I feel like I’ve been in school forever. Maybe that’s because I have in fact, been attending school more years out of my life than NOT attending school. I guess most 20 something’s can say that for a little while, considering approximately 14 years of life is spent in the public school system (give or take Kindergarten and Pre-School… and pre-pre-School, which I hear is the new rage). Even if you don’t go on to college, you’d still have to be (… start… accessories…calculator…) 29 years + to say you’ve finally started entering a phase of life that will exceed the time you were constantly sitting in a classroom. Taking those mandatory 14 years into account, the 5 years it took me to finish my Undergrad, and now the 2 years it will take me to finish my Masters (6 semesters strong!), I’ve begun to realize that so much of my life has revolved around the phrase “I am a student.” So much of my identity, of who I am, is wrapped up in Studenthood. 22 years Internet. I will have been in school in some form for 22 years by the time I get ye old Master’s degree. I’m currently 27. That leaves only 5 school-free years. And those 5 years I wasn’t in school? I was drinking out of bottles and dirtying diapers. Oh, there was also that 2 year stint I now term as my “Drinking of the Bitter Cup Phase” that ranged from Spring 2007-Fall 2009. You see? I even organize my life within academic years … Falls to Springs. But I will tell you one thing, the lessons I learned in those two years you can’t learn in a classroom. The lessons I learned in those two years shaped my character and defined my beliefs more than all the schooling in the entire world could ever hope to accomplish in an entire lifetime. I became a better person, a more faithful person, a humbler person – and that’s worth any refiners fire. Rough stone a-rollin.
Moving right along…
What’s more, I’ve never been “without” education in any sense. I studied to become a high school English teacher and every “legit” job I’ve had since my Undergrad has involved higher education in some form. And now, I’m getting an MPA with an emphasis in higher education. Turns out, I’m really into education. Even now, I spent the entire day giving a presentation to swarthy 8th graders… and I LOVED it. Who loves swarthy 8th graders? NO ONE! Except me. I like them. Or rather, I like swarthy 8th graders sitting in lovely rows of desks, laughing at my jokes, and even, heaven willing, learning something useful. You’ll never convince me that there’s a better answer to solving hunger, poverty, disease, racism, abuse, tyranny, etc… than education.
But approaching education from the non-student perspective is giving me some anxiety. I love school. I hate school. I want it to be over. But, I don’t know what I’ll do when it is. I’ve made lists and lists and plans and plans of what I will do when I don’t have to “do” school. They’re very commendable things; ironically things that still involve learning and a “classroom” in its most metaphorical sense: learning Spanish, practicing French, Boxing is for Girls, traveling, leisure reading (ohhhh… leisure reading…), writing, practicing the piano, cultivating talents like cooking or painting (always been a secret ambition of mine to try my hand at watercolors), volunteering at the YWCA, going for a run every day… having the ENERGY to do these things without having the next assignment lingering in the back of my mind. It all sounds really very exciting, right? Very commendable!
Well, let me let you in on a little somethin somethin. This week is Spring Break. And tonight is Wednesday night. Usually on Wednesday nights I have a Retention Theory class. But it being Spring Break, I happily do NOT have this class. And what did I do with this freedom? Begin a novel or make a delicious meal? Go for a run? Buy Soy milk so I could eat some cereal later? Nope. Didn’t do any of those nice things. Instead, I settled in for some American Idol, Modern Family, and America’s Next Top Model, picking at various food scraps lingering in my cupboards and thinking to myself, is THIS what I’m going to do when I don’t have school? Absolutely nothing!?!
And then slightly freaked out. Had myself a little self-reflection moment. They teach you to do that in education classes you know.
When I am truly done with school, will I actually start doing all those things I dream of doing but simply don’t have the “time” right now? Will I really volunteer and run and cook and paint or will I just plop down in front of the tube, wondering why I get restless and bored and slightly depressed and lonesome in about 2 hours? Am I going to do all those things? Or is school my way of procrastinating cultivating these other interests? Does school give me SOMETHING just so I don’t have… nothing? Am I really a lazy no good piece of CRAP unless there’s an assignment or deadline lingering over my sorry head?
Well Internet, I can say after a few spoonfuls of cookie dough and a really ridiculous moment feeling sorry for myself (yep – go ahead and look at my post on Perspective – enter irony) that the answer is No. Happily, NO! No, I really WILL do those things and no, I won’t succumb to the seductive glow of electronic heroine beckoning to me from within a 32 inch Toshiba flatscreen. No, school isn’t just a way for me to fill my lonely time with something useful… waiting for something else to come take its place. I WILL be able to replace the “school” part with other useful, happy, GOOD things. I will create a more vibrant identity outside of “I am a Student.” At least, I hope I will. I’ve felt the pang of loneliness on nights such as these because my only companions have been journal articles, annotated bibliographies, and major research papers.
I guess that’s the sacrifice I’ve chosen to pay; to focus on school, which to me is independence and freedom, and in turn short-change cultivating my other interests for awhile. Yet, that’s how I know I WILL cultivate my other interests. Because I’ve neglected my other interests for so long, and now because I’ll finally, FINALLY, have the time and MEANS to support my interests, I can say that yes, I WILL do all those things; volunteer, learn Spanish, practice French, travel, write, write, write, paint, and…siiiigh… leisure read… because I’ve learned the value of those things and how through school (and honestly – working nothing less and usually more than 30 hours a week while going to school – that’s a true time/energy/brain suck), I’ve not only gained the means necessary to cultivate these interests, but I can fully and wholly and completely appreciate them.
When I don’t have school… I know exactly what I’ll do. And I’m pretty excited about the whole thing. I can also tell you this, if anyone even looks at my with the glint of Ph.d in their eyes, I wallop them right upside the head so hard their mamma will collapse on the floor from impact!
(That said, I also had a meltdown last night realizing all the million things I have to do and only a month in which to do it. It was a night of pure panic.)