Thursday, January 24, 2013

Back to school. Sort of.

I signed up for a personal essay class at UCLA through the school's extension program. Today is my first class, and I got here early to scope things out. I'm currently sitting on a curb at the post-rain Bruin walk watching and listening to "real" students as they walk by.

I was nervous coming here because I haven't taken an in-person class for longer than a weekend since 1999, right before I started my illustrious two-year career teaching high school English. Back then I was at Long Beach State and before that, UCI.

There's just something about UC schools that pulls at my heart strings, maybe because I just love going to school, or maybe because I spent so much worry-free time lounging in front of the library or on the grass with my college sweetheart back in the 90s being in love.

But now things are a bit different. I'm almost 40. I'm familiar with divorce, carpal tunnel pain, business trips, and acid reflux medicine.

So when I walked past a young man giving out flyers on campus today, who was saying something about "women's rights", "Palestine", and "free", I thought, "Ah, young people, so cute and idealistic." I am just happy if I get a full night's sleep.

But I can already tell I'm going to like it here, even if it's just once a week until the end of March. I'm kind of jealous of undergrad students. I walked into a research library with high tech monitors all over the place. Last time I used a library for school, I was still sifting through card catalogs and microfiche. I didn't even have an email address back then because I didn't think I needed one.

And back then I wanted to go to school here. It just seemed cooler than UCI, maybe because I was a commuter and my only experience at UCLA was spending one night in my high school buddy's dorm room. We painted her homemade bunk beds, and her friends smoked pot out of an apple. I sat in the hallway so I could breathe, but still, they were so hip, and I lived with my parents.

The next morning, I got a taste of the word "coed" when a hot guy sporting only a bath towel stopped in the hallway to talk to us. That's when I thought, "I'm doing it wrong."

I still think that about myself sometimes, but today when I walked into a student center for some coffee and sat down near a man with a full head of gray hair, I felt like maybe I wouldn't be so out of place going back to school. Sort of.

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