Thursday, May 20, 2010

"You really hit a home run today."

I want to keep today forever.

After the monsoons, we wake up to clear blue sky and warm breezes. Shower, straight hair, pink nails, stroll into Chancellors at the stroke of 9 a.m. We process. We sit and hear speeches. Mary Pearl makes mention of my student evaluations. More speeches.

Then I go up to the podium.

"I attended Southampton due to an e-mail I received two weeks before the Fall 2008 semester. At this point I was courting graduate schools the way high school girls court boys: say yes to all, lead them on, and then reject them one by one.

The e-mail from Southampton Residence Life was simple: We need Resident Assistants. Please apply.

So I did.

My two years at Southampton have embraced two very different worlds. On the one hand, courses with esteemed teachers who treat your work with respect, scrutiny, and humor. Brilliant classmates and fellow writers whose insights are often just as valuable as the teacher’s. I left each class with synapses on fire. From Roger Rosenblatt I learned the value of concise language. From Matt Klam, how even the darkest stories deserve a glimpse of light. From Lou Ann Walker, how to make one’s life story matter to others. From Stephanie Wade, how to be a teacher. I would rush back to the dorms ready to sit down and write the night away.

Then I would enter my building and, from within the depths, hear the call of the wild: 'Dude, man, where’s the beer?'

It was as if I was waiting my whole life to live among seventeen and eighteen-year-olds, chiding them for shouting at three in the morning, dumping their beer, being asked out on dates to avoid a write-up, coloring pictures and playing Scattergories on the weekends, and running around campus at night in the name of 'Humans versus Zombies.' Once in awhile, I’d get some writing done.

So where do these two lives intersect? Well, in rhetorical strategies to draw residents to my dorm programs, like writing 'Free Food!' in a bigger font. In petitions to protest of the cuts to Southampton. In the steps toward sustainability here, seeing that each motion forward, every recycled can, every sentence and word, brings the story closer to where it wants to go. And in the bushes with my Nerf gun, ready to fire at approaching zombies in the form of freshmen boys, knowing that while I ought to take many parts of life seriously, I don’t always have to be one of them. "

The feeling of nailing a routine in competition and nailing a reading are exactly the same.

As I walk back to my seat, the laughter and applause roll over me.


A personalized graduation ceremony. Knowing just about everyone there. Bob Reeves inviting my parents to come hang out at the conferences. And the ocean afterwards -- spinning around in the sand, throwing frisbees and falling down and blanket love. I haven't finished packing. Sand's still on my toes. Today is perfect.

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