Friday, October 26, 2007

A Terrible Mistake, A Toothache, and a Trip Down Memory Lane

What a great way to start the day...

Last night, during conferences, I remembered at 7:30 that a very important person on my List of People to Notify about No Choir Rehearsal did not get called. I was in the middle of conferences at that time, and by the time conferences ended, figured I'd have to find out what happened later.

Well, I found out first thing this morning when I got my e-mail.

You know that feeling you get when you do something really stupid and put someone through a ridiculously unnecessary amount of time-wasting and stress?

Well, whether you know it or not, there was that feeling.

And what can you do, other than apologize and try to do better in the future, and work really hard to make sure the stressed party knows you are sorry... and so on. It's just an awful position to be in, especially when you know it's all your own stupid fault you're there.

And my tooth, which has gone from a Saturday Night Pain to a daily visitation, decided to kick in early today. But it's payday today, so I decided to see a dentist as soon as I could after school.

So I call one dentist office, and the receptionist tells me they don't have any openings for over a week, but I should call her dentist. So I do.

I get an appointment for 3:15, but in the course of calling, I realized a few things.

First, I realized that the dentist must be in Liberty, because I recognize the prefix from my college years. (In the late 80s and early 90s, Liberty had two prefixes: 781 and 792. Oh, the worthless things we remember.)

Second, I realized I somehow had failed to realize this before I call.

And, most importantly, I realized that some part of me didn't want to go to Liberty.

Part of me thought this was due to the fact that my "once I had this friend who came to the emergency room in tears when she thought I was about to die, and now I have this former friend who would probably show up just to make sure I did die..." lives in Liberty.

And that probably is part of it.

But then I thought, "Hey, it's the middle of the day, I can go hang out up at Jewell and catch up with the theatre department and all that."

It wasn't until I was cresting the hill of the road I used to take to the college (I always forget that road doesn't go up onto the campus any more) that I realized I had another reason for Liberty-avoidance.

I don't like going to Jewell when my life is crap.

I had that feeling that there was something left on pause at Jewell, which I always get when I head that way, and I struggle to figure out what it was. It's almost like I feel I didn't pursue my dreams because there was something I meant to do at Jewell before I left, and if I could only remember what it was and FINISH it, I could have the life I meant to have. Only not, because it doesn't work that way. But you get the idea. Or a vague idea of it, anyway.

Also, going to Jewell when my life is crap is about five times more likely to make me pine for the days when life was so much easier, and I was innocent enough to not realize how easy life was. So I pine with a desire to have it back as long as I get to keep the knowledge that life was so much easier then.

I got to the campus, and first thing, I couldn't find a spot to park. I finally found a spot near the football field, behind Brown Hall (where I spent a lot of time, as it contained the theatre, the newspaper office, and... well, the theatre). I walked in the bottom entrance, and right there I saw one of the green-cushioned benches that have been in Brown Hall since before my time.

Hello, Memory Lane.

But, I walk into the newspaper office, and things look different enough to make my brain throw up an overlay of what that office used to look like.

And I guess that's where some good stuff started happening. Because I think that started a slow process of me putting an overlay of my life onto what my life was, instead of putting an overlay of my life onto what I wish I would have manged to have. Does that make sense?

Anyway, it didn't happen immediately, but I think the process started there.

Then I went back out of the newspaper office, noticed the old "computer lab" was now a "debate lounge", and headed for the stairwell.

They have done very little to that stairwell. Okay, they have done extremely little to it. It's exactly the same, that's what I'm trying to say here.

And what's more, the art department hallway, which you have to walk through on the next level to get to the theatre stairwell, is pretty much exactly as it was my last year or so at Jewell (the "or so" including when I lived in Liberty for a year or so after college).

So I began to get nervous, thinking when I walk in the theatre office (which was honestly my home for most of my five years at Jewell), I was going to have a nervous breakdown. And I almost did, but for a different reason.

But before I get to that, I have to say the stairwell up to the theatre level is exactly the same as it was in 1985. Right down to the scuff marks on the steps.

I walked into the theatre office to see a bunch of people who are probably 20 years younger than me doing what I and my classmates did in the late 80s: hanging out in the theatre office.

I didn't notice how there weren't any big desks in the room, but instead said, "Is Kim or Nathan around?"

Some young lady was nice enough to tell me their office is down the hall and to the right.

Wow. Major deal. Seriously. Kim always had an office surrounded by all of the college theatre freaks having conversations and generally being college folk. So strange. And plus, those offices they've moved to were the Psychology Department offices!

Not that it means anything; it's just things aren't supposed to change that much, right?

So I stopped by Kim's office, and he was chatting with a student. I apologized for interrupting, but told Kim things shouldn't change ever, and that when he was done I'd be hanging around if he had time to talk. There was a hug in there somewhere, too, of course.

Nathan was in his office, but only to stop by to pick something up, I guess, for the class he was in the middle of. He told me he'd come back in a bit and show me the new theatre look. And later he showed me.

But first, we stopped back by the theatre office, now the communication/theatre lounge. He introduced me to the students, mentioned they've probably seen my name on a plaque or program or two, and then asked me if I'd been at Jewell when the renovated Brown from a gym to the building it was now. I told him I started a few years later, and to clarify how long after (since I don't remember when they did that renovation), I said I started in 1985.

To which the young woman who directed me to the offices said, "I wasn't even born then."

To which I said, "If you want me to leave, you can just ask me to."

For fun.

Then Nathan took me into the theatre.

Again, things are changing.

It looks really good, and I'm glad nobody will get the joy of smashing their finger with those crazy heavy seat platforms when converting from proscenium to thrust layout. But it was wild. The green was gone (or had become red), and there was more of it.

I would have loved to have seen the shop and all the tech areas, but I don't think my heart could have taken it. By this time I was doing way too much "remember what was here before; now place it over what you see now".

I got a chance to talk to Kim shortly after that. I didn't realize how much I missed talking to Kim until I saw him.

At one point, he pointed to his wall that is a sort of homage to our 1986 production of "Marat/Sade" and told me some kids were looking at the pictures and asking the date of that production. When he told them, they said they hadn't even been born. I cringed again.

Kim told me that the age we are there in those pictures is how he always thinks of us.

Yeah, guess what: Most times it's how I think of me, too.

I'll always be 20. Kim will always be 40. Except for when I'm even younger, or slightly older. But basically, I feel about 20.

I guess a lot of my figuring out who I am happened in college. I don't know how to explain it. What makes it especially difficult is I'm not sure I've figured out who I am, even twenty years later.

Apparently not having enough overlay going on in my brain, I decided to go see Lois Anne, Kim's wife and the newspaper advisor, who now has an office over in Curry Library.

She wasn't in, so I left a note. Then I decided to go to Jewell Hall to take a picture of the view from the hill (see STILL:Life for that one), but before I got there, Dr. Geilker passed me, and I said, "Hello, Dr. Geilker," just like it was 1990 or something, and walked on by.

It hit me that while I have this story I love to tell about a day in Dr. Geilker's class, and while he's a main character in it, I've never really gotten his take on it.

It was my 5th year. Fall, I believe. Yes, it was the autumn of 1989. I had gone to Jewell for four years and three summers prior to this, but still I didn't have all the credits I needed for my teaching certificate (in fact, I went back to Jewell to get the certificate when I realized the summer before that I wouldn't be able to get a great job with just a Communications degree... and while I was there, I finished my theatre emphasis).

I had given up on the English part of my degree (I had started as a triple major: Communication with Emphasis in Theatre, English, and Education... the idea being I could teach speech, theatre and English to high school students--and here I am today, teaching math to 7th grade kids. Go ahead! Make plans! Life's just gonna do what it wants anyway!) early on in my college career. It wasn't until the beginning of my senior year that I found out I took the wrong science class (or something like that) and couldn't get my teaching certificate. Then I got a bad grade in Theatre History, and dropped the Theatre Emphasis. So I got my diploma with just a Communication degree. B.A., no emphasis.

So, when I went back for the teaching certificate, I had to take Physics, some sort of Poli Sci class, and some other class the nature of which is currently escaping me. And I took Theatre History to get that emphasis I so wanted. I had student teaching and all that to deal with second semester.

Now, to understand this tale, you need to know a few things. First, my older brother Todd was always having me read things that were beyond my grade level. And one day I either picked up one of his books or he had me read it, and this whole book was a sort of "FAQ of Science" for older kids.

The question was: "What would happen if the earth suddenly stopped spinning?"

The first few sentences of the answer explained that if the earth suddenly stopped spinning, we'd all be thrown off.

I didn't read any further. I used this information to piece together that gravity happened because the earth was spinning.

I obviously didn't do much to analyze this theory. And it was never challenged, because I didn't take physics in high school. I mean, once you have a theory about why gravity happens, all you really care about is that it DOES happen. You don't think about the why.

That is, until Dr. Geilker says, "Gravity is a force. We don't know why it happens, but it does."

I was sitting in the front row. Pretty much everyone in the class was a freshman. I very calmly (not) yelled, "No way! Seriously? Gravity just HAPPENS?"

Nobody knew that I was dealing with a little cognitive dissonance. Nobody knew that in my mind I was having to rearrange stuff I hadn't thought about for years.In fact, I have often wondered if Dr. Geilker thought I was pulling his leg, since my reaction to learning that gravity is just a force was so huge.

And you know most of the people in there thought I was an idiot. I don't blame them.

But I had a huge reaction to this news. A really inappropriately huge reaction. And I still laugh remembering it, and imagining what I must have seemed like to all the people around me who knew for years that gravity just happens.

So I turned and saw that he had gone into Curry. I followed him in and introduced myself. He seemed to remember me (not that I think he has no memory, it's just as a teacher I know how hard it is to remember former students, and also I only had the one class with him) and I told him the story. His take on it (at least his take now--I'm fairly sure he doesn't even remember that day in class, because to him it would have just been a normal day made slightly odd by the strange guy in the front row) was to tell me that in his astronomy class he spends the first few weeks going over the history of astronomy, and how for centuries we viewed the universe as earth-centered, and he always ends up with students telling people at the end of the semester that Dr. Geilker teaches that the sun goes around the earth.

So I think he was telling me that I could have been a lot dumber.

Anyway, that over, I went back to take my picture from the front of Jewell Hall, then I visited the Union, which is massively different now, and then I checked to see if Lois Anne was back in her office, and then I left the campus.

I did drive by all my old apartments. That was odd, too.

Here's what I figured out: I may not have done all I wished I could have done, but I'm not dead yet, and I'm doing well enough.

To which Jhoneric said when I called him later, "Oh yeah, you got to work at kinko's, and..."

Shut up.

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