Monday, October 15, 2012

Advice from my 20-year-old self: Don't die of boredom

I had a teacher at BYU who told us there were two qualifications that set you apart as a "true" English major: (1) you must be able to bench press the weight of the books you lug around every semester, and (2) you must not sell back your Norton anthologies, but rather keep them so you can display them proudly in your future home.

I actually did try weight lifting with one of my anthologies and a few of my reference books once because they were the heaviest "small" things I owned, and while they possessed the necessary weight for me to get some value out of the workout, they had no convenient handles to make it possible to lift the book without it slipping from my grasp, so it wasn't the best use of my time. 

I also took Dr. Mason's second stricture to heart and never sold back my anthologies. They currently sit at the bottom of my bookshelf, but only because the rest of the shelves are too flimsy to hold that much weight. I kept them because I wanted to proudly display my nerdiness to the world and because I had a feeling they would come in handy again some day. (And, I wanted to finish reading Utopia some day.)

Fast forward five years later: once again, I'm studying the works that are great enough to anthologized. Once again, I find myself shuffling through the Bible-thin pages and poring over agonizingly long pages of minuscule text in preparation for class discussion the next day.

One of the works I've been assigned to read this term is Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I read parts of this my sophomore year in college in Dr. Mason's class, and I did not care for it at all. I hated postmodernism from the moment I learned the term, and I sat through the class discussion with glazed over eyes caused by both boredom and sleep deprivation.

I'm a little more prepared for HoD at this point in my life; I've even enjoyed reading it somewhat. But the funnest part about revisiting this work is reading all the little notes I wrote in the margins during those long two-hour blocks of English 292/293. I don't remember any of the discussions that went along with the notes, but I'm glad I jotted them down all the same; they remind me of what I am supposed to be learning from the text and provide me with insightful content to impress my classmates with—they think I was smart enough to come up with all this on my own.

Today, after slogging through a particularly uninteresting segment about Mr. Kurtz, I noted a small paragraph of text I had squished into the margin:
2 choices: (1) make someone who is already depraved even more depraved. (plunder) (2) Kurtz - starts at the top and ends up lower than anyone else.
Beneath this fascinating commentary was a small insertion on the corner of the page:
Don't die of boredom.
How thoughtful of my 20-year-old self to leave that note for the benefit of future readers. How fitting that I chose to keep myself awake by playing the role of the Half-Blood Prince and planting my own pearl of wisdom next to the ancient text.

Still in the early excitement of being back in school, I did not need this thoughtful little warning at this time. I am, in fact, still excited enough about school to look forward to going home so I can do homework. And, may I add, a little more prepared to appreciate stream-of-consciousness writing. 

But thanks for the warning anyway, 20-year-old self. Maybe in a year or so I'll find a similar warning that will be much more fitting of my situation.

1 comment:

  1. I totally kept my Norton anthologies too... We're nerds, Angie!