They say there’s a season for everything.
A time to laugh, and a time to cry.
A time to be born, and a time to die.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh
A time to mourn, and a time to dance.*
In high school, it was a time of everything predictable. I’ve been around pretty much the same people since grade school. I knew the hallways as well as I knew my own home. I alternated between ordering the same three meals every day at lunch. It was a time when we were not-quite-kids and not-quite-adults. It may have had it’s confusions, but movies told us what to expect. It was a time of finding ourselves, a time for developing lifelong friendships, and a time for feeling things intensely, as if for the first time.
College, on the other hand, is a time of change. Nothing is the same anymore.
The hallways feel a million miles away from the halls of Holy Cross high school—cold and sterile. Lacking any sense of familiarity. With the exception of Dana, Nathan, and TJ, I haven’t spotted one familiar face. I may not have been friends with everyone at my old school, and it may have had it’s share of cliquey-ness and cattiness, but I could tell you the name of nearly every kid I passed in the hallways. These were kids that I went to school with from kindergarten to 12th grade. I knew what to expect. Now, it’s like a whole other culture.
On my first day here, I heard the F-Bomb dropped about ten times, in the presence of our professors. Sure, some of the students cursed at Holy Cross – that’s to be expected nearly everywhere. But never words like that, and never in the presence of teachers. If one of the adults at Holy Cross heard one of the students talking like that, they would have sent them on their way to the principal’s office in a second. The rules were strict and pretty obvious as to what you could-and-couldn’t get away with there.
Not to mention that there were about as many different kinds of lifestyles and beliefs among the students as there were students themselves. No longer were there moral absolutes – things that everyone knew to wrong. Things that were scandalous and gossiped about at Holy Cross were spoken about in broad daylight at Westside Oak. Nothing was off limits.
Perhaps the strangest thing was the student-teacher interactions. At Holy Cross, my teachers knew the name of every student in their classroom. They all shared a common faith and I could look to them not only as teachers – but as mentors and role models. Most of them were kind and seemed like they really wanted to be there, desiring to help each of us live up to our potential. As hardworking student who put her all into her work, I got along with nearly all of my teachers. Even instructors who taught subjects I struggled in were patient and happy to help me understand concepts that were difficult to me. Now, I’m lucky if my teachers even know my name.
One teacher in particular seems ready to stand in the face of all I believe in. My college english teacher asked on the first day who was Christian. Slowly but surely, I raised my hand, along with a handful of other students, uncertain of what she was doing.
“Alright.” She said, looking as if it was anything but alright. “You have your faith – that’s fine. But, in this class, I hope this won’t hinder you from being open minded to the reading material. We’re going to be reading a lot of different viewpoints. Not all of them will be consistent with fundamentalism. Most of them won’t be.”
Already uncomfortable with the way she was referring to my faith, I shifted in my seat, trying to figure out what she meant by that. She than went on to explain class procedure, as if to distract from that weird paragraph she just uttered. Finally, she handed us our first assignment – a short academic essay. My stomach churned as I read it – an explicit reflection an erotic encounter.
Was this really allowed in a classroom? Could they hand out something so full of filth to the students without any consequences? There was no way I would ever pick up something like this on my own, yet here I was, stuck reading it in school – of all places! I guess the shock on my face showed, as I stared blankly at the writing, because my teacher soon walked over to my desk.
“Ms. Bennett, are you doing alright there?”
I glanced up, trying to look less uncomfortable than I felt. I nodded my head quickly, hoping this moment would soon fade to the past. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Alright, I just want to make sure you can handle this class – that it’s not to hard for you.”
My face burned with frustration. Too hard for me? I was an AP student in my high school and made straight A’s in all four years of English! My dream was to become a journalist and write professionally. This was not “too hard” for me.
Although I suspected that she had a very different meaning in her words. It was a challenge; a dare.
A challenge I was willing to accept.
There’s no way I’m dropping there’s class now. I’m not going to prove my teacher right – that I can’t handle this. After all, I’ve always been a strong person. Right?
“No, it’s not too hard for me. I’m fine.”
I had just told my teacher that I could indeed handle this – no matter how horrible it may be. I told her I was strong enough to do it, even though it’s possible that my answer stemmed more from pride. I had made my declaration. I was strong and capable.
The only question was, did I believe it myself?