Back in the earliest years of this new Millenium—those of you who can remember back that far know what a magical time it was ... a time when Friends was a "must-see" and pomade was a "must-have" ... a time when there was no such thing as "subtle highlights" and when Angelina Jolie was still totally wacky—way back in the post-Hotmail/pre-Facebook Fall of 2001 when I walked into my first class of my first semester of my first year of college, I never would have dreamed that my fresh-faced writing professor might be embarking on some terrifying firsts of her own. Now that I know how universities work, I know that my young, soft-spoken, surprisingly optimistic, slightly liberal freshman writing teacher (Hon P 200, anyone?) was most likely a student herself. An older, married, pregnant student of the graduate variety, but a student nonetheless. And she was probably—no wait...she was definitely—way more nervous, self-conscious, and pants-crappingly terrified than I was.
I haven't thought of this woman or the things she taught me for ten years. I can't, for the life of me, remember her name. But I remember what she looked and sounded like. I remember that we couldn't really tell if she was pregnant until around Thanksgiving, and before that it was an awkward is she or isn't she guessing-type game. I remember that she wanted us to write about our feelings and our favorite songs and Tuesdays with Morrie. I remember thinking I knew more about King Lear than she did (I didn't) and that she cried too much (she did). What I don't remember, though, is anything I learned. Not one thing. You see, there was a douchey, sideburned dreamboat who sat next to me in that class (you'll recall that douchey guys were the style in those days). I was distracted. To him, I was invisible (as was my style in those days). His name and the facts that he liked surfing and Jack Johnson are all I can remember about my writing class that semester. My seventeen-year-old self was an idiot.
The universe is a jerk and I'll tell you why. Now I'm going to be a freshman writing teacher and I have no idea what I'm doing. None. If I had been assigned the task of shuttling a pack of wild preschoolers across a tightrope, I couldn't be any more horrified. Because:
What if they can see right through me?
I've heard eighteen year olds can smell fear and insecurity. They'll catch one whiff of me and they will run with the knowledge that I'm teetering on the edge confidence. One little vocal quiver on my part will be all they need to start launching spitballs at my face.
What if they scrutinize me the way I scrutinized my teachers?
They'll notice everything. My haircut, my clothes, my shoes and how often I wear them. They'll pay more attention to the stains on my shirts than the due dates in the syllabus. They'll catch me with my fly down or my finger in my nose and then that will be it. Tenuous grasp of authority—gone. Forever.
What if they don't learn anything?
What if I teach and teach and they don't learn. In ten years, will they remember their crush on Sideburns McDarlingface better than the readings? During their peer reviews, will they ignore their theses and focus instead on my fluctuating weight?
At times like these, I wish I could be as invisible as I was when I was 17.