Wednesday, May 9, 2012
A fellow English major friend and I were catching up one day, sitting in the gorgeous California sun and stretching our cramped-from-living-in-a-sitting-position-for-all-time legs, and she made a comment that sort of caught me off guard.
"I wish I could be more like you." She said wistfully. "I mean, have you even seen the inside of the library here? You don't really care about your grades...and I wish I could be like that."
Ok, let's be real. It is no secret that I love a good party and don't shape my life around my school schedule. I am almost 30 years old. I understand at this point that pounding 4 red bulls and pacing around a library reciting Poe the night before a final is not going to help anything, and it is certainly not a measure of your intelligence. Yes, I party. Yes, I always have beer and a wheel of cheese in my fridge in case someone happens to stop by or I need a good breakfast. (Joking. I only do that around finals.) But, I read too. I study. I avoid libraries for a reason. I am a total, unapologetic, helpless people watcher and there is no better location ON EARTH to people watch than a college library. (Well, the Oakland DMV has a wealth of material, but I try to reserve that for a special treat.) I can spend a good 7 hours in a library and I will only have a paragraph of work written...and it is usually garbled nonsense because I can't tear my eyes away from the man in the corner methodically eating the pages of a book as he watches 'Rainbow Bright' on Netflix.
That all being said, her comment still bothered me. And made me question if I was a true student.
And then I took my last English final EVER today.
The night before the final we were required to write a lengthy self assessment that was meant to illustrate how we felt we had grown as readers and writers over the course. Normally, I find this sort of thing mundane and unnecessary. Can't you see how I have grown, Mr. Professor man? I write stuff and you read it and I don't fail! I sit in the front of class! I'm hardly ever on facebook during the lecture! I'm only on there when you turn around. A+, thank you, good-bye. However, this time the assessment felt a little more...holy. It was my last one ever. Before my last English final ever. I started school 6 years ago (no judgements,) as a wide-eyed and terrified beginner. And now I am leaving it with slightly squinted eyes and still...(aren't we all?) a beginner.
As I started typing, one thing kept threading its way through my mind. Our professor always told us to be "open to the nature of our own experience." When he first said that, his back was to me so I was on facebook, but when he said it again...it stuck. I didn't really know what it meant for me, but I relished the way it rolled around on my tongue like a delicious tab of ecstasy. (Just kidding Mom. I have no idea 1. what ecstasy truly is, or 2. if it even comes in tab form. I just like the shock value of knowing you will read this.)
As I wrote my last assessment I realized I had grown over the semester. Maybe my papers didn't get to publish-this-next-great-American-novel type of quality, maybe I only went into the library to use the (cleanest) bathroom on campus, and maybe my GPA was in the 3 range and not the 4. But, it was my experience. It was completely and utterly my own experience and I lived every single second of it, no matter how many times I stumbled along the way.
As this year comes to a close, I can't help but think about the experience as a whole, and as a journey. I took my last final at 11:30 am today. I sat in the sun, and tipped my head back to let Berkeley sink it's last rays of light into my body. And when I opened my eyes, a friend was standing there ready to chat about the final, laugh over how Melville is such a downer and show me proudly his B.D Wong from SVU tattoo. (He literally got a tat of B.D Wong on his arm. Like, the guy. His face. From SVU.)
When I asked him about it, he looked down and smiled. "Every time I look at it, I'll remember college." He said. "Because I spent a lot of time drinking in my apartment and watching SVU."
Now, this guy is brilliant. Truly, earth movingly, brilliant. As a peer, he challenges me and makes me proud to be a fellow student at Berkeley. So, when he showed me the tattoo of an Asian man emblazoned on his bicep, by initial reaction was to be horrified.
And then I stopped.
That was his experience. Or, part of it , anyway. (I really have to watch that show.) WHAT MATTERS MOST is that he was open to the nature of his own experience. So open, in fact, it stays with him forever.
But my experience will stay with me forever too. And I am proud of the student I was, and the student of life I will be.
Put that in your tattoo gun and smoke it.