This is not exactly a back-to-school piece, but then, learning knows no season. I hope the post will encourage someone!
In the fall of 2005 our older son Eric graduated from high school and went to Texas A&M, where I had started college but did not graduate. By May 2010 I had spent five years touring around the familiar campus, going to football games and Squadron 21 barbecues, and participating in our Aggie Moms Club. In 2009 we helped our younger son Greg settle in at A&M for his freshman year. All along I indulged – no, wallowed – in dropout nostalgia and regret, even though I had started taking college courses again, this time in nearby Arlington. Then Greg decided to transfer out of A&M after his freshman year, Eric graduated… and bit by bit, I became aware that the gravitational pull that is Aggieland had weakened its hold on me.
Case in point: One morning I was reading an email conversation among some of the Aggie Moms, about a Benjamin Knox print. I love Knox’s work, but the conversation set me to wondering about an artist who stays in College Station and paints pictures depicting Aggie life. (And what else is there to paint?) I got this mental image of a leaf floating round and round in a little eddy rather than going on downstream. Motion, but no progress.
Is that what I had been doing? During Eric’s first two years at A&M, nearly every time I visited campus I would tell him things like “I love this place – I wish I had graduated” and “Whatever you do, don’t be like your mom – don’t quit until you have your degree.” I will never have an Aggie ring, and for many years that bothered me more than a non-Aggie can probably imagine.
But several things have changed in the last year. First, I actually finished my degree (albeit from t.u. Arlington) last year. That went a long way toward lessening my regret: I am no longer a Dropout.
Another thing that had pulled me toward A&M was a non-fiction project that I was writing, about one of the Corps special units that some of my son’s friends were in. Though mentally immersed in the culture, I had gotten bogged down in several side “plots” and almost quit. But my wonderful hubby encouraged me to finish it in some form, even if it was left with some gaps. So this spring I sat down to look at it again and, to my surprise, was able to pull the main threads together into a very-nearly-coherent whole. I printed copies as gifts for the main “characters” who had taken the time to give me so much of the material. As I side-punched the pages and bound them in neat maroon presentation folders, a new sense of freedom welled up. My lingering regret over that particular piece of unfinished work faded away.
Now I find I can enjoy visits to the university without feeling like I have to go around campus telling everyone I used to go to school there in the ’70s. I can support the Aggies, not worry too much about the inevitable changes, and not kick myself for dropping out. I’m ready to move on downstream: not just drifting, either, but paddling my own canoe.
Let’s see… Earn a Bachelor’s degree: Check. Finish my non-fiction piece and give it to the subject: Check. Attend my own son’s graduation: Check. A sense of completion came to replace the burden of Unfinished Business. Those commencement speakers’ remarks about the new graduates moving on to accomplish things, and now being “Former Students,” finally seemed to apply to me.
Of course, it could also be that I have simply had my fill of the “Whoopla” surrounding Aggieland. At any rate, great as it is, I no longer feel as if Texas A&M University is the only place in the world. Or even the only university in the world.
Besides, College Station water tastes gnarly.
Thanks for reading!
(Disclaimer: I’m not saying Knox is going around in circles; I actually think of him as A&M’s artistic historian.)