Back To School Loosh
I pretty much always loved school.
I didn't love the bullies, although I learned a lot from surviving them.
I didn't love working out weird, uninvited virginal tensions, or teachers who seemed to care more about the rules than the learning itself.
I didn't love the incessant 'need to be cool' according to alpha jerks and the more swiftly sexually-developing girls who said so many things I wasn't ready to hear.
I didn't love assemblies, catholic mass in the gym, sweaty school dances, or peer pressure.
I didn't love being a nerd, and trying so hard not to be.
I just loved... learning. I loved the structure of arriving early and learning a little more each day. I loved checking books out of a quiet library. I loved having a place to go and learn, not just scientific facts, mathematical equations, historical lessons and the art of language, but everything in between.
I could learn basic music theory and harmonics. I could learn how to make lemon merengue pie, how to screen print shirts, how to use a drill press to make a rudimentary wooden gumball machine, how to play basketball, volleyball, and badminton, and how to sew (not very well, but still). I also learned how to socialize, how to learn from my mistakes, how to work just hard enough to be liked, but not favorited. I learned how to get attention (leopard pants and crimped hair) and how to avoid it (drying my polyester pit stains in the bathroom between classes--not always successful). I learned that having a crush is a highway straight to disappointment, both as a crushee and a crusher. I learned that I hate purses, and gossip, and lying. I learned I like working hard, even when it just isn't cool. I learned not to take it too harshly when nobody wants to hear what I have to say or hang out with me--it's not because of me. It's because they're wrapped up in them, which is totally fine.
As I scroll through the summer course offerings in the Creative Writing Certificate program at UCLA extension, I feel a familiar excitement... that back-to-school feeling. I used to think it was all about picking out my newest pair of gym shoes and prepping my first-day outfit. In actuality, I was just looking forward to all the learning. I relished minute details, like perfectly sharpened pencils and pages of different thicknesses, unopened textbooks, and homework by the light of the moon, in the car on the way home from dance on weeknights.
My college experience overwhelmed me: a new style of pressure to perform that bore heavily on my future, my finances, my "status" in the world. I paid for my first few semesters of college with scholarships, savings, and high interest credit, and the weighty importance of investment in a self I barely knew caused me to retreat: into beer, into romance, into side jobs where I felt more grounded/valued (what can I say, Outback Steakhouse was kind to me), and into simply attempting to be an adult, living on my own. I realized I had spent so much 'la la' time getting surface-level invested in all sorts of things and people, but almost no time cultivating a sense of purpose over the long haul. It's tragic, I guess, but who was genuinely cultivating their long term sense of purpose at 17/18 years old? Anyone you know? Me either, honestly.
Now, at 33, in a place of clarity and scattered accomplishment, I feel like I can finally embrace who I am as I dive back into structured learning--of a subject I am endlessly passionate about and engaged in. As I enroll in each course, carefully perusing the teacher bios and syllabuses, and (once again), paying out of my own savings, I realize I have been looking for this chance to make reading and writing my priority, not just my hobby. I have been waiting for an excuse to read more, analyze great authors and emerging work at every phase, and just exist in reverence of learning. I have been waiting to soak in an academic environment with my quarantine-inspired maturity and purpose in tow.
The past 12 years outside of school have taught me immeasurable lessons about performance, entertainment, business, relationships, and self care. I've learned compassion, creativity, and dedication from people I wouldn't have met if I had stayed on a purely academic track. Now I can return to something I love (school) with all these experiences unique to me, and that is satisfying in a way I feel... I cannot fully describe.
(*Readies backpack with snacks).