Reflections from a first-year Aggie
(Originally ran on December 6th, 2002)
It will most likely come as a shock to the majority of my English 1010 students to find that I am not the seasoned veteran instructor they have taken me for all semester. It will probably send odd chills up their spines to learn that this is indeed my very first year at Utah State, and that I, like them, was a miserable rookie. So as the semester draws near a close, I feel compelled to open up some of my observations as a first-year Aggie, a brand new member of the Utah State fraternity.
From Fall semester I will carry a distinct sense of pride at having managed to integrate Monty Python, The Ramones, and Woody Allen into my lesson presentations, all with completely legitimate academic applications. I'm sure that many 1010 students were convinced that their instructors would gather in their fourth floor Ray B. West offices and use a dart board and entertainment magazines to create our lesson plans while we listened to Pink Floyd, but that assumption couldn't be farther from the truth. We listened to James Brown.
Of course, being a graduate student has placed me in a bizarre state of limbo with regard to the University social structure. While I am basically the same age as the undergraduate student body, my position has led to strange reactions at school sporting events. It was a bit odd to have one of my students referee one of my intramural volleyball games, particularly when he consistently ignored my continual stream of threats with regard to his grades if he didn't start calling the game our way. Whenever I see most of my students at football games or other activities, I usually get the kind of looks you gave your fourth-grade teacher when you saw them at the grocery store.
One of my fondest memories will be noticing the A one Monday night, brilliantly lit up in blue to commemorate the successful delivery of my very first conference paper, a masterpiece outlining the position of Ricardo Montalban with respect to the Chicano movement of the late 1960's.
It also occurred to me that the day before this column runs will be the tenth anniversary of my very first date. If that sounds like a strange thing to remember, keep in mind that I also remember the exact circumstances surrounding my first trip to see Return of the Jedi with my father and best friend Steve in May of 1983. As an American Studies major, I am part of a distinct social subgroup that has a peculiar knack for remembering obscure, worthless dates and details.
While I do enjoy certain aspects of the single life, at times I do wonder why at the same time my dear friends are anxiously engaged in the process of buying homes, obtaining exciting domestic appliances, and repopulating the planet, I am faced with the mind-numbing weekly decision of whether to go bowling or to play lazer tag on a date. This frustration used to be enhanced whenever I would pass a downtown Salt Lake bus stop and see lunatics holding hands. "If the loonies can find love," I would ask anyone within earshot, "then why not a suave, intelligent young man like myself?"
The answer, I fear, lies in the atrocities of my youth. In particular, the answer concerns the very Christmas dance that inagurated me into the dating world ten years ago. It would be pointless and shocking to indulge in the details of my insensitive and henious actions that December night (most of which were brought on by the fact that I was hopelessly infatuated with another young woman at the time who had neglected to ask me to the Christmas dance despite the fact that I had spoken at least fourteen words to her in the previous four months). Let me simply say that I have long felt the need to apologize to the hapless young girl that was unfortunate enough to ask a clueless, tactless sixteen-year-old to a dance. Beth, if you still curse my name to this day, you are justified. (Her name has been changed to protect her innocence, though her real name is Stacey.)
Most of all, I think I will remember the epiphany I had one day after my class had cleared out, leaving me facing a sea of empty chairs. It was at that moment that I realized that I, a neurotic aspiring writer with a strange affinity for William Shatner, was teaching at a major university. God bless America.