THE MAN IN MY CLASS
The first day of a new semester is always nerve racking, exciting, and full of possibilities. Who doesn’t love the unknown, especially when 23 of 24 hours of your day is predictable? Today as I walked on campus for the first time this semester I felt strangely out of my own body. Time froze as I stood in the midst of all the young bodies, full of anticipation as they rushed in herds to their classes, chatting excitedly, and walking purposefully.
I, on the other hand, enjoy the freedom of being invisible at college. My face once seen, is never lingered upon. My step not scared, is never in stride with the masses that line the path looking for acceptance to sororities, or even a future boyfriend. I walk as an outsider looking in, but with pure enjoyment in my role of campus observer. Today, the young blonde girl standing outside the door to my class reminded me of myself 25 years ago. I could not help staring at her and wondering if she will stay in school. She sat in front and chatted with me about how badly she wanted to add the class, but then she had the lack of respect to look at her Instagram when the professor began to lecture. I so badly wanted to tell her that what mattered in life will never be found on that phone. I wanted to tell her that she has so much potential, but then my eyes caught the old man in the corner.
When I first start a class, I take so many notes that I could have twenty books by now; they are not notes about what the professor is teaching, instead they are notes about what I am seeing, feeling and experiencing. Today, I wrote about the old man in my Civil Rights class. So old, I wasn’t sure if he could hear the instructor, or if he was actually a student, but he was. He reminded me of my grandfather, but I digress. I watched him as the young students volunteered their knowledge of the components of the Civil Rights movement. He so badly wanted to take this history class to awaken his senses, learn and also be relevant, but I had a feeling by the end of class that he wouldn’t be back.
The old man in the corner had a huge magnifying glass on his desk. He wanted to read with it. But the professor professed that all the readings would be online. The homework would be accessible online only. I saw him approach her after class, he said “I want to thank you for…” and all I heard was that. I hope he comes back.
In this day and age we can find anything online. Anything we want to hear, anybody we want to be, and anywhere we never knew we wanted to go. But, as I watched the old man in the corner, my heart knew what was important. The loud, brash, know-it-all’s will get the attention in class, and that’s fine: been there, done that. The old man in the corner with more knowledge of history will be drowned out. And that’s all I learned today.