This is going to be the best thing we've ever seen
In two and a half weeks I'll be done with school forever.
School and I have been together for 19 years now, if you count the stage where we just fooled around and played with blocks. My parents were only together for 17 years, so this is the longest relationship I've ever experienced, and I'm not sure if I'm quite ready to break up just yet.
I had a friend go off on me the other night, telling me it was about damn time for this madness to end. He thinks the last 3.5 years of my life were unnecessary and that I've wasted my time and money on school--something he views as worthless, pointless, and downright tool-ly. I'll be honest, it hurt m feelings. I mean, school and I have had our ups and downs, and I'll have to admit to having quite the sordid affair with innumerable naps, but I love school. We have a long history together, and for the most part we've been good to and for each other.
Getting beyond the metaphor, I've fallen into a bit of denial about the end of my participation in formal education. Honestly, school is all I know, and I haven't adequately prepared myself for the impending immersion into Real Life. I keep track of years on a Fall-Spring schedule. I know that I'm doing well in life if I'm getting A's. I keep track of the days by knowing what classes I have and when I have tests or papers due. I even like school. I enjoy the classroom setting, I love class discussions, and I like having an excuse to carry a messenger bag.
I've heard the platitudes about how "education is a life-long process" but come on. Give me a break. If life is anything like summer break, I will quickly fall into a painful monotony of a bad sleep schedule, poor nutrition, and dreading having to get out of bed and put some pants on. What do people do when they're not in school? When do you decide to hang out with people? What do you do to occupy your time when you don't have homework looming over your head?
----I've been spending a lot of time avoiding the local news, trying not to think of DeKalb, or Northern, or anyone I know connected to that community, because my delicate senses are still freshly wounded from the shock. The one exception is that I'll take time to pause whenever some splashy headline involves Steven Kazmierczak (who, by the way, I'm really glad has an unpronounceable name. No more household-name killers like Charles Manson or Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris). While I might need some time to process the complex emotions involved, knowing the why always seems to help. In this case, there doesn't seem to be a reason, and that, strangely, makes me feel better.
I think in any tragic situation, being able to blame God, Fate, or simply Dumb Luck is much easier on the soul than having a tangible person or incident to blame. This could not have been stopped. There was nothing NIU officials, students, security, or admissions counselors could have done differently. In some cases, being completely helpless feels just a bit better than feeling like you, or someone else, failed at some responsibility. There were no warning signs, there wasn't even a reason for him to be in DeKalb at all. It's. Not. Anyone's. Fault. And that gives me some comfort.
----I've semi-unofficially been dating the same person (officially known as "The Boy") for two years now. The funny part is, I'm still feeling caught up in that "honeymoon phase", which I've been told is supposed to fade after a bit. No one's scientifically measured how long that "bit" is supposed to be, but you'd think that after two years we would at least hate each other at least just a little.
On the flip side, these last two years in every other aspect of my life have seemed like they've taken forever. I can barely remember being an intern, being "on my own" is a distant tickle in the back of my hippocampus. The weird part is that, while I have a whole two years of Relationship Memories, they often get jumbled around in my Other Life mental timeline. I've been just as enamored, just as fascinated, and just as happy with The Boy since day one that it's difficult to pin-point where any one happy memory occurred. Which means that even as we've gotten to know each other and learned about each other and spent so much time together, I'm still finding things to love, things to enjoy, and things I still want to know.
----I've not yet embarked upon The Great Rest Of My Life Hunt, largely because The Great End Of An Era has been heaping work upon my doorstep which I, of course, have been ignoring violently. Unfortunately, there are some things that one must do in order to, like, graduate and stuff. For now, I'm content letting life come at me as it will, because I'm clearly not motivated to grab any bulls by their horns. Besides, I can always just bartend for the rest of my life.
There's a lot of things in life that don't make sense to me, like why "domestic partnerships" are more threatening to the Religious Right than "gay marriage", or the way guy's brains work. As I sit here on the morning of Friday, Februray 15, 2008, I'm attempting to make sense of the series of emotions that have been tumbling around whatever area of my body where emotions reside. I'm thinking the stomach.
For at least half of my high school career I was semi-obsessed with school shootings, in the sense that they horrified me, and I saw the stirrings of how it could happen at my own school and took active measures with my more creative friends to raise awareness. There's something exteremely, intensely personal about a school shooting. Schools are places where people go to be safe, to make their lives better, and bringing in fear and hate and anger and sadness in such an extreme, violent way makes me feel so...violated.
Yesterday was Valentine's Day, and I'm hoping that what happened at NIU won't earn some horrifically cheesy title, like "The Valentine's Day Massacre", partly because that's already taken. I also hope that the school's name doesn't become synonymous with this tragedy, like Virgina Tech.
It's strange to me for something of this magnitude to be so near to me, and yet I still remain so far removed. On the one hand, I know people who attend NIU from high school and the speech circuit, I know people who teach there, work there, and I felt justifiably worried about them. But on the other hand, these people that I know are acquaintences. I don't have any of their phone numbers stored in my cell, I had to call second-parties to check up to make sure that my acquaintences were okay. Overall, I'm struggling between being overwhelmed with the absolte terror of it all-- imagining what it must be like to be a student there, and feeling like I should just go on with life as usual.
The latter is probably the best and most reasonable option, and the one I will probably employ. It's what you do after any major tragedy that doesn't personally affect you, right? But this one was so much closer, just personal enough that I can't help but to feel like I'm a part of it, in just a little way. I just can't help but to think back to a couple weekends ago when I was in Cole Hall, celebrating the success of my teammates and speech friends, laughing, joking, being alive; now juxtaposing that image of the lecture hall with terrified, wounded, dead peers. It's something that keeps threatening to overwhelm my usual placid emotional balance.
If you're the praying type, pray for NIU, pray for parents, students, friends, family. Pray for other schools, because this sort of thing seems to be catching.