Monday, September 14, 2009

Back to school...I wish?

You know that feeling.

It comes when the summer foliage's just starting to crinkle, and a few overeager leaves have already taken the plunge. The wind's a bit sharper and everything has a hint of the sweet smell of dried grass. There's a spark, a crackle when I step outside, and just the tang of the air carries with it a sense of purpose.

Only problem is, the root of that purpose appears to have passed without warning. Gone are the days of rushing between classes, done are the days of staring at the clock and waiting for a lunch break, finished are those long-ago moments of trading of drug-dealer TI-83 programs and playing chicken with my GPA. And did I mention learning some occasionally cool stuff in-between?

Yeah, I'm really, actually referring to Back To School time. It's probably just me, but despite the reluctance of leaving those long slacking days of summer vacation behind, preparing for school and getting into a new school year is something I've now discovered I enjoyed. Back in the day, I'd organize my plastic binder (TrapperKeeper, anyone?), stick those little white donut-shaped protectors over the torn holes of my folders with the amazing paintings of space and underwater 'scapes, label my stack of spiral-ring notebooks and organize everything in my backpack. I'd note when all the exams and big assignments were in my planner once I got each course syllabus (which would eventually vanish), and write down my daily class schedule several times so I wouldn't forget. Never mind that organization, as always, is futile, and soon my backpack would be stuffed full of wrinkled assignments and candy wrappers and pencil lead and linty tissues. I loved reading a book beneath my desk during a boring lecture. Though tests kicked my butt more often than I kicked theirs, that occasional ace was a high. I liked having a collection of finished essays and assignments at the end of a school year because if not for that deadline, I'd just have a bunch of beginnings with no end. I mean, I'm pretty much writing the equivalent of a "Coming of Age" prompted English essay right now. What the hell is wrong with me?

This has got to be the most obvious embodiment of the saying, "distance makes the heart grow fonder." Do I really miss homework? No. Do I really miss exams? Absolutely not. Pulling crap out of thin air artfully for acceptable bs-ing on assignments? ....maybe. Having to get up before the sun at times to make it to class? Definitely !affirmative.

But what I do miss is that sense of community, of belonging to a class going through the same annoyances and professor-induced torture, of having expectations and being able to fulfill them. Completion. Almost instant gratification. Deadlines. Yes, I said deadlines. Freedom is beautiful, but only if you're the type able to whip yourself out of procrastinatory vegetation to do some unidentified task your brain keeps feeling that you should be doing. It's especially beautiful if you can squelsh that restless need to always be doing something, in which case I envy you your happy-slacker spirit...

It's not that I don't appreciate stability, free time, the power to be my own scheduler and timekeeper. I still do on the currently rare occasion when life is truly hectic. Yet normally, when things are slow and calm and predictable, motivation to do all those things I had been dying to do but put off when I was busy takes a bow and exits, stage left. Boredom can trigger creative muses, but having periods of busyness provides the basis for their inspiration.

This will be my second fall of no classes, no backpack, no textbooks. No assignments, no multitasking, few real timelines, no real guidelines. It's Back To School no more, that's all, folks! And I have to say, sometimes I'm a little wistful. School wasn't a piece of cake, but it was mine to have and sometimes nibble on.
And really, it's not school that I miss, but that strong sense of immediate purpose that buzzes on September air. Back in high school, physics class taught the fundamental truth that human beings aren't speed detectors; they're acceleration detectors. We can be hurtling through life at a breakneck pace, but if it's a constant breakneck pace, it gets old. Crawling along leisure-like for long periods also gets my great surprise. This must be why people have mid-life crises; their brain is screaming for change, some novel stimuli, a new knot to untie, a new goal to direct themselves towards.

So you know the feeling, right?

Ok, so probably normal people don't. Normal people have a solid goal they chip away at, day by day, until they end up with a product, a skill, a purpose. But something about my current situation makes my final goal something more like a fuzzy star on the horizon, elusive, tantalizing and frustratingly intangible. I'm not quite sure how to get there, how long the travel time will be, and not a clue what to do once I arrive.

This just means I've now realized it's time to stop whining and put that sense of purpose to use.
And my next goal is finding me a piece of oily rectangular pizza and a little pint of chocolate milk with a straw and a snac-pac of chocolate pudding so I can properly wallow in my mental regression.

Just for tonight.

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