Round Pegs in a Square Building

Hi all you lovely loyal literati! Happy Festival of Lights! I think it’s high time for an actual post, don’t you? (Also, side note, what is it with the changing of the layout again?)

SO…..

The other day I received an email from my high school alumni association, but it wasn’t your standard money request email. Or the unfortunate-yet-not-really-unexpected Death Notice. (What, your former place of education doesn’t tell you when grandparents of former/current students die? Must be a Jewish thing…)

Instead it was a Dedication Invitation, that started with “Come Say Goodbye to our Old Building!” The rest of the email was boring so I didn’t read it, but I didn’t really want to.

For the last few years, my old stomping grounds were slowly giving in to the inevitable demise of its 50+ years,  as new stomping grounds were being broken, dug up, filled, and built up a couple miles down that-a-way *points in random direction, possibly in a northwestwardly fashion*

Yeah, the building was old and quite possibly the textbook definition of the opposite of “state-of-the-art”. In fact, if you opened a dictionary to look up the phrase “crotchety old building” – you’d see a picture of my high school.

images

If only such a phrase actually existed…

The outside was brown brick, with bronzed letters spelling out the name of the school, and the various organizations that were also housed in it.

There were three stories, with the bottom story depressed into a hole in the ground that was affectionately dubbed “The Moat” and which, many many times, students tried to flood. I think the best attempt was that one time when students put blue tarp on the ground and called it a day.

The walls were yellow, the lockers were an uglier shade of yellow, the classroom doors were pale-green, and there were benches around the perimeter of the second floor with extremely-worn forest-green fabric. Even the trim around the windows in the rooms were green. The donation plaques in each room were a very dark shade of green, although some people refer to that color as “black” (but we all knew better)…

Shades_chartreuse

Yup, that’s my school: “50 Shades of Chartreuse”

The only bit of character that the school had was a mural on one of the walls that had the words “Knowledge” and its Hebrew counterpart “Da’at” in bright reds, blues, and oranges.

But it wasn’t much to look at.

There was history in the building, to be sure. Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Jewish teenagers wandered the hallways, and maybe even learned something too. Personally, at least 30 members of my own family received the equivalent of a GED certificate there.

But, being the bastion of co-ed Jewish/General education for pretty much the entire Chicago-area Jewish population (and some out-of-towners, too) – well, that’s a lot of pressure. There needed to be guidelines, structure, a format to the well-roundedness that would be applied to anyone who walked up the metal stairs and through the two sets of glass double-doors, even if only for a semester.

And yeah – that happened. Kids were kicked out all the time. For reasons varying from getting caught* drinking and doing drugs, to wearing vaguely inappropriate clothing. Like, a shirt that hit 3 inches above the elbow. Or pants under a skirt.

Because everyone was expected to leave school with not only a deep-rooted association with sunsets and science labs, but as a replica, a copy, of those thousands of students who came before. We were continuing the well-honed tradition, the belief, that we could retain our Jewish identity and still interact with the world out there.

48236e6f1646a5a4471dd0e4cec0da40

The only problem with this was that we didn’t all have the same background coming in. The other only problem was that we were expected to question and question and question authority, until our questions were exhausted and we felt satisfied with whatever answers we had been given. Which is not the problem. The problem was that many times the answers weren’t all that satisfying.

Of course, there were the others who were more easily molded into the type of person we were expected to become. Who accepted the expectations without questions or doubts or second-guessing, and currently live the life that was predetermined for them.

And then there were those who questioned some of the information we were taught – out loud or quietly. There were those who rebelled secretly; others did so out in the open, by wearing clothes that were not deemed “acceptable”. And there were others who epitomized “fake it til you make it” before it was a thing on t-shirts being sold for $15.

Some of us just wanted to march to the beat of our own drums, regardless of whether we accepted the answers or not. I preferred skipping down the hallway, but that’s me.

Sg11005_sarah_graham_were_off_to_see_the_wizard

Sometimes I even sang the song. And by sometimes I mean “always”.

The problem with marching to a different beat is that you no longer fit into the mold, and you are therefore singled out. For detention, for expulsion, for long talks with administrators about “what would your grandmother think?” Or, you were just given looks of disapproval.

There was one time in particular when I realized what was happening. I had expressed my desire to not go to Israel for a gap year, and received laser-eye daggers from the dean.

28982384

And it wasn’t just the administration who made us feel unwelcome. Because the school was small, and everybody knew everybody. In my day there were maybe 350 kids in the entire school – large by other Jewish school standards, but tiny when compared to the public schools in the area. If you had been singled out, everyone knew, and there were some students who made it their business to remind you of it. Constantly.

So why would I return? Why would anyone who had similar (or worse) experiences feel the need to come back to say goodbye?

We already said our goodbyes – the day we graduated. There is no lingering sentiment, or memories that need to be revisited. If anything, we would go just to help with the destruction of the building.

And I know that if I had gone to public school I wouldn’t be where I am today, and blah blah blah. But why would I go back to something that holds more not-so-great memories than great memories?

e15eaea7fac78cc3407f22acee272513

But there is also a third option – to run from it AND learn from it. And that’s what I’m going to do.

I went to that square building and came out a misshapen quadrilateral. I understand and I appreciate the education that I received. But I still question the methods and motives of certain administrators, and I don’t need to say goodbye.

Besides,  I don’t have anything appropriate to wear anyway.

Currently Grooving On: music by fellow alum David Draiman

 

*To get caught you had to be A) really stupid, B) really desperate, C) both.

Time for Term Papers!

Here’s a snippet of what I’m working on right now for my Reality TV course:

Additionally, fanship exists on a continuum. On one end there are hard-core fans who watch regardless of anything else that is going on; conversely, on the other end of the spectrum you have fair-weather fans who tune in because of hype, or the end of the season/series, or because the team is doing really well and is on track to win a championship. As for everyone else in between the two sides, placement on the spectrum has to do with the level of interest in, knowledge of, and exposure to the show in question. In other words, where you fall on the fanship continuum has to do with how much you care.

After this I have 15 pages for my music course. Another snippet will presumably follow.

See you on the other side (again…)

Not Giving Up, or Music: A History

A while back, I posted very briefly about school. Now for some depth.

I’m currently studying for a Master’s Degree in the Interdisciplinary Program in the Fine Arts Faculty at Tel Aviv University (that’s a mouthful).
I have a BA degree in Musicology from Bar Ilan University, which I received about five years ago.

I always wanted to go back to school, and for sure get a Master’s degree; perhaps also a Ph.D. – we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, in about 10 years.

Education and Music have always been very important to me, as I started both at the same time. Education was mandatory, but music was apparently my own doing. The apocryphal story is that I was watching a PBS special on musical prodigies, and excitedly pointed to the tv screen and said “Mommy, I want to do that”

Apparently, some kid was playing piano at that moment. And that’s how that started.

For ten years, I devoted an hour each day to practicing piano, and another hour each week for lessons. Not to mention various recitals, performances, and competitions. Piano took a backseat in high school, mostly because I didn’t have any time, but partially because I wanted to do other things. Like Yearbook, and Public Speaking, and Acting. And, you know, sleep.

Yeah - pretty self explanatory.

Yeah – this may have actually happened.

But music was always super important to me. It was constantly on in the background, much to the annoyance of LAK who shared a room with me.
I mostly listened to whatever was on the radio, and made really horrible mix tapes of what I managed to record from said radio (hey, this was the late 90s and early 00s after all). When I came to Israel and met Hubby (and several other people) I was introduced to the wonderful world of Pandora and Jango. My love for Heavy Metal, Punk, Pop-Punk, and Rock music also flourished.

About this time, I found myself in the practice rooms of the Music Department, reminding myself that I was pretty good at the piano. I had won a few competitions in my youth, and I think the medals are in a box in the basement of my parents’ house (if, you know, the repeated flooding hasn’t rusted them over yet).

So I applied, auditioned, and was accepted to the Music Program at Bar Ilan University.

Music was everywhere. It permeated my soul, took up residence in my mind, and refused to let go of my very being.

And then I graduated. And got pregnant. And became a full-time SAHM. And then I went back to work full time while keeping the full time parenting gig going. Music, unfortunately, took a back seat in another country. I would fondly and wistfully look back at the time I had spent devoting myself to that craft – and I missed it. Horribly.

I told myself I would get back into it, that I would practice. But things always came up. My musical tastes continued to grow, and although I would hum along to almost every song I ever heard, it wasn’t the same as before.

Now I’m here. My piano skills have rusted over completely, and I forgot almost 3/4 of what I learned all those years ago.
But that first day back in school, back in a musical environment, I couldn’t pay attention to anything that the professor said. I was just enjoying the moment of being back in such familiar territory. I felt actual joy seeping through me, to the point that my co-workers knew without asking that I was so indescribably happy to be back.

I am slowly and steadily welcoming music back into my life, and it’s riding shotgun. This time, I don’t intend to give it up.

Currently Grooving On: “Bulletproof”, by La Roux
(I fully intend to include this section with all future posts, and I’ll try to have the song not be school-related) (but no promises)

Year 1, Semester 2: Begin!

The good news is, school started last week. Which means I’m getting out of the house twice a week for class.

The bad news is, school started last week.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m really happy to be back in a learning environment and I’m finally getting the hang of my degree (which is, simultaneously, not as and way more complicated than I initially thought).

Going back to school was something that I pushed off for my previous job. I don’t think they ever knew about that, but it’s water over the bridge, or under the dam, or somewhere. I always wanted to continue my education, if only to take a few classes here and there.
Getting accepted to a program, while not difficult for me, was something that I debated doing.

Did I really want a grind of education? Did I want to go back to a schedule that would possibly conflict with my work, my family, and my social life?

Or, like my former boss, did I want to just take a course every so often about something that interested me, because I’m a huge nerd?

Nerd Status: semi-professional Points: +1000

Nerd Status: semi-professional
Points: +1000

In the end, the grind won out. If only because I like having set schedules. Schedules are a godsend, for parents and for the restless alike. Knowing that certain days of the week have a certain event give structure to the day, and a reason for getting dressed in the morning.
They also give me a reason for not lingering over my coffee, but I’ll let that pass.

But more than that, I wanted needed to do this for me.

I have not been so good about doing things for me lately – I can’t remember the last time I went to the doctor for a general checkup that did not involve prescriptions for antibiotics. The last time I really did something for myself was a massage that the hubby gave me as a gift.

There have been so many articles recently about how women need to give more to prove that they deserve [fill-in-the-blank with whatever]. And, naturally, there are even more articles about how women need to take a step back and not drive themselves crazy with [fill-in-the-blank with whatever] and focus on the things that really matter.

But I don’t think I’m going crazy over my degree. Twice a week is nothing. Also, one of my classes this semester is about reality television. I think I’m doing myself a favor in that regard.

P.S. – All those books in the picture are for a seminar paper for the class I took last semester. And I will be taking out more from the library once I’m done with these.