So, whenever I reach a end, I end up writing something sentimental, like a goodbye letter, or, whatever I wrote for my first of two graduations. I’m a sucker for goodbyes. I don’t really feel like that today.
This morning, I took my final class as an undergraduate student at the University of Kansas. Intro to Shakespeare, ENGL 332. It’s kind of a fitting bookend, even though I don’t think that me at eighteen could’ve envisioned me studying Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote, like, a whole bunch of plays and poems and stuff, and I ended up doing all of that too. He’s better than I am, though.
My first class was in Wescoe, too. First floor, room 1047, I’m pretty sure. It was FREN 120, which met at 9 AM each day of the week for one hour in Fall 2013. Maybe four or five people showed up each day, despite there being about twelve enrolled in the class. I never missed a session, somehow, but I’ve always been sort of a morning person.
When you first walk into Wescoe’s first floor on the East side, you’re greeted by this marble statue in a glass case. I’ve probably passed that statue hundreds of time over four and a half years, but I can’t tell you who it is. There’s a plaque that says his name, and I’m sure I’ve read it, but this statue remains anonymous in memory.
I learned a hell of a lot in Wescoe in four and a half years, spite of the building. It’s got four floors, laid out in a weird labyrinth on the first floor and in these big rectangles on the fourth. A more confusing office labyrinth is on the second and third Every room is numbered, including the bathrooms, which always struck me as weird. There are no windows in the bottom floor classrooms and cell signal doesn’t get down there at all. The Underground cafeteria closes at like 3 PM and you’re not allowed to pass through it past then. My architecturally-minded friends call it an eyesore but I have no sense of architectural quality either way. That’s the one thing I never gleaned from my French classes, even the one where a professor showed us hour-plus long powerpoint slideshows about French castles.
That class was in a windowless bottom-floor classroom, I think 1049. She’d turn the lights off for the slideshows, and the bottom floor was always a little warmer than it should’ve been anyway, it created a perfect atmosphere for falling asleep.
Even the top floor’s classrooms, with multitudes of narrow windows, felt weird after a while. The desks on the top floor are small and most of the rooms still have chalkboards. A few rooms have more modern amenities, like carpet and whiteboards. I normally ended up in a little desk that could barely hold a book and a notebook at the same time, but, whatever. It’s what I had. It was my little mess and I liked it there.
The fourth floor used to have these weird benches that sat like three feet from the wall. Big, wooden rectangular prisms on the ground with some carpeting on them, these benches. More people would sit between them and the wall than would actually sit on them because the floor, with the wall to lean back on, was more comfortable. They got replaced by these nice vinyl benches at some point and I remember commenting to a friend that it felt weird, like I kind of thought those old benches were a better fit for the building. They were weird, old, uncomfortable, but so was Wescoe.
My last class was on the fourth floor. Today, I got to the building at about 9:14. It started at 9:30. I didn’t sit on one of those benches, I didn’t walk through the Underground to get up there, I didn’t pass the statue again. I just went straight to class. I left at 10:45 from the fourth floor on the West side, and I might never go back again.
To start the class, my professor asked what everybody planned on doing in the future. Where we saw ourselves five years from now. This is an awful question. This is the worst question you can ask me. Everybody has an answer, it seems. I do too, but I don’t believe in it. “What do you want to do?” even like a year ago used to evoke happiness, optimism, but now it’s just anxiety.
Anything I tell you in response to that question is based upon a coming mudslide of inevitable personal failures and the whims of others. There used to be a clear path in my mind, steps I could take to get where I wanted to be, but even those paths are narrow and overloaded with future wreckage. I always knew the path would be tough, but I didn’t always imagine the very real probability that I won’t make it. Now, I have to step down it, there’s no going back.
And, still, what the hell else am I going to do? It’s all I have. It’s like Wescoe. Maybe my future’s a little ugly and dilapidated, but it’s mine, at least. Maybe I’ll find some safety in that mess, too.