Year Five


It’s still brutally hot out, but there are signs of fall. Leaves are yellowing and dropping, spiders are spinning, crickets are chirping. The first of the local apples have appeared at the Farmer’s Market. And as of this week, the kids of Asheville are back in school.

And UNCA is back in session as of this coming Monday.

I’ve already got most of my books, mostly bought used and online to avoid the racket that is the college textbook industry. I still need to buy new notebooks. Today I’ll make a parking plan, and write down what buildings and rooms my classes are in. Sunday I’ll do a week’s worth of laundry, set out my favorite shirt, pack my textbooks and a water bottle into my bookbag and set my alarm. Not that I’ll need it, as my first class on Monday is at 11:30 AM.

I’ll wake and eat breakfast, feed the cats, drink coffee, read all my news and blogs, wash dishes, make my bed and be off for Year Five of my college education.

Why five years (more like six before I’m done) for a college education? Because as a science major (as I was for four years), I just couldn’t take that many classes and make the money I needed to make through my freelance writing work. Also, while in community college I didn’t get the best advising about university classes, and took nearly a year’s worth of classes I ended up not needing (they transferred, sure, but they didn’t transfer to my major). Then I went and changed majors from science to Mass Communication, rendering useless a year of calculus, a year of chemistry… I used to be all about burning through the major, getting on to grad school ASAP, but now I’m sanguine as as stoner. (I’m graduating in 2012? No problem!) I just take each semester as it comes. I regret nothing.

Knowing me, do you really think I’d regret my studies in astronomy, chemistry and calculus? Not only were they all interesting and transformative, they were all part of the me that sits here today at her office window, reasonably certain she wants to become a documentary screenwriter.

On Monday I’ll take my first classes (after four years of study) in the major it took me four years to sort out, Mass Communication. On Tuesday night I’ll start my 6PM Intro to Screenwriting class, actually a required course within my major. After four years of grueling intellectual toil in areas where I had no particular strength, I look forward to a semester where I actually get to take classes in things I’m good at. I feel like I’ve been swimming a swift river, upstream, for four years. On Monday I’ll go to the same shore, but be issued a boat and a paddle and permission to make my way with the current at last.

This semester I am taking 15 credit hours, the most I have ever attempted by far. I’ve got a week to see if I can handle it. It’s a lot, but I am hoping that it really won’t be as much work as even 8 credit hours when 3 of those credit hours are Calc II credit hours, requiring at least 2-3 hours of homework every day.

Here’s what I’m taking this semester:

  • Elementary French II (a GPA-improving repeat; I failed this class as a dumbass kid in 1992 or thereabouts during a failed, clueless and premature first attempt at college)
  • Introduction to Screenwriting
  • Humanities 324: The Modern World, Mid 17th-20th Century
  • Newswriting

At first I hated my college’s liberal arts environment. I only chose a liberal arts college because it was the only university in town, and I didn’t want to drive an hour away to the next closest. I HATED all the ridiculous extra classes required. No one likes to be told what to do, and I didn’t like being told I had to be well-rounded whether I wanted to or not. My argument was that not only that I was a science major, I was a 38-year-old science major with a background in musical theatre. I was well-read and culturally aware. I thought I had no need of all the bullshit.

But last semester when I took that poli sci class I had to realize that I was fooling myself to think that I really wanted to be a science writer anymore. There really were whole other worlds of information out there, just as legitimate, just as enticing. It’s a liberal arts education that saved me. If I’d had the realization I had last semester at a tech school, I’d just have had to drop out. And lately I find myself a big fan of the liberal arts environment as I discover that not every college offers such helpful and friendly professors (it’s a UNCA thing and a liberal arts thing, I think), and not every college encourages collaboration across the disciplines (chem profs teaching history classes on the great scientists). And I can’t help but be suckered by the whole idea of being part of an intellectual congress that just wants rather innocently and unaffectedly to just be scholars, that just wants to learn in an environment that emphasizes no major and no field, but gladly lets us glut ourselves across the whole spectrum of learning, from Latin to meteorology to poetry to the works of Amartya Sen.

I’m glad I’m taking six years of college, because four wouldn’t have been enough. :0) As Oliver Twist said, Please sir, I want SOME MORE.

I will be glad to find my place at the banquet again.

So I look forward to fall. Summer’s been lovely, but boredom is creeping in again and river trips are sweeter when they only come once a season, like the figs ripening over at the Edible Park. I look forward to cool weather, sweaters, closed-toe shoes, turning leaves, the scent of woodsmoke. I missed out on Halloween last year, and this year I want to do my favorite holiday right.

BTW I made absolutely NO progress on my summer reading list. LOL. While I used to be one of the biggest readers I know, and the change seems as impossible as my eyes changing color from brown to orange, I am no longer much of a reader. I jump into bed tired now, without the hour of reading I used to enjoy nightly. I think the space in my mind that hungered for books now dines on documentaries and college learning, so the reading I do now tends to be for pleasure, a rare leisure activity. (It’s also not as fun to do in a beastly hot house in summer with no AC.) And I also know that when I’m back in school my mind will shift from rest to knowledge-hunger, so I am keeping my list alive on the sidebar, for I can’t help but think that I’ll need it again sooner than I think.

Not to mention that I cheated a little and am halfway through China Mieville’s new YA novel, UnLunDun.

As I start back to school, mostly I look forward to interesting things to learn and write about. I get pretty tired of a blog that is all about me and my thoughts, like a big echo-chamber bouncing my words around until they are all I can hear. This blog is cyclical just like its writer, and soon school will take me right back out of myself and plunge me again into the river of learning, where I hope I will soon get all pruney and wade out only when I realize it’s growing dark, and I am starving, and everyone else has left.

I promise to come back with interesting things to say.

3 responses to “Year Five

  1. Ha! Six years is nothing. I was an undergrad for almost eight years.

    I’ve got Mieville’s Perdido Street Station in my too-be-read pile. Have you read it? Is Mieville any good?

  2. Wil, Perdido Street Station is one of the best books I have ever read. It’s the whole reason I got Un Lun Dun.

    You were an undergrad for EIGHT YEARS!!!???!?!?!?!?!

    Oh my GOD. But really, I think a lot of people need time for the complex process of figuring themselves out.

  3. Ok…I had to double-check my records. My undergrad career did technically span eight years, but it includes a few semesters off. I was in school onlysix (fall-spring) years + four summer sessions.

    But eight years has more shock value, don’t you think? ;-)

    I’ll have to move Perdido to the top of the to-be-read-fiction pile (up there with Kavalier & Clay and River of Gods).

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