Thornton Melon: Boy, what a great-looking place. When I used to dream about going to college, this is the way I always pictured it.
Jason Melon: Wait a minute. When did you dream about going to college?
Thornton Melon: When I used to fall asleep in high school.
- Rodney Dangerfield as the middle aged college freshman, Thornton Melon, in the 1986 movie "Back To School".
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
In 1988, during my senior year at Alhambra High school in Martinez, California, I sat in the front row of my Government/History class with my head down while my big permed 80's locks of hair dangled over the desk.
Mr. Jameison, the long haired, ex- hippie, Grateful Dead Fan and extremely patient history teacher kneeled in front of me and came down to my level and looked at this blasé, blue and gold dressed cheerleader while I attempted to take a nap during his class.
"Please listen. Someday you will actually want to know this stuff when you get older."
I didn't believe him.
"Don't bother me," I thought, "I'm sleeping."
You see, I already had big plans for the future. I had a pep rally to go to. And then I had a football game to attend. And then I had the dance to think about after. What did I need a lesson in Government or History for? Why did something that happened a billion years ago matter to my life now?
And I rarely studied.
Diane: Don't you ever read?
Thornton Melon: Read. Who has time? I see the movie. I'm in and out in two hours.
Fast forward to 2001. My pom poms were long gone and it was the year the World Trade Center was bombed by two airplanes. I was cat-sitting in an apartment that was located a half hour West from my hometown in the Oakland/Berkeley area. History was being made. Big words and deep thought were being tossed around. People spoke differently on the other side of the Caldecott tunnel. This tunnel separated my native suburbia from intellectual and politically correct urbia. I can't say I knew what the heck people were talking about half the time, but I wanted to.
Toto, we are no longer in Kansas.
I decided I wanted to become part of the dialogue. The dialogue of what was happening in the world, and, well, ... life. Like the late Mr. Jameison, may he rest in peace, said to me all those years ago, I did finally want to "know this stuff."
I had never finished college, for many reasons, and here I was now, in 2010, perhaps having my first "mid life crisis" as I contemplated all the decisions to be made if I chose to go back to school.
What would I major in? I have many interests.
"I say you should throw history in the hat," my friend Peggy told me one night after coming out of a movie theatre. As someone who has permission to view my Netflix queue, she has seen the growing list of documentaries on the aftermath of WWII and "The Rise and Fall of Communism."
"I don't know," I said, "it's really just a hobby."
Another friend suggested theatre arts, which is, by default, an obvious choice in some ways.
"But I really want to develop on my writing," I tell him, "not that I don't love acting...."
And how would I pay for it? I didn't want to be up to my neck in student loans if I couldn't ever pay them back with an artsy fartsy degree which qualified me for nothing but bragging rights.
"You can check the 'over forty' box when applying," my friend Cynthia informed me.
"I don't turn forty till November! What are you doing to me? Pushing me over to the other side of the hill already?" I spouted.
Is it true? Do they give more money to more "mature" returning students?
I was feeling overwhelmed.
My parents didn't finish college either. In fact, no one in my immediate family has, so does this mean I can check the "first member of the family to go to college" box? Can that also be part of my sob story? Don't Universities love a good sob story?
"In those days," my mother told me, "women did not have choices. We were not encouraged to pursue a career. We were supposed to get married and have children because that's what you did."
And when my father's grades were not the best in high school, he was told by a counselor to "not waste his parents' money by going to college."
So where does that leave me?
I emailed the head of the English Department at Berkeley City College and inquired, "how does one pursue creative non-fiction writing without having to read 18th century literature?"
She replied back notifying me of her office hours.
To be continued....