. Every once in a while, I will catch a glimpse of someone more like me; quieter, more tired. Perhaps though, unlike me, more self-assured, less wild-eyed. But it's nice to know that there are others. Others like me. I walk through the halls and out into the open air. It's cool here in August, unlike Phoenix. The sunlight falls through leaves and dapples the sidewalk. I take my shoes off and walk in the grass. It's soft. It feels like what I imagine the hair on the head of a giant elemental infant would feel like; a baby made of earth and stone and life, things primal and ancient born into something brand new and topped with a full head of soft green grass. Then this thought strikes me as funny and I laugh at how weird I am. This is a beautiful campus. I think I will like it here.

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