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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
Real college begins 
Friday, June 20th, 2008 | 03:12 pm [college, personal]
Looking up and down the hallway at the old wooden classroom doors, the stuffed bulletin boards, the faded tile floor, I thought to myself that this was how I always imagined college looking. When I left my job at Pilot two years ago, it wasn’t to scale the dizzying heights of academic excellence available at Hagerstown Community College. It was to come here and study to be a teacher. HCC was a remarkable experience for me, with only my quality Clear Spring education to stand on. But being present in Knutti Hall at Shepherd University this morning felt like standing in the wings waiting to walk on stage. As of today, I’m a student in college. In real college.
Ashley and I were on campus today for my Advisement and Registration session. It’s a lengthy and multi-tiered process designed to acquaint new students like yours truly with the school, and get us registered for our classes and signed up for our student IDs and a bunch of other things that I could have done much more easily and efficiently on my own, but was not allowed to.  I’m guessing they used to do it that way, but too many people made mistakes or just wound up begging for help anyway, thus fucking the whole process up for the rest of us.
It wasn’t that bad, though. Shepherd is not Columbia University; it’s a small liberal arts college on the banks of the Potomac River, right across the bridge from here in West Virginia. Even so, these people have got their shit together. At HCC, they just let you waltz into the registrars office any old damn time you feel like it to sign up for classes or make changes to your program or talk to an advisor. You can even stroll up to the Learning Resource Center and take your placement tests whenever it suits you. Not so at Shepherd. Placement testing in August a week before the start of classes, I was told (I need to take one to determine proper placement in my Spanish courses). For advisement and registration, we were all herded into the student center and, following a lengthy and mostly pointless seminar upstairs that informed us how to log on to the college website and how to read our transcripts, dispatched to our respective departments all over campus. Since my bag is English Education, I was sent off to Knutti Hall.
It didn’t just remind me of how I’d envisioned college — but for the lack of lockers in the halls, it reminded me of how I pictured everyone else’s high school. The current incarnation of Clear Spring High School was built in the mid-1970s. It was a sprawling single story, and on that one story were precisely five hallways, though I think two of them were largely defined by the placement of portable chalkboards and partitions. It was an open school. There weren’t so much classrooms as class areas. In fact, except for my art classes and the history courses taught by Ashley’s dad, I don’t think any of my high school career was spent in a proper room with four walls and a door.
I always felt cheated that Clear Spring didn’t look like the schools I saw in The Wonder Years or The NeverEnding Story. Amplifying my disillusionment was the fact that the old high school had stood directly across from my house. Pap and I went inside it a few times before they tore it down. It had been abandoned for years, and vandalized. The classrooms were empty, the walls were sprayed over with graffiti and the ceilings were falling down, but it still gave me the idea of what a school was supposed to look like. Knutti Hall today was like that, like the old high school must have been in its heyday, with echoing corridors, and stairwells curling up from floor to floor.
After I had met with my advisor in Knutti and registered for my fall classes (which I was allowed to do unassisted in a computer lab in White Hall, and took about thirty seconds), Ashley took me to the library.  She showed me the chairs where she liked to sit and read when she was a Shepherd student. Things have changed around campus even in the three years since she graduated — the Nursing department’s new building is located right across from her old dorm, where there used to be a parking lot — but her big cushy chair in the library is still there, as is the “secret” back stairwell which lets you bypass the second floor lobby and enter right in the middle of the stacks.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, we had lunch at the Blue Moon Café, a little place right across the street from White Hall. It’s the sort of place I imagine more social students taking their Wi-Fi equipped laptops to hang out between classes. It’s also the perfect setting for live coffeehouse music and poetry readings — in fact, Ashley organized a poetry reading there for a class her last semester. She told me one guy was so nervous to get up and recite that his knees were literally knocking together. The poor bastard actually had to stop and whisper some kind of mantra to calm himself, although Ashley said it didn’t seem to do him much good.
I feel good about today. I see real opportunities opening up in the next few years. There’s a real student newspaper at Shepherd, though I’m not sure how good a journalist I’d be, and a campus radio station that might be fun, assuming I can weasel my way in. And for what seems like the millionth time, I feel truly fortunate to have waited as long as I did. Yeah, it is a pain in the ass in many respects to be going to college at age 28, when I’d be a few years into my career by now if I’d gone right out of high school. But being older, being here by choice rather than by momentum, and being able to remember what it’s like to work a joyless job for a tiny paycheck allow me to feel something that I think escapes a lot of the guys and girls who come to college right out of high school. It’s gratitude I feel most of all, gratitude for the chance to go to school, to study and improve myself and make a better life.
God, that sounds fucking corny and naïve. But it’s true. I’m right where I want to be.
Saturday, June 21st, 2008 | 07:36 pm (UTC)
I graduated in 2001 from college and didn't start my teaching as a career until I was 27. One of the things I regret about my education is that now that I am older I appreciate getting the education. Many people who do go to college right out of high school are often times too immature to appreciate it. I was, and I would think you would be too.
Sunday, June 22nd, 2008 | 03:22 am (UTC)
You're totally right. I started college right out of high school, and quit after about six months because I had absolutely no passion for it. I didn't see the point, I was bored by the whole thing, I hated it. Part of it was that I was in a business program instead of something which I really enjoyed, most of it was that I was 18 and didn't know a fucking thing.

I don't think I could have started college this time around any sooner than I did. I had to get to the end of my rope with work, and get to a point where I could appreciate how far I had to go, and how much an education would do for me. It was totally a maturity issue. Now that I'm in college, I finally feel like a real grown-up.
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