(written April 21, 2010)
I am doing a tentative happy dance this morning. Happy because I have finally, after 24 years, finished the coursework for my BA in English!!! Tentative because I still have to schedule and pass a French test to prove that I remember everything that I forgot from my classes over 20 years ago.
I will walk in the May 2 graduation. I am being coerced. Personally, I’d like to just skip to the party and dispense with the 2 ½ hour meditation in boredom. (Although it is tempting to go see Obama at the Ann Arbor graduation the day before. The problem is, that would require yet another vacation day stolen from my October sisters’ trip to Arizona or from the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Both of those are important to me this year. I will probably miss my big family reunion though. That is always a fun time.)
I am surprised at how much French I remember. I am much slower than I remember being with it before. I am still working on the specifics of verb conjugations, always the hardest thing to learn. For some odd reasons, I remembered almost all of the prepositions. Why is it that I can remember everywhere a rabbit can go, but not when it goes there. I can say the basic, present tense of go, so that is something anyway. I don’t know how to say rabbit though, so I can’t demonstrate here.
Part of me longs for my one very manic summer of twenty something years ago when I began to think in French. That is one of my most vivid memories from those days. Perhaps because I didn’t sleep much, it was like one long day instead of one short summer…
I was working full time on midnights at the local convenience store. I was working part time at the MSU Voice Library (awesome place- one of the largest in the country-but that’s another story), I was taking a playwriting class which was emotionally intense, and I was taking an intensive series of French classes, three hours per day five days per week plus homework and a daily journal. I would lunch on the lawn behind the student union, and regularly shared my raisins with a squirrel who always saw me coming. (I quit feeding him raisins from my hand when he got pissed one day when I didn’t bring him raisins, due to being out of them. He, lickety split, ran up my leg and grabbed my hand to look for raisins, and looked at me like I had dishonored the Queen!) I didn’t have a whole lot of time to sleep. So, at night before work, I’d take herbs to stay awake, and again in the morning before class. Break for lunch with the psychotic raisin addicted squirrel go to work for a few hours at the library go home take herbs to sleep for about 2 hours before work at the store. I took the couple of hours between lunch and work to do my homework (no computer in those days, so the green grass was my desk). On the nights that I didn’t work at the store, I’d usually go out dancing because I couldn’t sleep an;yway because I had gotten my body into this crazy no sleep pattern and my brain wouldn’t turn offffffffff! One day, during this manic frenzy, I was making chocolate chip cookies and listening to music really loud. I think it was classic rock because I remember that I was delighted when I realized that I was singing along in French, not in English and I hadn’t had to do any translating. I had begun to think in French!!! That was pretty amazing. I’m glad that I lived with very tolerant and patient friends that summer. My friend Sara and I still laugh about it. She still teases me about taking guarana and living not just a manic moment, but a whole summer of manic. I wrote a lot that summer. I laughed a lot that summer and I probably would have died very young had I kept up that pace. But, I did learn to think in French.
And now, I’m nervous about taking this test because I am nowhere near being able to think in French, except to tell you: in out between before after on under until because why...That’s not very substantial. That is very very small talk.
I am so grateful and feel so blessed to have such an amazing support system in my life. Without the support of those around me, I would never have gotten to this point. I would not have motivated myself to get back into the classroom and stimulate my brain that way. I have had some fantastic teachers as well. Those teachers have shown a dedicated passion and love of what they do, which in turn motivates me to love the subject as well. I have a pair of angels who have believed enough in me to lay out the funds that it has taken for me to finish school, so that the money that I earn has been able to go toward my regular household stuff. Thank you. You know who you are. I feel honored that you believe in me that way.
I wish my friend Ellen was still around to celebrate with me. She did hold out long enough to see me to the beginning of this last class. (I’ll write more about her in another post.)