About the learning

by Kyla

It’s a new school year!

When I started university in January 2009 I was not quite so enthusiastic. There were no happy dances, no stripping off of clothes and running through the university sprinklers after hours*, no giddy jumping up and down, no eager, early trips to the bookstore, no staring lovingly at 500 blank pages of loose-leaf paper.

No, in January 2009 I was shit-scared out of my mind. As has previously been revealed, I did noticeably crappy in both high school and my previous attempt at university, so when it came time to start VIU I was pretty certain I’d be the oldest, fattest, and stupidest person in all of my classes, and that it was only a matter of time before I dropped out/flunked out/impoverished out, became homeless, lost my kids, died alone in a gutter, and was gnawed upon by rats.

That was not going to happen to me, damn it, and so I started university not only afraid but like I was running hard at a future I couldn’t see yet. Running, running, the hounds of failure nipping at my heels. And I did really fine** in classes after all, making my experience at VIU notably different than my experience at University of Idaho, where I often had difficulty locating my classes through the marijuana smoke.

Then, in my first summer, certain I was on my way to becoming a teacher***, I took math for elementary ed. Here’s the deal: the last math class I took was in tenth grade. It was “math fundamentals”, which I can assure you was referred to in my high school as “fun for mentals”, and, given that that had been twenty years earlier, when the prof started talking that first day I saw my invisible future in grave doubt. I had no idea what he was talking about.

After the first week, I phoned my Dad. My Dad is a math teacher, which makes it unlikely that we are actually genetically related. “Dad,” I said, “I have to drop math. I am going to get a C in it! Or, like, an F! But probably a C. If I’m lucky. Or an F. So I have to drop it, because, like, that will hurt my GPA! I can’t get a C.”

“Kyla,” said my beautiful father, “why would you even be in university if you already knew everything?”

Me: …

Dad: What’s the point of being there if you have nothing to learn?

Me: …

Dad: The whole reason you are in university is to learn things. So learn math. It doesn’t matter if you get a C, or even an F. Just learn math. That’s why you’re in school.

Me: …

Why would you even be in university if you already knew everything?
What’s the point of being there if you have nothing to learn?

That hadn’t even occurred to me. I was too busy running hard at the future; it was all about the grades, because I was going to prove that I could do it, because I was going to fight for the future with everything I had. What if my grades were just … adequate … but I learned? Would that be the point of university?

I did not drop math. And I did not get an F, nor even a C. And I have one year left of university and I have yet to die alone in a gutter, have yet to be gnawed upon by rats. And I’ve started taking classes to see what I will learn in them, with a little less worrying about how I will do in them. It turns out that when I am in classes to learn and loving what I learn, the grades come without me even worrying about them at all. If I don’t get such a good grade (and sometimes I don’t), I think about all that I learned and all that I have yet to learn.

This is what is so glorious about university. It is, in fact, not at all about the grades.

It is about the learning.

With just two semesters left, I think that if I had to do it all again, I would be a bit more gentle with myself, and not run quite so hard at the future. I would sit and I would learn and I would take all sorts of things I’d no doubt do really badly at; I’d do them anyway, and not fuss over the results. Try to sit in it a bit, drink it all in, hug myself with delight as I do every day, that I get to be here, doing this, for yet another day.

I love that.

*What? Like you haven’t.

**Really fine. I had my first child in Denmark and when I was in labour the jordemor**** kept telling me that I was doing really fine. I loved that. It’s fine. Everything is fine. And it is, after all.

***Don’t worry. There’s been a change of plans.

**** Jordemor =midwife, but literally translated it means earth mother, isn’t that wonderful?