I got my grades today.
Yes. My grades. I’m four classes away from earning my Bachelor’s Degree. Today, begins my final semester of college; I have, since January 2020, taken eleven classes towards this goal of graduating, with a boastful 4.0 GPA. I brag about this, because when I was in college (1982-1986), I struggled to maintain a 2.5. Everything, as a teenager, was daunting to me, from sex and sexuality to my complicated family dynamics to my listlessness in academia. What brought me any joy was music—WLIR was the radio station I listened to and the Film Forum was the weekend destination, where I got lost in the dark, watching films from far, far away (France, basically). When I finally left college, I thought, because I did my four year jail sentence, that I was done, and off I went, to pursue what lay ahead.
Today, I received my grades for the Winter session classes I took, Lyrics as Literature (a look at Stephen Sondheim’s work) and Spanish Level II. I got A’s in both classes. Both classes were hard work, for different reasons. Absorbing a new language in your fifties is a lesson in humility; the function of my brain, the retention of rules, the unbreaking of habits. Luckily, I have friends who have been generous to look at my work, guide me, gently point out my errors; as I torpedoed towards my final, I asked several friends to review my answers, so determined I was not only to get that A, but to understand where I was going wrong. I didn’t have that drive at twenty; I was content to take the grade given. But now, now I want to know that I understand and that if I’m wrong, I want to know why. As for the Sondheim, I have a close circle of friends who can recite every word to every Sondheim lyric ever, and so, I often looked to them to get a sense of what they responded to. And often, when certain songs, like in Gypsy or Company or Sweeney Todd which were three of the shows we studied, were pointed out to me as a favorite, I’d listen, more mindfully, knowing my friend loved it so. We also studied West Side Story, which I love, my parents had the soundtrack on vinyl, which I own now, and we listened to it often; I played one of Anita and Maria’s friends on my third grade musical—I stood in a turtleneck lilac wool dress and knee length white go-go boots on stage, proudly in my shag haircut and thick-lens glasses, nodding when the girl playing Maria sang “I Feel Pretty.” I had no idea what anything meant yet, I just knew it sung to me. Writing about West Side Story for my college-level class was emotional for me, knowing that my daughter, also a Broadway musical aficionado, would be so proud, proud of her Mom who had for so long been so clueless about musical theatre appreciation.
So. Today, I begin the home stretch of classes. So many decades later, and in just a few months, I will be able to say, proudly, that I am a college graduate. I will be able to apply to Graduate School. I will be able to eventually, teach. That’s a hashtag goal, and I’m here for it.