Wednesday, March 17, 2010

One of Those Kids

I was totally one of those kids.
  • One of those kids whose graduating GPA was over 4.0 and still did extra credit work.
  • One of those kids who hated bad grades worse than anything else.
  • One of those kids who never dated much or partied much or anything else in high school much partially because of my schoolwork. (Also, in all fairness, partially due to the fact that I was not really asked much.)
  • One of those kids who stayed after school and hung out with teachers.
  • One of those kids who did extra reading.
  • One of those kids who was always two pages over the page the limit for papers.
  • One of those kids who really enjoyed every minute of school.

In fact, I was one of those kids before I even began school. I know a little girl who has always been a "baby doll girl." You could give her the choice of any toy in the universe and she would choose a baby any day of the week. Without hesitation. My cousin was a "Barbie" girl. We had Barbies coming out of our ears. My own daughter is a "dress up" kind of girl. Although she seems to be moving away from it ever so slightly, even when she plays with other toys, she's typically doing it dolled up as a nurse or a ballerina or Snow White.

I tried really hard to remember what kind of kid I was. I had baby dolls and I loved them, but I didn't obsess over them. I played dress up with my grandma's old clothes from the 50's and my mom's old bridesmaid dresses, but not all that much. I played Barbies, but mostly only when my cousin was around. I remember myself mostly as a "book" kind of girl. Given a book and a corner, decent light and preferably some lemonade I was good to go. Possibly for the whole day. But what did I love to play? The only thing I really remember loving to play was school. I loved playing school. Sometimes I was the teacher, sometimes I was the student, but I loved the whole deal. The desk, the books, the paper and pencils and rules and reading and writing and yes, even rithmatic.

So, it's no wonder that I became one of those kids. One of the kids that everyone hates in high school because of how hard they work. I tried to be pretty low profile in my hard work. Often finishing up in home room, so it would look like I had done my homework completely there. Sometimes researching for weeks and writing a paper the night before it was due, just so I could say, "Oh, I wrote it last night." Those who were more open with their over-achievereyness were met with my withering gaze and derisive tone.

In my off-time, I was on the Academic Team (yeah, really), the speech team (I know) and involved in every play our school performed. I read compulsively and had finished off large chunks of our school library by graduation. I did normal high school kid stuff, like go to movies, sit for hours in coffee shops and eat too much pizza. I had slumber parties and went to at least one school dance. I loved sporting events and went to a ton of football and basketball games. Although I paid very little attention to the people in uniforms playing the games.

I went to college with stars in my eyes and love in my heart. I immediately loved everything about college. Okay, I went a little crazy and I did a lot more dating and partying. I also did a lot more discussing books and movies and politics and religion until three a.m. and a lot more analyzing anything that would stand still.

I still wrote my papers too long, unless I thought I'd get a lower grade for it. And I still worked hard and pretended I didn't. It took some adjustment. My grades were lower in college than in high school because it's harder to look like you don't care while caring desperately.

When graduation time came, I was stymied by what next. I wanted to go to grad school. I really wanted to go to grad school. More than I wanted to continue breathing. But I had no direction. No focus. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. In the meantime, I had a wedding to plan and a life to live and the simplest solution seemed to be to just graduate. Work for a while. Find my passion.

I lucked into nonprofit. And I've been happy here. I love feeling like what I do matters. More than revenue streams or economic impact, but real impact. On people. On lives.

But I've continued to feel torn about the grad school decision. I still don't know quite what I want to be when I grow up and more and more I feel like it doesn't matter. Like people just end up doing things that they never intended to do and that's the way of the world.

Last night, I wrote a paper. For the fun. On Shakespeare. I reread one of my favorite works and wrote a position statement about it. And I remembered my love. My first love.

I loved writing that. I was frustrated by it and challenged by it and I had so much fun I nearly cried.

I've been thinking pretty seriously about going back for a library science degree. I've been thinking about studying with a focus on children. I've been thinking about the impact I could make. Teaching kids to read. Teaching kids to love to read. Helping with homework and suggesting books. Making books real for kids who can't see past the paper. I've been thinking about investing a lot of money to make almost the exact same amount I make now. I've been thinking about kids and books and classics and teen reading groups and summer reading camps and arts and crafts and silly songs and biographies for kids and the unfettered joy of a fresh new book.

At first, I was thrilled last night to discover that I still love playing school. That I still love writing the papers and researching and critically thinking. But then I began to realize something scary. Something disturbing. What if that's my passion? Not books or literature or teaching or inspiring, but being a student? What if I just want to go back to school because I want to be in school? What if this is going to be my whole life? Feeling unfulfilled unless I'm studying.

I don't know where I go from here. I don't know if this is just more of the same kind of doubt about whether or not to make a move. Or if this is something I should pay attention to.

All I know is that last night was one of my best nights in a long time.


Mrs. Allroro said...

I think that's the goal of many teachers: to install a true love of learning. Teachers want children to grow up like you.

Lots of people study things, even who aren't in school. I love Bible study. I don't like Bible study books that spoon-feed me (like Beth Moore, though I have a lot of respect for her as a person), but I love to actually study for myself. I love Bible Study Fellowship (a non-denominational international group). We are given a passage to read and a set of questions to answer, and then the next week we get a lecture on the passage and a set of notes to go with the passage we already read and studied and were challenged by. Then we get a set of questions for the next week on a new passage. I love it. (I knows there's at least one group that meets in Lexington.)

Anyway, I think it's awesome that you've found your passion and I hope you find lots of ways to indulge in it. I don't think it's weird at all.

My favorite thing to talk about and one of the things I'm most passionate about is religion and Jesus and world religions, etc... I once had a coworker tell me after a staff meeting that she'd never heard me "that passionate" before (I forget what it was about--probably teaching reading). I thought, "Yeah, that's because if I talk about what I'm passionate about I'll get fired." I'm also passionate about other things I can't talk about at work, like intimacy with my husband. (Don't think too narrowly here. But that, too.) I can't talk about that anywhere.

But anyway, though you are way more studious (not to mention way smarter) than I am, I do feel your pain. And I think it's perfectly fine that you love to study and write papers. And yes, I do have my own blog and shouldn't take up so much space on yours.

Suze said...

If you want to go back to school, you totally should. But you need to make sure you're passionate about what you're studying (which I'm sure you would), even if you don't know exactly what you would do with the degree when you finish. Learning for the sake of learning is an excellent thing, NOT a waste of time.

Now I spent a lot of years in grad school (not going to admit how many out loud right here, though), and I will say that it's easy to get sucked in and feel guilty for not making academia your life (esp when you have kids - being a mom in grad school is extremely hard on one's self-esteem, and just hard in general, in fact while I have a run-on sentence here, I'll also mention that there's a whole book on the subject called Mama PhD or something like that that I want to read someday). As long as you know this going into it, though, you'll be okay. And having spent time between B.A. and masters will give you maturity and confidence and perspective that I never had, since I went straight through.

My 2 pennies :)

SleeplessInKL said...

I was one of those kids, too. And I sorely miss student life.

I say, go for it! My mom learned how to drive when was 55 yrs old. She's a living example that it's never too late for anything.

Sage said...


You know... take a different stance and another look. Why grad school?

Because if you're not just in it for the piece of paper--and therefor don't need to spend a billion dollars to get that piece of paper... deciding that you enjoy being a student and learning, and going for THAT--the learning and enjoying...

So take classes--you know there's stuff through ArtsPlace (or ArtWorks, or whatever the heck that thing is)... there are community classes... there are entire groups that can be learning focused (heck, you've heard of SCA, right?? Bob would be a good fighter--he might really like it... and heavens there's GOBS of stuff to learn there-- go learn and be a Laurel).

All I mean is... ...expand the defintion of "learning". And if the paper really matters? Save up for it... but do these other things while you're saving... may find you like these other things.

Worse comes to worse? There's always the Donovan Scholarship program. (I'm kidding!)

And... ...yes, I got a blogspot account just to comment to you and Jen. I'm silly.

Jessi said...

Thanks everyone for the really thoughtful comments. I guess the upshot is that I'm just not done thinking about this yet. I can't get past this feeling like I'm living without a plan.

Mrs. Allroro said...

I was thinking about you again this morning. Do you think (I'm not being sarcastic here...I'm really asking) that they spent so many years (12 plus college and up) teaching us how to study and how to write papers only to prepare us for the next level of schooling? Aren't we supposed to be able to use those skills in life? I miss taking notes and studying and often think I'd like to go back through school again starting at least with first grade. (That's one reason I became a teacher) But isn't there a practical way for adults to use all of these skills?

I totally think you should start submitting essays to magazines as a freelance writer. I don't know what magazine. Or maybe some scholarly journal.

And there are probably Shakespeare fan clubs (sorry I don't know a modern word for that) that would cry when they read your essays, and you theirs. Wouldn't that be fun? And then you could still hold on to a little bit of free time.

Orlandel said...

I think that is a huge problem with education now. Students are being taught the test and how to perform for the next level without any thought to what they will be doing in life. I didn't have a study skills class until I was in college and only then because I was a "non-traditional" student (read old). But all of my classes tied together. My area of study was architecture, so all of my papers were presentations to clients about why they should build what I said. Or studying a new building technique. All of my math classes were related to construction - how to figure cubic feet, how to slope a roof, etc. But that was college. High school was full of stuff I never used again. My son is going through the same thing. And it's not that there isn't plenty they could teach that he needs for his next level, but they choose to only teach what they think is their next level.

Steve said...

When I first read your post I didn't comment because I had far too much I wanted to say about it! Thankfully much of it is covered by the preceding comments. I'll only add that I am a fan of the idea of life-long learning and self-improvement, including formal study or whatever broadens your horizons and fulfills you.