As I write this, I’m sitting in the classroom where I first read about Romeo and Juliet and Miss Havisham: my 9th grade English classroom. A new teacher came into this room the next year, and while the teacher’s desk is now in the back corner as opposed to the front center, while the desks are now facing the back of the room as opposed to the front, and the blackboard has since been replaced by a white board, this room is still familiar. The same sickly green paint typically reserved for hospital rooms covers the walls, and the view out the window hasn’t changed (aside from the house across the street that burned to the ground and was rebuilt). I can quite acurately walk to the spot in this room where I sat and read Great Expectations. I can see the spot where the new girl was sitting in study hall when I wrote her a note welcoming her so that she would feel more comfortable here. She looked nervous. Where I sit right now is very near the area where I would rest my head against the side board during 9th period and wait for the day to be over.
I wasn’t a stellar student in 9th grade. I could have had amazing grades if I had just tried a little bit, but I didn’t really care. My attitude toward academics would change in a few months, but I was a much different person in 1997-98. Once the fog lifted off of 7th and 8th grade, arguably the worst two consecutive years of my life, I was actually relatively happy. In truth, I had just as much of a love-hate relationship with myself in 9th grade as I did 10 years later with the 9th graders I was teaching. But in my mind, it is always springtime when I think about 9th grade. Everything seemed just on the verge of happening: softball season would be starting, school would be over soon, summer league would start up, I would finally be done struggling my way through biology with a teacher who seemed to hate me for reasons unknown. Junior high would be over and high school would be starting. More importantly, I was making new friends, coming out of my shell a bit. New friendships are fabulous because there’s always that sense of, well, newness.
In the coming years, some of those new friendships (and some old ones as well) would wear me down, and everything I had wanted to do with my life would get lost or muddled. In fact, out of everything I had wanted to do with my life when I was in 9th grade, going to college to become a teacher is the only thing thus far that I have accomplished.
Why? Well, for starters, I lost sight of my goals. I forgot entirely about having them. I’ve been realizing lately, however, that goals are crucial, and it got me thinking about what I wanted to do with my life because I’ve grown tired of living it for other people. I, quite literally, probably have not had goals in place for myself (at least not serious ones) since I was in 9th grade. I’ve been doing things that people expected of me and things that would please other people. It’s not that I haven’t been doing anything that I actually enjoy — I have — but more so that I would focus so intently on one thing that I would let everything else go.
So twelve years later, I’m back in this room (even if just for today), and I’m back to having a list of wants, in no particular order.
1. I want to write. In the last two weeks, I’ve gotten some strange looks from people when I mention that I’ve been writing more lately and that I’ve started blogging again because it gets me writing, even if it’s not always my best work. It’s good practice. Writing more was my belated New Year’s Resolution. With this goal of writing, I want to finish my novel. I will finish my novel. It won’t be the last I write either (NaNoWriMo 2010, I’m looking at you).
2. I want to publish something. This doesn’t necessarily mean I want to publish my novel, but I would like to have something published. At the very least, I intend to try.
3. I want to get involved with something again. Whether it’s going to trivia regularly or finding a book group to join or even just spending time with friends, I want to DO something that gets me a life outside of the house.
4. I want to read more. This sounds silly because I already read so much, but I don’t think it’s possible to read too much. I want a vast array of literature to affect how I see the world even more than it already does. I like to read because it makes me think, and I like to think.
5. I want to continue my education. This doesn’t mean that I feel the need to go out and put myself through a Ph.D program. I know I could do it, but I have no use for a Ph.D. This could, however, involve a second Master’s degree at some point. It could also involve no more degrees. There are plenty of ways to continue learning without being in school.
I could continue with this list, which also includes other points, some of which are a bit more obvious and universal — having my own family, traveling more, having a successful career. These are five for now, though. They are somewhat consistent with 9th Grade Me — the writing parts, mostly — but they’re just different enough to make me certain that I’ve grown (and grown up) and while I sometimes still feel like an educational fraud, I’ve learned and will continue to do so.
I’m going places.