Like stepping into a dream, my life changed this week. I know that one day merely walking on campus won’t make me cry, but that day was not today. My sense of good fortune is visceral and commanding. People say my choice inspires them, that returning to school at my age is courageous, and that they are glad it is me and not them.
Each morning I am greeted by this paddling of ducks, eager to get close, optimistic for what I imagine is food, willing to swim upstream, navigating the small, but strong waterfall in distinct ways, the A-types flying over it in that aeronautically challenged way ducks fly, all flapping and careening with webbed feet dangling, and the creative types using the eddy of the waterfall to propel them sideways with the proper amount of force, gracefully launching them onto the rock they easily walk across to access the upper pool. I have nothing for them but do enjoy the show. Among these ducks there are more creatives than A-types, a fact that comforts me as I finish my first week of college.
My first day was alternately exciting and terrifying, and utterly exhausting, climbing a
dozen flights of stairs and walking miles with a heavy backpack, digesting stacks of reading material, working out strategies for remembering assignments, and playing the repeating icebreaker games, remembering names, conjuring that single word that describes me or the animal I resemble most. By the third class, the only word I could think of to describe myself was “crazy”, crazy to have thought college in my fifth decade was a good idea, crazy to have imagined I have the juice for such an ambitious endeavor. My colleagues agreed that the more correct word was “adventurous” in that way good collaborators do when they sense you are down, but not yet out.
Most surprising were my classmates, an awakened group of young people who seem enthusiastic and thoughtful, unexpectedly willing to work with someone who may remind them of their grandmothers, and resolutely unwilling to be identified by gender, race, or preferences. To the extent they have freed themselves of the shackles of limiting pronouns, they seem to have acquired boundless energy reserves to be who they are. I remember wanting to be so authentic, and also wanting to fit in, and ultimately exhausting myself seeking approval. Times have changed and the future looks bright, and it is deeply inspiring to move among these change makers in this dreamscape.