Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I've Come a Long Way, Baby

Today— merely random thoughts.

I completed my fall term with pride, felt I turned in some really thoughtful, engaged, mature work, and I guess my professors concurred with me. I worked very hard. One told me that I’ve come a long way, and those words reverberated in me. I’ve come a long way. I think that, in my realm, this is one of the most momentous things someone can say about me.

I’ve come a long way. I remember being a kid who felt “different,” my ex-farm-worker father and heavily accented German mother didn’t make fitting into elementary school—or the general neighborhood—in the white-bread 60s, very easy. My parents paid for everything with cash only, hence, we didn’t have much materially. Or, we didn’t think we had much because it didn’t measure up to the accoutrements that can be accrued on credit. I felt so different … wished to feel so “same.”

I’ve come a long way. The kids used to have a hey-day with my clothes. I wore clothes that my grandmother sent from Germany: orange, suede shoes, little blouses with hedgehogs or lady bugs all over them (for some reason these are popular creatures on children’s clothes in Germany). Sometimes I was indulged and I’d talk my mother into a brightly-embroidered peasant blouse hanging from a booth at Olvera Street in Los Angeles. My clothes left my classmates anything but speechless. I’d dress in the morning feeling so pretty, and return home in the afternoon ashamed at my missteps. Whether it was the home-made liverwurst sandwiches, or the thickness of my pink, cat-eye glasses, I had a lot to overcome.

I’ve come a long way. I’ve learned to listen. As a kid primed to shamelessly revise myself, I was a reactive creature. Always looking for the way in, a proverbial chameleon that soon developed an instinctive barometer for adaptation. This conditions the act of listening to a self-oriented art. How can I fit in? How can I succeed? How can I gain entry? How will they accept me? For years, when I tuned into people, I invested myself in what they were saying in relation to my awareness of myself. But lately I find myself divested of any personal stake. I have learned to listen with an open mind. I hear the Other (CHS speak), and I open myself to the space that neither of us can adequately define.

I’ve come a long way. After 20+ years of feeling an intense pang when I would think of my missed college education, I’m very nearly done. I never thought I’d make it, let alone take to the process like a bird dog to water. I’ve run my own rigid gauntlet, stayed 4.0 only because I wanted to prove to myself that I could earn it. I used to think a degree proved nothing, and I wasn’t entirely wrong. Learning is what you make of it. I’ve seen more students fake their way through the process than not. The "degree" is the goal, the thing that is supposed to say something about you. I can’t buy into that—and an English Literature & Writing degree rarely buys anyone a ticket to “success” because they have one. It's the process. When you're there for anything else, it becomes a dog and pony show, rather than an introspective, mind-expanding endeavor.

It’s the way of thinking that you learn with a liberal arts education. The way you recognize how easy it is to be fallible, illogical, reductionistic, or dangerously idealistic. Critical thought is a gift. When you develop it, life takes on another dimension, like the difference between walking and ice skating, or roller blading. Our feet propel us forward, it’s true, but the blades or rollers make movement so much more dynamic, so much more artful.

Yup, I feel today, like I’ve come a long way.


At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've worked hard for it -Cheers! Hugs, Sandy

At 12:56 AM, Blogger Pamela said...

Thanks Sandy! I love it that you still check in with me.

At 3:55 PM, Blogger johnmclain said...

I continue to recall fond memories of the class with Meg in which we started our own blogs. Your writing is a pleasure to read and I find myself captivated by your life's little stories in each posting. Thanks for sharing while to continue on your way.

John McLain


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