Hello and Happy New Year!
Another year has rolled by once again and yet here I am, unchanged; the same pessimistic grump yearning for a purpose or passion (that can actually make money, otherwise I would have settled for professional dog petter or beach bum by now), for the millionth time since my arrival on planet Earth. Today was my second day of classes and as usual, I’m less than enthused. I always thought it was kind of normal to start the semester and think “meh, my classes suck but this is as good as it’s gonna get,” but today that sense of comfort and commonality among my peers was sadly taken away from me.
I’m in my first third year class ever, EEEKK, and it’s an English course on James Joyce’s Ulysses. Now, either you’ve read this book and you’re thinking ‘oh god, good luck!’ Or, you have been blissfully unaware of its existence. If you’re the latter, then consider yourself lucky. Just kidding, I haven’t even read what it’s about yet, so my opinion is irrelevant. However, from what my professor said, this book is a little impossible and makes people crazy trying to figure it out. He, himself, claims to still struggle with it to this day, so that’s mildly concerning for my own success with the book. He’s a really great professor, at least so far, and asks big philosophical questions that are very intriguing and has a witty, dry sense of humour that makes his class a nice mixture of interesting and funny. He may be one of the better professors I’ve had, but we’ll see if that changes as the terms go on.
All was good and well until he decided to go around the class of roughly 50 people and ask why they chose to sign up for this course. First, my anxiety shot through the roof; I hate talking in front of a group, especially about my own opinion. Secondly, the only real reason I took this course was because I needed a third year English course and quite frankly, this was the only one without a huge waitlist that I could actually get into… I obviously wasn’t going to say that out loud. Thankfully, I was at the back of the room and got to listen to everyone else’s reasons before stating my own. Unthankfully, it seemed every single person (other than two guys who admitted to registering just because it fit nicely in their timetables) had a real, GENUINE interest in the work being studied in the class. I’m telling you, it was genuine. They all had different approaches and angles of why this book interested them, how they had tried to tackle it on their own previously but found it so challenging they wanted to study it in a course, or how they enjoyed James Joyce’s other works and were excited to try this one…. HA. I’m going to be honest as heck here and tell you that I had never heard of James Joyce before in my LIFE. Is that bad?? I’m guessing this is a super classic, if-you’re-an-English-major-then-it’s-a-definite-must-read kind of book. That’s how all my classmates made it seem, at least. So when it came to my turn I just bounced off what another girl said, lying about how this book is one that I’ve always felt I should read, but wouldn’t really do on my own. That’s some pure BS if I’ve ever heard it. I don’t know the first thing about the author or the book, and honestly don’t really care.
That being said, I guess now that I’m in the class I’m interested to see what all this fuss is about. I’ll let you know later how I find this apparently brilliant novel. Is it even a novel? I really don’t know what I’m getting myself into. To make matters worse, we have to LEAD DISCUSSION as part of the course syllabus. I read that and my anxiety-ridden and socially inept heart sank. My first thought is always, “okay, I’ll just drop the class then. Whatever.” But that isn’t an option this time. I NEED a third year English and this is the only one I could get into. Some may be thinking “wow, that’s great. It’ll force you out of your comfort zone!!!!” Which is true. And once it’s over I’ll probably be happy I pushed through it. But I will have anxiety attacks for a week leading up to it, and that’s not so fun nor great for my mental health, now is it?! Where is the line between taking care of your mental health and stepping out of your comfort zone??! I will attempt to find it this term. But can we just talk about LEADING DISCUSSION?! What on Earth does that even MEAN?! I can’t lead a regular, day-to-day discussion to save my life, let alone one about some classic literature that will be a struggle to understand in the first place. I’m already terrified. But I’m stuck now so let’s hope it will be the good kind of stepping out of my comfort zone and not the kind that will send me into cardiac arrest. (Keep your phones nearby on the morning of February 6th, mom and dad.. You may receive an emergency call when my heart stops and I end up in the hospital)
Anyway, the point of all this is to say that I am a fake. I am betraying and disappointing English majors all around the world. They seem like such nice people, people who genuinely share an interest in reading painfully long and difficult works of literature who are able to find so much meaning and value in it. I, myself, am merely a phony. An English major wannabe, some may say. I am living my life as an English major, with no major interest in English literature. And it never truly felt wrong until today when I saw how interested a young group of people truly were in their English studies. I felt both jealousy and disappointment. Jealousy, because I wish I were as passionate and intrigued by a scholarly subject as my classmates. Disappointment, because I really thought me and my English majors were in this together as a bunch of people who don’t genuinely get excited about literature but maybe sometimes just pretend… My people have let me down. I thought we were all phonies, faking our way to a degree. I thought I was just a little phony in a sea overflowing with them. Turns out, I am alone. The only time I felt a true connection to a work I had to study in English comes from Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The line goes, “alone, alone, all all alone. Alone on the deep blue sea.” That line really stuck with me through my lonely days back at U of C, and now it has come back to haunt me as I am surrounded by fellow English majors, but feel more alone and outcasted than ever.
It’s a difficult world we live in.
My next post will be about retirement- something I’ve been looking forward to for ages now! Ciao!
PS. I promise I’m really not this negative and awful. It just makes my small daily trials a little funnier when I make them out to be major misfortunes. Just trying to laugh my way through life!!! It’s fun to make fun of yourself!! Buenos Días!