Thursday, April 24, 2008

Blister in the Sun

True change begins when we can reshape the horrendous attitudes possessed by some of our youth, and of course that's a direct reflection of the parents in most cases.

I caught a few minutes of Bridge to Terabithia tonight and I can honestly say it reminded me of the attitudes of many Americans, especially voters.

In other words, one particular kid in the classroom annoyed the hell out of me.
Leslie Burke: What if you don't have a TV?

All: [laughing]

Leslie Burke: My dad says that TV destroys brain cells.

Scott Hoager: Your dad doesn't know anything. We watch TV like every day!

Leslie Burke: I rest my case.

Mrs. Myers: Well then Leslie, you could write a report on something else.

Scott Hoager: Yeah, like how to live in a cave!
Some people just never grow up after adolescence. That was but one example. There was another annoying little red-headed brat that needed a good thumping.

txrad and I started talking about school and he mentioned that study hall in his school was a reward you had to earn. Wow. What a contrast to the pathetic little all-white Christian academy I attended.

Study Hall: It's what you do to the kids when you don't have time or resources to teach them.

Then I brought up university life. Not all colleges are equal; that's for certain. I spent a bit of time bouncing back and forth between the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and Little Rock trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with myself. College was a bit of a jolt for me. With each campus having well over 10,000 students, life was different. The adolescent behavior which was present throughout high school did not exist here. (Well, not in the classroom; dorm life and frat houses were another matter!) Suddenly I bore responsibility for my life. Everyone, including myself, had to make new friends.

What I really wanted was to experience some life outside of Arkansas for a change. So one semester I had applied and was accepted at the University of Denver. What a colossal mistake. I'm not saying it's a bad school but dorm life was a big contrast to my previous experience. My roommate was this New Yorker, the son of a cop if I recall, and he had a bad-ass attitude. And he smoked pot.

If you are wondering why I'm complaining about that, keep in mind that I was still emerging from a very conservative upbringing and I was still trying to make of myself what I thought other people expected of me. I had no clear directives and felt adrift. I realize now what I was looking for was less responsibility; I wanted to be guided and I wanted a strict environment that would not allow me to deviate. I had also dragged along some conservative emotional baggage from home and I wrongly assumed that since the University of Denver was affiliated with the Methodist Church, it would be a place far from home yet familiar.

Not only was I unpleasantly surprised by my first impression of the students I met upon my arrival, but the cafeteria food sucked. And that was the last straw. I called my parents and told them I had to leave, and I painted a rather unflattering portrait of the school in an effort to diminish any resistance I might face from my parents. I can't imagine how many thousands of dollars they had to scrape together to get me enrolled.

I packed my stuff, got in the car and headed back to southeast Arkansas. I will never forget the sense of relief I felt as the Denver skyline faded from my rear view mirror, and later, the front range of the Rockies would fade, leaving me in the barren rolling plains of eastern Colorado and a whole lot of Kansas ahead of me.

When I arrived back at home with my parents I felt lost and faced a lot of uncertainty. It was late in the first week of January and the prospect of a wasted semester fueled my anxiety. As luck would have it, and I use the word luck very loosely here, the University of Arkansas at Monticello wasn't starting their spring semester until the following week and getting admitted there was pretty easy. Best of all, the campus was only 30 miles from where I lived with my parents, so I could commute each day and save money on housing costs.

I was not thrilled with this outcome because this was not a large school -- probably about 2,000 students -- and the majors offered were very limited. But since I was still a sophomore and taking only basic required classes, it didn't matter.

My first week of classes was an eye-opener. Talk about a contrast! If what I wanted to find was the familiarity of high school, I hit the jackpot. The students here all seemed to know each other and many of them didn't seem that serious about college. The professors were also noticeably more like the high school teachers I'd known.

It became clear to me that one semester of this was going to be quite enough, and in the summer or fall I'd return to either Little Rock or Fayetteville and try to get serious again. I don't remember which campus I went to first, but as before, I bounced between the two of them before finally getting the easiest possible degree in Liberal Arts, with the least amount of effort, and after nine years of being in and out of colleges. My parents must have been proud of me after squandering so much money on a degree which was worth about as much as the parchment on which it was printed. (It's in a drawer around here somewhere.)

To cut a long story short, all of this was flashing through my brain last night after catching a few minutes of the aforementioned film which, ironically, we shut off in order to watch another high-school themed film, Rocket Science.

It was just last week that I mentioned having seen The History Boys and loved it. In the comments, Minstrel Boy recommended Rocket Science.

There's nothing like the feeling of seeing a film and immediately looking forward to a 2nd viewing. As one who was definitely an outsider in both high school and college, I could relate to this film on so many levels.

It's also just quirky and offbeat enough to score valuable bonus points which will rank it pretty high in my list of memorable independent films. And the use of music was brilliant. If you have seen the film, I'm sure you'll understand why I selected the title of this post, even if it took me a while to get to the point.

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