No more papers, no more books…

Since I will probably not say much over the course of the next few days, I didn’t want to leave you with all that boring stuff about finances and consumer desire. So I figured I’d take a minute to reflect upon my school days as they are now, as of this weekend, officially coming to a close.

I have two very distinct memories of kindergarten. In one of those memories, I was that goody-two-shoes in the class who shushed everyone when the teacher wasn’t there. It must have been right before the school day started, and the whole class was sitting cross-legged on the floor at the front of the classroom. The teacher wasn’t in the room yet, and everyone was being so damned loud I just couldn’t stand it. So I shushed them. Quite authoritatively, I might add. I believe they all proceeded to make fun of me mercilessly thereafter. The other memory I have of kindergarten is a refusal to finger paint. Let’s flash forward a second to the high school senior in paint-streaked blue jeans during studio hours elbow deep in gesso and acrylic, shall we?

From first grade to eighth grade, I attended a relatively large Catholic school. I had perfect attendance almost every year, and if I was sick, I usually begged Mom to let me go to school anyway. Of course, art class was my favorite, but I also really liked music. We had the occasional all school mass, and I was always one of the louder singers during church. Some stand-out memories from grade school include the anticipation of the festival every fall; in the classrooms that overlooked the playground, it was hard to focus on anything other than watching the rides and tents go up. I still remember some of the crazy songs we learned in fourth grade. And how I had a crush on the same boy for all eight of those grade school years. I played volleyball and softball. And I was usually among the last picked for those same sports, and others, during gym class. I have more memories from those eight years than playing aliens at recess and the pancake diagram of the female reproductive organs on a video during fifth grade sex ed, but to go through them all would take quite some time, indeed.

I also attended a Catholic high school. And it was in high school that, like a lot of my young peers, I began to ask some questions of that religion. I was lucky, though. My education was a very open one. It involved more figurative interpretation of the Bible than literal, and taught us lessons like “do unto others as you would have done unto you,” rather than stuff like “only we get to go to Heaven and everyone else is doomed.” At my high school, we had a lot of options with our religion curriculum, including classes about other religions. I liked that we were allowed to express our faith and question it at the same time.

In high school, I lost and made and lost and made a lot of friends. I didn’t really lose friends on purpose, I guess that was just one of those times where people grow apart, explore different interests and sometimes become overrun with those tricky hormones that make you do stupid or mean things. I never tried to be mean, but I’m sure I was. And I think that maybe I couldn’t help it sometimes. I had a good high school experience, I still have good relationships with many of the friends I made there. If it wasn’t for my high school experience, I might not have met my husband. So I’ll keep those memories filed under “fond.” But I wouldn’t go back. They were not, as they say, the best years of my life.

I took art classes, acted and crewed on plays, sang at masses and in choir, participated in forensics and attended school dances, sometimes with a date, sometimes not. I did well enough in my classes, but probably could have done better. I made mistakes and had bad days, but for the most part, I embraced my crazy self and really had a lot of fun.

During high school, and often on those bad days, I fantasized hard about “going away” to college. I dreamed of farness. But I was afraid to leap out there head first. So I applied to state schools. I started my undergraduate life as an “inter-arts” major at my hometown state school. I have nothing against the school itself, but I quickly realized that it was not where I belonged. I got report cards with an A after every class, a constant 4.0, and I laughed. Because I knew I hadn’t worked for those grades, yet they came easily. So I transferred. I took a leap and ended up following a friend to Boston University, where I became an English major.

I have no regrets that I made a choice based mainly on the limited knowledge of a friend’s experience. Taking that step was a turning point in my life, and I wouldn’t be where I am without having done it. I’m still not the risk-taker I probably could be, but I’m a lot more open to change than I once was.

At BU, I earned my As, my Bs and my Cs. I worked very hard while still trying to find my place in a new city and a new life. It was not easy, but it was fun and valuable. There are definitely things from that period of my life that I might do differently if given the chance, but overall, I’m proud of all that I accomplished there, and I’m grateful for the friendships and experiences that came out of it.

Spending a few years in the “real world,” outside of academia, I realized that it wasn’t as easy to stay social, to meet new people, to find a creative outlet or a group in which to fit. I began to make an effort to do things and go places and work on my writing. But during those few years, I realized that I had a desire to be in school. I’m not sure what that was based on, because over the last three years, I’ve definitely had more than my share of moments of doubt. But when we found ourselves in Northern Virginia, I decided to go get my MFA in Creative Writing.

You can read about my Mason memories in the archives (Thought Control category). So I’ll just say a few words to sum up these three years. I never had a class I truly hated here. I feel like I’ve grown as an artist. I hope the program maintains the quality of students and educators that I was lucky enough to experience. I probably should have been more social, formed stronger bonds with my professors or certain classmates, entered more contests or applied for fellowships or assistant-ships I heard about once or twice in passing. But overall, I am proud of this accomplishment, this degree. And even if I don’t “use” it in the traditional sense, the education has been worth the investment in myself, worth the time I spent.

Of course, now a new fear is emerging. That “now what” that tends to happen at a crossroads in life. There are new choices to make, new challenges to meet. I have some vague ideas and plans, but what comes next is still a bit of a blur. But we won’t dwell on that part, here. Today we celebrate. We can worry later.

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