Back to School

 

 

I can do this.  I need to do this.  I am excited to do this.

It was advertised as an evening class, once a week for six weeks from mid-July to mid-August.  An essay-writing course offered through Hugo House, a nonprofit resource for writers offering beginning- to advanced-level writing classes, workshops and other events here in Seattle.  I first became familiar with Hugo House when I was an editorial intern at Seattle magazine, and this year, I finally decided to become a member and take my first class there.

I hadn’t stepped foot in a conventional classroom since my senior year at the University of Washington in 2005.  At that point in my life I was ready to be done with school — the heavy book bags, the homework always hanging over my head, the stressful nights and early mornings at various U-District Starbucks spent cramming for tests and pounding out essays left to the last minute.

Contrary to my classes of dozens if not hundreds of people at UW, this class at Hugo House was an intimate size of 10 students plus one very encouraging, laid-back instructor all huddled around one large makeshift table, the combined total of four smaller tables pushed together .  Each Monday evening (minus one on vacation) for six weeks I battled west-east traffic to First Hill, took my seat in this small, spare, non-air conditioned room, and was immersed into wonderful, stimulating conversations with a truly great group of people whose life experiences almost couldn’t be more diverse.

That diversity of lifestyles and experiences is what I found most refreshing about this classroom environment.  People wrote and shared about animals in Africa, battling illness, the art and science of ballet, sexuality, relationships, being single, and learning to embrace their ever-changing identify.  It was eye-opening to realize how narrowly immersed I’ve become in the world of parents-of-young-kids in recent years.  So much of my life, social circle, volunteer outlets, the language I speak, activities I attend, vacations I’m drawn to, articles I read,  etc… revolve around babies and young kids.  Understandable, but narrow nonetheless.  Neurons were firing like fireworks as my brain was immersed in these stories of things so unlike anything  I come across in my everyday life.

Throughout the course each of us – male and female, ranging from our 20s to our 50s, world travelers and native Seattleites – wrote about our own life experiences and read about each others’.  Several of  us, myself included, wrote about very private, intimate topics that we felt more comfortable sharing among a group of encouraging strangers, than within our own inner circles of folks who know us all too well.  It was liberating to put things on the page that are seldom said out loud, and I know others had a similar experience.

I also was once again reminded how much I need accountability to keep up with my writing, lest it get buried forever under piles of laundry, dishes and Hot Wheels.  Not only did my classmates read my writing, but they put it under a microscope and dissected every part for what worked, and what needs work.  It was an honor to receive such thoughtful feedback on such a personal part of my life, and to delve into such profound stories from theirs.

I can’t wait to sign up for another quarter of classes.  It felt good to be back in school.