Thursday, October 9, 2008

Don't Look For Me In Class

Some songs evoke a specific image and feeling for me, like the one I want to write about right now.

I spent a good part of my freshman year at UCLA adjusting to the freedom afforded by the anonymity of lecture halls holding 300-500 students with no roll calls, and not doing a very good job of it. My driver's license was less than two years old and I was constantly bothered by the distracting lure of the road while I sat in the classroom and looked around wondering, who is going to know or even care if I am here or not?

So half the time I wasn't there.

Maybe that accounts for the nightmares that haunt me even today. I haven't attended the class for the entire quarter, yet there I am, walking to class to take the final exam. Worse still are the dreams in which I don't even know when the final exams are and I'm running around trying to find out. Meanwhile everyone else in the class has their act together, sitting there in a prepared state instead of my state of nervous panic.

I wasn't as bad in real life as in my dreams but I still missed more than a fair share of classes. I blame it on Westwood's gorgeous weather, with days generally not too hot and not too cold, with not too much smog, either. It helped being in such close proximity to the beach. Something in the air just made me want to get in my car and go driving to take it all in and enjoy the freshness of the day.

That's what I did. If you wanted to find me, you wouldn't look in my classroom but instead you'd have to use a helicopter because I'd be out appreciating the scenery somewhere. When the rock/pop group America released their classic recording, Ventura Highway, that song played in my head and put me in cruise mode; the feeling nagged at me until I did something about it.

Yeah, I know.. I was bad. My priorities were twisted. Astronomy was one of the classes I ditched frequently. Held in a big lecture hall with a multiple-choice final and subject material that wasn't that difficult, it was easy for me to rationalize my absences - I could always read the book to catch up, but that one particularly beautiful day outside was never going to return!

A former Dorsey classmate was in the same class and wasn't very happy when we compared grades at the end of the quarter and discovered we'd both gotten a "B." Easter lived on the corner house of my block. She was indignant. "You got the same grade as me and you skipped all those classes??" Haha, secretly I was thinking, that's her karma for having a dog that used to scare the living daylights out of me. When I walked past her house on the way home from Dorsey, all of a sudden the big monster would jump up from behind her block wall, startling me with its giant barking head. Even though I learned to expect it, I still never got used to it.

Academics-wise, I don't remember much from my first year in college, the year I exhibited my woeful lack of discipline. I can sure remember going for those drives and how it felt so freeing, though. Heck, we can all use escapes like that - we can't be tame all the time. These days everything has gotten so serious. Whenever I hear this song, the old feeling returns..

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