“I have never let schooling interfere with my education.”
Realizing that I’m about to brand myself a hopeless nerd, I have to admit I am horribly jealous that J. gets to go back to school this fall. This is really the first autumn in nearly twenty years that I’m not going to be in school (I don’t count last year’s because I was still whirling from the dizzying feeling of freedom) and it’s a little odd to realize how sad I am over the thought.
I really loved school, especially university where I got to immerse myself in a topic for months at the time and come out feeling like I really did know something about the subject. I got to study things I genuinely loved and had an interest in, so major projects and papers were seldom a chore (unless I procrastinated horribly).
And believe it or not, I’m wretched over the idea of not buying armloads of books this fall! Maybe those of you who currently attend my Alma Mater are stretching your eyes incredulously over such a lapse in financial judgement, but unlike lots of my friends I seldom had to eat Ramen for a month in order to pay for my books. The majority of my classes relied on novels, primary sources, history books, anthologies of writings from every conceivable century, essays, etc. and I absolutely refused to sell most of them back to the campus bookstore (except for one semester when I was well and truly starving and had to sell back a book on classical Greek civilization from the earliest city-states through the Persian Wars. I nearly cried, and when I saw how little I was going to get back for it – compared to what I’d originally paid – I nearly abandoned the plan…but I needed food).
I was talking to MyFavorite a while back and when he asked me what it’s like working full time instead of being in school, I told him all of the above. We also discussed the oddness of being in charge of one’s own continuing education. Lots of people seem to finish school and never tax their brain again, I live in fear of mine starting to atrophy! I swear the process has already started! It takes effort to get home from work, cook, clean, manage bills, make future plans, and still pull out a book instead of turn on the TV. Instead of someone else teaching me, I’m entirely responsible for what goes into my head from here on out.
In that same vein, it’s not just the stimulation I miss about school, it’s also the framework university sort of set up for life. Each semester had a distinct beginning, middle, and end so you always felt as if you were actively moving through life instead of just being pushed along by the current. Now, instead of this handy, cyclical way to make a year pass, post-graduate life by comparison seems like one long line stretching off into the distance.
That seems depressing…I don’t mean it to be, but it’s the best metaphor I can find. What I mean to say is that instead of having an Outside Force set up my life’s structure and passage of time, I’m now the only person who can do that. If there are to be any interesting breaks, sideshows, or detours in that long line, I’m the person who must take the prerogative of creating/finding/following them. And while the adventure of doing so is almost always fantastic, sometimes I do miss having that Outside Force doing it for me because I feel (looking back) that being ignorant of that Force meant I could simply live life and enjoy the ride. It’s no simple thing to be almost entirely in charge of your own destiny!
*Image (C) by Martin Liebermann, http://www.martin-liebermann.de, original found here http://www.flickr.com/photos/liebermann/580181284/