When I went back to college, everyone assumed I would take the natural path and get an English degree. Even I thought that was where I was headed, in a general and extremely non-specific fashion. This, unfortunately, has become my modus operandi in life, but that’s another topic for another day. The point is, I had a reputation for writing. Everyone I encountered was full of praise for my gift with words. Somewhere in course of my first summer session, a revelation smacked me in the face. I was digging myself out of a 4-F Hole–get the dirty jokes out of your system, now–that I’d earned by wandering off and not formally withdrawing during my first attempt at college. I took a 102 class, and clashed with the teacher.
Friction Isn’t All Bad
I’ve encountered an attitude that all arguing is bad. Perhaps I’m simply a bumptious human being, who enjoys the cut and thrust of a good debate, an argument, a fierce discussion–whatever you want to call it–for its own sake. As I said, I clashed with this instructor. I hated him. I was at least six years older than any of my classmates, and he had this “You’re All Babies” attitude that rubbed me the wrong way. He was hard as nails. We clashed over points of logic, technicalities, my writing style. We clashed over the weather report.
He was harsh, and the students dropped like flies. At the beginning of the session, there’d been 22 of us. By the time we entered the home stretch, there were six remaining in the class. Perhaps what surprised me most is that I earned the only A. I hadn’t expected that, especially when I locked horns with him over my final paper angle, and stuck to my original approach on the constitutionality of gay marriage. The important thing I realized after collapsing in a dull and exhausted heap from working double time when most people were at the pool–I was tired of being a writer and nothing more.
When it came time to register for the next semester–technically my second, if you don’t count that overloaded summer session–I was at a loss as to what classes I should take. Browsing the catalog, and matching requirements, I knew I didn’t want to take my third required English course just yet. I was tired of literature and writing for its own sake. In fact, I was tired of most things–I ended up with seven courses that ran the gamut from American History to Philosophy. One in particular proved to be providential or fateful, depending on how you look at it.
While it was only a two-credit hour class, this struck me as a bit different from anything I’d taken before. It was a discussion class that introduced students to the Four Fields of Anthropology. And it was listed as an OR option. At this point, I haven’t the foggiest memory of what the other options for the degree requirement were. I probably ended up taking them as well at some point, anyway. But I sat, with the OR staring me in the face from the computer screen in the KSU coffee shop where I idled, killing time on campus one afternoon. Because I was in the process of establishing a better GPA, I had to take the registration time at the end of the line. This may be the single greatest motivation I had for making a 4.0+, because I never could abide waiting or having to choose from picked-over Anything.
I signed up. Although I didn’t know it then, this was a threshold I had crossed…
The Doctor Whose Name Is Hotness
It’s important that you understand one thing–I love big brains. Love Them, as in it’s an intellectual fascination that overbrims my brain and spills into my being, mimicking sexual attraction. It’s not, and I’ve felt it often enough to learn the difference. Still…it has incredible power, that fascination. Also, while this sobriquet refers to Terry, who would unwittingly become my mentor at KSU, it wasn’t so much a reference to how I reacted to him as it was a comment on my observation of other young ladies in that first discussion class.
I was too busy running my mouth, asking questions, and drinking in the answers like a woman dying of thirst. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, in all my travels, in all that I’d read. I’d never come across a way of knowing the world quite like this, and I was hooked. It was more seductive than heroine, more exhilarating than cocaine, with a keener high than cannabis. It was my New Drug, and I was a junky in earnest. Perhaps the sweetest thing about my habit is that it never quite fades away, there’s always a new beast on the market, some other variant, another aspect to explore, a researcher I’ve not read. And so the little girls swooned for Terry, and I frolicked with great abandon in this field of inquiry. I wandered hard.
The Problem With Quicksilver
There’s one drawback to having a non-directed fluency of the intellect. Much as with that beguiling metal, that beads and runs at room temperature, not only will it drive you insane and eventually kill you, but it goes where it will. Once you let it loose, it’s difficult to recapture. I forgot that it pays to plan at least a little. Following my passion has led me through graduate school and back again to the original point at which I began this segment–with people still saying the same things.
You’re such a talented writer. Why don’t you do something with it?
Perhaps because my writing has done something with me, I just don’t know it yet. I spent so long out in the world chasing my destiny to no avail that I got tired. I stopped being aggressive, and reclined into a Lotus Eater dream, where the passionate pursuit of thought became its own reason for being. Perhaps it’s time to switch on my radar once more, and move out into the world again. It isn’t as if I’ve been hiding away, but my gaze has been focused inward or upon some distant point only imagined, that lies hidden by the far horizon. I have been seeking an arrow I released years ago, but that pursuit has led me into strange country. Now, my eyes have focused, like a sleeper waking, and I realize I don’t recognize my surroundings at all.
Sometimes, the only way to get un-lost is to head out and call where you are your starting point, your Home.