Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fiat Lux: Let There Be Light

Fiat Lux is the University of California system's motto.

It's been 10 years since I graduated from college. Crazy! How did a full decade pass by? Does that mean I am also a whole decade older? It's probably a good thing that I'm not really lamenting this whole ageing thing.

I visited my Alma Mater to commemorate this time. It was so strange walking the halls and viewing these old brick buildings through my 10 year-older-eyes. It was also strange to take my 4 year old 'potty' in the old Anthropology building in Watkins Hall. Yeah, I have 2 kids now. Big change from 10 years ago. It is no longer just me. 

Atticus taking a break outside of Sproul Hall

10 years ago today I took my last final in college. If I remember correctly, the class was a lower division course entitled "Religious Myth and Ritual" taught by Professor Brian K. Smith (who retired from teaching in 2004 to live as a Buddhist Monk and is now known as Lama Marut.). 

Outside of Rivera Library

I lived (well, I still do actually) about 50 miles north of my old school: the University of California, Riverside.  On that particular morning, the main artery through the San Bernardino mountains, the 15 freeway, was closed due to a traffic collision. Luckily, I had time to turn around before I started descending. Even more lucky for me, I had decided to leave a couple of hours early so I could do some studying before class.

My only option was to drive the 135 mile detour that took me through Lucerne Valley, Yucca Valley, on the edge of Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs, past Banning and Beaumont to the Eastern side of Riverside. It takes a little over 2 hours to drive this route (longer if there's any traffic) compared to the normal 50-60 minute commute.

By the time I got to school to take my test, I had no time to study and my butt was in my seat just as Professor Smith locked the door. I felt shaky, on the verge of hysteria, and sure that I was going to fail this final without question. All I could think about as I sat down, ready to start, was that my entire college career hinged on this one test for this one class. That if I failed this final, I would most likely not pass the class and I would therefore not graduate having not completed all of my requirements. I would have to spend another semester in college and I really couldn't afford to do that.

The Bell Tower
But I didn't fail my test. When I finished it I knew that I passed (it was a lower division class, after all. Easy-peasy. Why DO I get myself all worked up??) and I breathed in the cool Spring air feeling such a sense of accomplishment. I had graduated from college. I had completed my B.A. with two majors in History and Religous Studies. I felt so much pride in my work. I wasn't one of those kids whose parents paid for their school or didn't have to work while in college. I had student loans and debt and when I started at UCR in 2002 I had a 1985 Toyota Cressida that had a failing transmission. If I stopped too long at a light, when I would accelerate, plumes of white smoke would drown out the cars all around me. But I still went. I didn't give up.

It's hard to believe that 10 years have gone by. I have to say that along with producing 2 beautiful baby boys, graduating with my Bachelor's is one of my greatest accomplishments. I never lived in a dorm, I never attended rush week or went to a frat party. I worked at the UCR Bookstore and listened to students talk about how they really hated it there but they had to go because their parents were making them, or how tired they were from this party or that party. I was just a student. I was interested in learning and getting that degree. I loved school, even though at times, it was really hard. 

In front of Rivera Library. History was on floor 2 and religious studies was in the was scary down there.
My plan after graduation was to go to graduate school to study Medieval religious history. Life has a way of diverting plans, however, and I didn't go back. While I berated myself about this for many years, I've since considered it a blessing in disguise because I no longer want to study religion. With age has come a more focused interest.

I now want to go to San Jose State University and do their Master's in Library and Information Science and work as an academic librarian at a college. I am a professed Bibliophile so it does seem silly that this idea never came to me before. But then again, my mother was a history teacher at Victor Valley College (where she wrote the curriculum for the Women in U.S. History class, thank you very much) and I, at an early age, became enthralled with teaching, colleges, and knowledge. 

The Humanities and Social Science Building, where I spent most of my time.
As I walked these halls, I remembered why I wanted to be a professor, why I loved it here so much. There is a sense of excitement, of learning and discovery that hums in the air. The orange trees were in bloom and the heavy smell of citrus blossoms impregnated the air. Every step held a new scent, a new plant, a new pathway to inspiration.

I was so sure of myself in college. I knew exactly who I was and what I was going to do. The rest of my 20's did not follow suit, though. I spent the rest of that decade questioning everything I did or didn't do. The last few years I've regained some of that confidence back. I guess I don't fear failure the same way I did when I was younger. It's still there, but it tends to not rear it's head as often.

The pathway in front of the Humanities Building.
There were professors that influenced me greatly. One was Professor Betsy Bauman-Martin who was a lecturer for religious studies. I took her for Women in Early Christianity and Women and Religion. She was so intelligent but so un-pretentious about it. Professors tend to think very highly of themselves and sometimes they would be very competitive with each other, openly, in front of students. But Professor Bauman-Martin, who wanted us to call her Betsy, was down to earth. I wish she had been a full time professor because I would have jumped at the chance to work with her.

The other professor was Ann Goldberg. My history degree is a concentration in medieval history. I didn't care much for this class, the professor was kind of boring (sacrilege to say such a thing, I know!) and I couldn't motivate myself in this series of classes. I missed a lot of class and only put minimal effort into it. I wish I had someone around at the time to tell me to just stop, take a break. Or at least to stop taking these Medieval history classes. I had taken one class with Professor Ann Goldberg. The class was called Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe. I loved this class. It was so interesting and Professor Goldberg was an excellent lecturer. She reminded me of my mother, the way she spoke, the way she would stand and write on the board. I really wish that I had changed my concentration to work under her and focus on the Early Modern period. It may have re-ignited a flame in me that was quickly smoldering out-and eventually did for a short time.

Orange Blossom: one of the most beautiful scents in the world.

UCR was started as a way to extend the citrus growing season here in California in 1907. There are still orange groves found around campus. The first undergraduate college opened in 1954 thus marking it's 50th anniversary the year I graduated.

Just to make my life more complicated, I would also like to attend UCR or Cal State Fullerton to get a M.A. in history with a concentration in the Early Modern period (women, witch hunts in Germany, and religion as concentrations). I don't know how in the heck I will do all that with two little kids but I know many women accomplish amazing things every day. Oh and did I mention I want to write a novel or two in the meantime?

Scotty the Highlander, UCR's mascot. Atticus was a little shy.

I would love for my kids to go to UCR or any college for that matter. I think an education is so important. Going to college is hard. It's even harder when you have a long commute, little money, and other difficulties that distract you from your goal. But if you can make it happen, it is worth every penny as far as I'm concerned. Getting an education at this level really impacted me: it opened me up to ideas and peoples and experiences that I would never have been exposed to had I not attended. It is a nice feeling to know that no matter what I do in life, I still hold a B.A. from the University of California at Riverside with two majors in history and religious studies. That can never be taken away from me. College may not make you rich...especially if you study the humanities-let's be honest. But the wealth you gain in other areas is priceless.

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