Too Much Alone, Yet Not Alone

Too Much Alone, Yet Not Alone

The title, words to Rainier Maria Rilke’s poem, came up coincidentally in my news feed today as I was writing this blog post.  The poem, (Read it here if you like) is about loneliness and the difficulty of getting what we want, whatever that might be.  In my case, what I want is a college degree, and when push comes to shove, I alone am the only one who can do this.

I have to admit – When it comes to anything school related, I really haven’t done anything alone since 5th grade. That was when I met my first and best friend Tami. Up until then, I’d been a wallflower, and watcher …second guessing everything I did. Once I met Tami though, my life was never to be the same. For one thing, I never had to do anything alone anymore, she and I did everything together – I mean EVERYTHING. We sat together in class – giggling at anything and everything, we played handball together at recess, we walked to school together, we even wore matching dresses! When we got to high school, we went so far as to chose classes together. When I was with her, I was confident. So you can see that now, 40 some years later, when it came time for me to not only choose classes, but to walk into and sit down alone in those classes, I felt a little lost.

As I left my house the morning of my first college class and headed to work, I must have been a little scattered, because I didn’t realize until I was over halfway there that I’d forgotten my phone.  Gah! Disconnected from the world on this of all days! Talk about being alone! When it finally came time to go to class, I left my office a full hour ahead of time – allowing for traffic, parking, construction, trains, mechanical problems, natural disasters, hailing kittens… OK it truly only takes 15 minutes to get anywhere in my little burgh, so yes, I was overcompensating.

As it turned out, I was able to park right next to the Center for Business, and I arrived a full 45 minutes early.  This gave me time to scope out the entire building, pee – twice, and practice some freewriting in my college-ruled notebook. As I looked around the commons where we “students” had gathered, I was horror struck! I noticed that I was a little, no – a LOT out of place. OK age notwithstanding, I was wearing pretty much the right uniform… jeans, sandals, tee-shirt/button down combo, but I had absolutely the WRONG accessories and therefore, stuck out like a sore thumb! Glaringly, I had no phone to stare at, but to add insult to injury, I was also carrying a purse, and a notebook, with a pen for heaven’s sake! AND (gasp) worst of all, I had no backpack! If I’d had Tami with me, this faux pas would have never happened!

Inside the lecture hall, things didn’t get any better. Looking like some kind of teacher, or maybe an auditor, or a narc (do the kids still use that word?) I sat in the upper back left side, which gave me a commanding view of the enemy… er um, classroom, which in hindsight, only made me look more aloof, and out of place. Calm down, I thought to myself. You’ve been in situations more stressful than this hundreds of times. Sit up straight. Make eye contact with the professor. Speak up clearly when called on – after all this IS a Speech and Communications class. Piece of cake.    ….WRONG!

Too late I realized that my clear and audible voice had caused my fellow students to eye me with suspicion. As I watched them, I realized that the correct greeting in this habitat is from a seated slumped position, head pointed toward navel, and using as little inflection as possible, whisper your name, and mumble something – it doesn’t matter what – but always end your sentence one of two ways – either as if it is a question, or with a nervous laugh. The more I watched this, the more I wished my best friend Tami was once more sitting beside me so I could glance sidelong at her and giggle. This caused me to slump down in my seat in an effort to muffle my now uncontrollable laughter. Eventually, a derisive ‘ha!’ did slip out, which, if I’m not mistaken had the effect of drawing me closer to the native speakers. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone.

Maybe I can do this after all!


1 Comment

  • Posted August 27, 2014 1:23 pm 0Likes
    by Max

    Linda – I’m always in awe of you and your willingness to put yourself in uncomfortable situations. You have a special perspective to bring to the class and don’t forget that. While the ‘traditional’ students may not acknowledge your enthusiasm during their navel staring time, they are listening and absorbing in their own way. While I’d never admit to quoting Ashton Kutcher, I do love this quote: “As long as you’re uncomfortable, it means you’re growing.”

    Grow away girl! You’re going to be awesome!

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