I find myself wanting to take a class. But the thought of being, “the old student” turns me off. I remember those women in college, the mamas who were ‘finding themselves’ after years of parental duty, finally released to the academic wild - to expand their minds and spend their money. I don’t want to be one of those women.
It was easy at 20 to size them up in two seconds. The husband left for a younger version of themselves, the kids finally left home, and now was the time to do something, be somebody, find out who they hell they were. So they signed up for Colonialism in the Caribbean, or Transgender Studies of Latin America, Theatre of the Absurd – absurd indeed sister!
They all congregated together, raising their hands in unison at every question. They were the perfect student. But to everyone else, they were annoying, transparent, and desperate. They had replaced their husband and children’s affection with the professor’s attention. And we knew it. They asked a million questions and it was evident on the professor’s face he was used to these women, women who were taking classes not only to learn, but to feel alive again. They asked obvious questions like, “So is the syllabus an outline of what we are going to study this semester?” or, “Will you post our midterm exams before the final?” And our medieval Lit Prof. would be cordial but openly irritated, like, “Of course, that’s why it’s called a syllabus, and yes, I’ll post your midterm grades after midterms, so put your hand down and stop wasting my time.”
We were there begrudgingly, we were genuine man - to expand our minds damnit, and not because we wanted to. But these crazies were here out of pure want…because they desired to actually learn something, whether or not it furthered their career or looked good on a resume. They were there to build their brain, to feel acceptance, to make up for what was lost while they made PB and J’s, kissed boo boos and attended 459 violin and ballet lessons.
I remember the way I smugly felt about these mamas, how I evaluated their desire at higher education as somehow less than mine. What future did they have? What were they going to do with an English degree at 50? Who the hell cared?
Well, what the hell was I going to do with an English and Theatre degree at twenty one?
Turns out, nothing.
Now I would embrace these women and call them my friends. We’re all desperate, aren’t we, for something? And I can’t imagine anything more rewarding than education and community. I’m sure someday soon I’ll find my place among the “old” students, talking about kids and husbands rather than parties and careers. I know that I too would raise my hand at every question, eager to fulfill an answer to the question of emptiness that only time can give.
And maybe a class like Women's Lit, or Beatnik Prose will make me feel whole again. Who knows?