The textbook for my class came yesterday in the mail. It’s a little chilling, especially the bars on the eyes.

I haven’t been a student for a long time but it was really my favorite thing. Oh, not when I was in grade school or high school. Then school was a dread festival in all ways – academically, socially, athletically, clothes-wise, car-wise. I was a B- student hanging on the fringes of an A+ crowd, who swam in the ‘chorus’ of the synchronized swimming club, wore sneakers from Ben Franklin and drove a white Ford station wagon on the rare occasions when I could get the car to go to the ‘library.’ I was not cool.

I was no cooler in college but it mattered not. I loved college. I loved listening to professors. I loved having smart people tell me stuff. I still love a good lecture. I loved getting A’s. I loved being called ‘promising.’ I loved being someone with ‘potential.’

Well, all that has played out now. It’s thirty years since my last college class. And whatever promise and potential I had has had its little burst of brilliance. It’s one of the few things I dislike about aging – the notion of having pretty seriously limited promise and potential. I’m not going to be something someday. I’m just going to be who I am. If you are my age, you will know what that means. If you aren’t, you could if you took a really good class on psychological adjustments in aging.

My class is a senior level class in Medical Anthropology. In addition to the book, there is a collection of articles and essays that contain equally unsettling case studies of people and groups defined and stigmatized by their conditions. It speaks to my abiding interest in the negative, the complex, and the ostracized. Plus the professor, upon hearing of my interest in taking the State of Wisconsin up on its offer to allow older adults to audit college classes,  invited me to his. “It would be great to have you,” he said, and I thought for a moment that maybe he’d heard from someone what an extraordinary college student I had been.

Will there be amazing lectures? Will the professor let me answer questions? Will there be praise that I can carry home in a bushel basket? Will I feel the glitter and the glee of having promise and potential? I miss that part of young life so much, the forward-looking, the robustness of ambition, the notion that I was exceptional, gifted. Even if it was an illusion, it was my young self’s joy. And I miss it. Oh, do I miss it.