24 May 2010

The Homestretch, If Not a Homecoming

Now it's the last week of the semester. Two of my classes had their final exams; one more will have theirs tomorrow.  And now I have a new pile of essays that will grow.  Somehow, they'll all get read and the students will get their grades.  A few of them will graduate at the end of this week; another few will transfer to other schools; a few more will drop out or leave temporarily and a whole bunch more will be back next semester.

The ones who are graduating, or leaving in one way or another, I envy somewhat.  Some, I know, have uncertain futures:  The job market isn't too promising for them, at least right now.  Eventually, they'll find their way.  I think of myself when I graduated.  This year is one of those "milestone" anniversaries.  My college is having a reunion: I was tempted, for a moment, to go to it.  But then I realized that any desire I had to attend was motivated by the same thing that would motivate most of my classmates to talk to me, if they were so inclined:  curiosity.  I'm not talking about the scientific kind; rather, I'm thinking of possibly-salacious desire to find out information that confirms the suspicions, fears and fantasies that someone has about someone else.  Really, why else would some of them want to see me after not seeing me since we graduated?

Plus, my undergraduate years were by far the unhappiest ones of my life.  My high-school years were pretty bad, but somehow I felt the burden of expectations that I would be, or pretend to be, someone I wasn't in order to "fit in."  

After my experiences, I wonder how some of my students will or won't change in the next five, ten or twenty years.  How many of their changes will come by choice, and how many will be borne of necessity?  And how many will have been coerced?    And how many of them will realize that how much the directions of their lives are determined by a couple of or a few moments--or, more precisely, the decisions and choices they make in those moments?

Whatever the answers are, they're coming more quickly than most students--or people generally--realize.