Few things in life are as subtly disappointing as the first day of school.
From elementary school to graduate school, I have always approached the first day of school with the greatest of intentions. The night before school starts I am eager with the hope and promise of new courses, professors and classmates. As I lay in bed I feel comfortable knowing that my backpack is replenished with an arsenal of fresh pens, highlighters and notebooks. There’s an appropriately packed lunch in the fridge and my outfit is next to my bed. I am a maven of preparation, an archetype of organization. At the gentle hour of 9:30 p.m. I slide into an agreeable slumber and wonder why I ever wanted school to end in the first place.
The buzzing of my alarm at an unfamiliar hour the next morning serves as the first reminder. Despite being awake as such an uncomfortable time, I remain confident that I’ll get used to it as the quarter goes on. I delightfully rip the tags off my new clothes, dress up, grab my lunch and float off to my first class.
When I walk into class I begin my initial evaluations. I predict who the classic over talker, know-it-all will be. I identify the silent and questionably dangerous one, the smelly kid (generally the easiest task, for obvious reasons) and, perhaps most importantly, the one who I will wind up wanting to punch in the neck. My ocular radar has a 46% success rate so I sit as far from everyone as possible anyway, just to be safe.
After a couple minutes of awkward small talk and forgettable introductions the professor enters and forces us to tell our life stories for the class. My introduction speech goes a little something like this: “Hello everyone, I am Chelsea Parks. I’m from Baltimore, Maryland…well, not the Baltimore you see in “The Wire”, it’s a suburb of Baltimore, but I just say Baltimore so that people can get an idea of where I’m from. I’m not ghetto and I don’t kill people, I promise. Seriously, I’ve never killed anyone. I also have three dachshunds.”
The class looks at me uncomfortably. Because of my speech impediment about half of what I said was understood, which works on my favor. The professor waves me off nonchalantly and starts combing through the syllabus. As I review the assignments I seriously think to myself, “I’m going to dominate the shit out of this quarter.” I’m going to do my reading ahead of time, hell, I’ll even take notes and organize them alphabetically in a glass container protected by rottweilers. No more all-nighters and coffee binges, nope, not this quarter.
As the weeks pass on and the workload increases, my green hopefulness proves to be ephemeral. Any and all reading assignments are pushed back until they are eventually abandoned. I quickly begin consuming coffee as quickly and as rapidly as a pterodactyl masticating a pile of fresh meat. Lunches goes from well-rounded food pyramid homages to naked pieces of dry wheat bread (which have been separated from their moldy counterparts) and cough drops. The 9:30 p.m. bed time soon becomes dinner time and sleep becomes something enjoyed in sets of four to six hours. Outfits that were once planned ahead and politely ironed soon come from my dirty laundry bin and start to liken themselves to an ensemble a homeless person and/or Mary-Kate Olsen would wear. I slowly and methodically morph into a grosser, bigger asshole than I started out as.
This past Monday was my “last” first day of school (barring I don’t fail any classes this quarter or suddenly pick up the urge to become an occupational therapist in a couple of years) so I was understandably sensitive about promising myself the world. That’s why I decided to do something incredibly difficult for a neurotic, anxiety prone control freak such as myself. I decided that I will approach this quarter one day at a time. I will do all that I can to avoid over analyzing the raison d’être. I’m not going to think past the pack of Big Red I’m eating by the piece or the Ke$ha music video I’m unashamedly watching instead of finishing this post. I’ve spent every quarter at SCAD being worried about the future and things I can’t control and I’ve only ended up a cracked out, generally miserable human being, which is no way for a gal to live.
This quarter I’m going to focus on finding a job, doing work that I’m proud of and finishing that Jumbo Bag of Pretzel M&M’s. Some will happen sooner than others (I’ll be done with those M&M’s in about an hour) but I have to trust that they’ll all happen eventually. If I don’t I have no doubt that I’ll end up like Ichabod Crane: old, alone and unaware of how horrible my top hat looks on me.