After high school, I was accepted into an honors humanities and history program at a local university, which would fulfill all my non-math-and-science prerequisites. I accepted! I wanted to study science. If I could get those pesky prerequisites out of the way quickly, I would be on my way to becoming a scientist.
I was late to my humanities class, having changed my schedule to accommodate my science classes. I didn’t know the professor and didn’t know what kind of reception I would get, walking in late. At the door, I straightened my shoulders, took a deep breath, walked as quietly as I could into the room, and sat down in an open wedge in the circle of students sitting on the floor. Across the diagonal of the circle was a cute guy with long blond hair, blue eyes, and a smart-aleck attitude. I ignored him.
We met in the professor’s office, sitting on the floor, because there was no other space on campus. The professor had a comfortable paunch, grey hair, big sideburns, round cheeks, and he wore a cardigan sweater with leather inserts on the elbows. He rubbed his hands gleefully and got ready to try to teach philosophy to a bunch of teenagers. Because we were still teenagers.
Weeks later, after we had read the works of WAY too many philosophers in m opinion, we were given an assignment to write an essay comparing and contrasting their different points of view. I rolled my eyes and made my way to the science building, where I thought I belonged. With frogs and microscopes and the smell of formaldehyde.
Later that night, sitting in the study in my parents’ house trying to write my essay, my attention was drawn to 2 birds that were sitting on the telephone wires outside the window. I kept staring, and daydreaming; avoiding the assignment. My imagination soared out to where the birds were sitting.
I wrote an essay about birds sitting on a telephone wire, unaware that they were witness to countless conversations, and what would happen if they somehow interrupted them. How would conversations change? How would ideas differ? How much power would these birds have and what would they do with it? I turned in my essay, thinking the professor would give me a failing grade and kick me out of his class for not taking the assignment seriously.
WRONG. We assembled ourselves in our circle on the floor and the professor walked to the center gleefully. He bounced on his crepe soled shoes, rubbing his hands together yet again. A habit. He smiled from ear to ear. “We have something special today”, he said. “One of the essays was brilliant. It earned an A and I will give it another A if the writer will allow it to be read. Wow, I thought, someone took this seriously. Was it that guy across the circle?
Then the professor looked at me. NO. You can’t possibly be talking about my essay! But he was. And he read it. And he talked about how beautifully it referenced existentialism. I wanted to crawl under my desk. I was mortified. I thought I had failed, and he thought I was brilliant. That cute guy across the circle thought I was nuts. I shouldn’t have written from my imagination.
But I did. And after raising two wonderful daughters and after a successful career in finance, not science, I am again pulled towards writing and letting my imagination run free. That cute guy and I have been married for 42 years. And he still thinks I’m nuts.