For those of you paying attention, the writing consistency has clearly taken a hit. I’ve ebbed. I assure you, dear readers, it’s neither a lack of interest nor a lack of material. I implore you to continue to trust that I both pine longingly to speak with you and have no shortage of rampant dysfunction to vomit forth. The recent impediment is, in fact, an exterior force, demanding that I enact the same task which I engage in right here, only with a time constraint and letter grades attached. That’s right, folks, The Approvalholic has gone back to school.
January 8th. The wife and I had secured a babysitter and gone out for a nice dinner to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. We sat, sipping our ice water, and nibbling at, what turned out to be, an enormously disappointing appetizer portion of stuffed mushrooms, when the conversation shifted from random small talk to something more substantial.
Michael: So, here we are, eating a shitty dinner that we can’t really afford.
Lorri: Oh, c’mon, it’s not that bad!
Michael: Not that bad? These mushrooms taste like shoe leather.
Lorri: Yeah, you’re right. They suck. Are you feeling nervous about money?
Michael: Aren’t I always?
Lorri: I mean specifically nervous about my job situation?
Michael: Um- yeah… I guess I am.
Lorri had departed her full-time job approximately two months earlier. I supported the move. She had been being pushed toward the door by an overly ambitious bitch of a supervisor for some time, and was finally being forced to pick between her two places of employment. Lorri had maintained both a full-time and part-time job for about four months (working like a dog and bringing home some really nice money). It was all above-board and she was managing more than competently in both arenas. All of a sudden, her full-time gig brought in a new boss, who, in short order, decided that she had a hard-on for Lorri based on her perception that Lorri was receiving special treatment in being allowed to work at another facility. Her accusations that Lorri’s work was suffering as a result of too much of her attention being pulled to the other place was entirely baseless. After multiple conversations, with Lorri displaying impressive composure, she reached her limit. As best I could, I supported her choice to give her two weeks notice and bring her six-year tenure at this particular facility to a close. And that was that. I still believe she did the right thing. And she has maintained her part-time job, though their promises to shift her into a full-time worker have remained just that… promises. And so, there we sat, at dinner, $50, 000 a year lighter than we had been sixty days earlier.
Lorri: Are you feeling resentful toward me?
Michael: No, absolutely not. It had nothing to do with you. It’s just, the reality of our currently spending more than we are making, feels terribly frightening to me.
Lorri: It won’t stay this way.
Michael: I know that. Really, I do. It’s not even that I need you to do something.
Lorri: You don’t want me to get another job?
Michael: Well, I do, yes, but it’s more that I want the money to get replaced. Ultimately, I’d like to able to make up the difference myself… and I guess I feel some shame around the idea that I can’t seem to pull that off right now.
Michael: Meaning that I would love to supplement my client base with a part-time gig at a facility or something, but there’s no way to do that without a particular bunch of letters added after my name.
Lorri: Well, maybe it’s time to get those letters.
Michael: What? Are you serious?
Lorri: Of course. Why wouldn’t I be serious?
Michael: You would support me going back to school to get my Masters?
Lorri: I wouldn’t just support it. I think it’s an excellent idea.
Michael: Wow. I mean, not “wow” that you’re being supportive… you are always that. It’s just, I’ve been longing to go to graduate school for some time now, but I kept telling myself that in terms of the time and the money, that it was just not possible.
Lorri: Michael, anything’s possible.
Michael: But how?
Lorri: I don’t know. Loans. Babysitting. We’ll make sacrifices. In the long run, it will be hugely beneficial. When we get home, let’s check out a few programs.
Michael: I love you.
Lorri: I know.
And it was pretty much that simple. We found a really cool counseling program at a nearby university and I applied the next morning. It turned out that they had an April start date coming up, with an additional option being a fall start in September. As I was feeling pretty jacked up with excitement about the prospect of going back to school, the idea of patiently waiting ten months seemed damned near impossible. I figured I had nothing to lose in taking a shot at shaking the branches and seeing if I could get the paperwork and the transcripts and the essays and the recommendations and the loan application and the interviews to all settle gently at the door step of the admissions office in time to meet the deadline.
And, somehow, I did.
Time is a fascinating thing, in that it’s unwillingness to change its pace based on one’s desire is unbearably strident. While the idea of starting school was intoxicating, the idea of it being more than an idea was feeling a little terrifying. And, like some cheap ass NBC movie of the week montage, the pages of the calendar were flying off like dandelions in the wind.
And then it was here. Day one of school. Monday. And it would only be Monday. This week. Next week. Every Monday from 4pm until 10pm for the next 2 1/2 years of my life. You couldn’t really beat the convenience. No doubt about that. This program had most certainly been specifically tailored for people returning to school later in life. And, in that respect, it was a blessing. The fact that I had only to think about clearing up a single night of the week was remarkable. As a matter of fact, when it was first mentioned in the interview, I thought the woman was kidding. So the situation seemed fairly ideal.
And yet, now that the first Monday had arrived, I was not so sure. As the clock ticked past noon, and the reality of my first classes was nigh, six hours was all of a sudden feeling like a long ass time. I mean, six hours is like an entire school day. And, as the hours raced past, my original school experience was what I kept harkening back to.
I didn’t like school. Not at all. The educational environment always produced, in me, a rather high level of anxiety. And, interestingly, the feelings were not tied to the common experiences one often expresses in relation to school difficulties. I was not academically challenged. In fact, I was consistently one of the smartest kids in class. This is not to say that I made the highest grades. Generally, that was not the case. This was primarily due to the fact that I paid little attention and got distracted quite easily. As it happens, the word that plagued me from my very first Kindergarten progress report to my very last report card in my senior year of high school was, “lackadaisical.” I hate that fucking word.
Further, I was not unpopular. While I was never quite one of the “beautiful people,” I was always well liked and well-respected. I was something of a chameleon (read: bullshit artist) and could generally bounce quite effortlessly between the differing groups. I sense that had I wound up in Saturday detention, stuck in the library, with Andrew, Brian, John, Claire and Allison- that I may well have been something of a stabilizing force. And if that last sentence made no sense to you, you might consider linking to a different blog.
Also, I am no lover of learning. No, sir. That’s not my bag. That’s my wife. If someone would pay her to do it, my wife would gladly assume her post as Lorri E. Fisher, professional student. She would delightedly accrue state mandated pieces of paper until she could wallpaper the living room with eight by eleven rectangles adorned with raised print and fancy water marks. As we’ve often shared with anyone delighted enough with our blessed union to listen, Lorri knows a little about everything and Michael knows a whole lot about, like, four things- and doesn’t give a crap about anything else.
What I’m trying to get at here is that there was almost nothing about the individual elements of school which presented a problem for me, and yet, somehow, the overall experience was exceedingly unnerving. And, quite frankly, I would hypothesize that, at the heart of the problem, was the reality of having to be in one place for six hours. The very idea that, at 9am, I had to be there and that I was not allowed to leave until the bell rang at 3, made me feel trapped. And, as a result, the best experience I could hope for was survival. For thirteen years, more or less, I just watched the clock and waited for it to be over. Granted, some days felt less interminable than others. But, all in all, it was basically a process of punishment avoidance. Cutting school, leaving early, poor grades, bad behavior- these occurrences all inevitably led to being grounded- further imprisonment- and I couldn’t have that. Luckily (or maybe unluckily) I was always able to maintain B’s (with an occasional C) as a result of doing next to nothing.
Once the torture had ended, I came to find that there was to be a whole new level of demands waiting for me in this thing called college. And, as I understood it, college was not an optional event. No one asked if I wanted to go to college. So I went to college. I lasted two years. And for fifty thousand dollars, I didn’t get a degree; I didn’t get knowledge; I didn’t get anything other than very high and very fat.
So, yeah, six hours felt like a very long time. I was viscerally forecasting the reality of sitting in a classroom at 4:05, as the students were all being introduced to each other, consumed with the thought, “I can’t believe that I am not leaving here for five hours and fifty-five minutes.”
And, quite honestly, that is kind of what happened. It did feel like a really long time. And it has continued to feel like a pretty damned long time. Tomorrow is Monday number five and, even now, as I write this, I am experiencing some anxiety around the half-dozen hours bearing down on me.
And it’s also sort of okay. I like it. It’s interesting. Remember, before, when I said that I only give a crap about four subjects? Well, as it happens, one of them is psychology (the other three, for those who care, are baseball, music and television- I am mostly a heathen). So a concentrated program revolving around how to most effectively counsel people is actually pretty cool.
My teachers are well-informed, sharp, funny, well-spoken and both like to swear (I like vulgarity). And my classmates range, in my very short experience of them, from benign to inherently likeable. That is to say, there is no one I actively dislike, which, while it may not last, is something I am quite grateful for. This is made far easier by the fact that, of the seventeen people in the group, there are only two men. There were three, but the Russian guy seems to have bailed. So it’s me and it’s the other white heterosexual guy. And, for those who regularly read my ramblings, I struggle most with white heterosexual guys. I do better with the women and the gays and the people of color than I do with the white heterosexual men. And, yes, this particular pathology most probably is a result of some sort of covert self-hatred, but this has been detailed in other pieces and we won’t dwell on it here. Suffices to say, while the other white heterosexual guy and I have only had a few cursory conversations, he seems like quite a nice guy.
The other thing about these people and myself is that, collectively, we comprise what is called a cohort. What this means is that it is me and them, just us, for the next two and a half years, every Monday from four to ten. So getting to know them is a fairly charged experience. It’s not like a random class, where if you find that you are seated next to some douche, you can dispel them from your life after a few months. In this case, I am tied to these people for at least the next twenty-four months and probably well beyond that, as the majority of them are destined to become my colleagues- practicing locally, causing us to regularly cross paths, if not work in conjunction with each other.
And my natural people pleasing, co-dependent instincts are kicking like crazy. I want to be liked but I want to not need to be liked. I want to be respected but I don’t want that desire to define my choices. I want to know the answers but I don’t want to be Arnold Horshak (if you didn’t get the last entertainment reference than you definitely didn’t get this one). Here, I’ll be more topical. I think, ultimately, I am shooting for a mixture of Zach Morris and Hermione Granger.
Or maybe I’ll just be Michael.
But, seriously, who the hell is that?!