After months of complaining about work and finals, classes are over, summer is in full swing, and I have something to admit: I miss school.
Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of things I definitely do not miss. All nighters in the library, writing papers about things I don’t care about, and mandatory class participation are just some of the magical few.
But there is one thing that as I find myself sitting in my room at home chatting with my stuffed animals, I really miss. Classroom camaraderie. Now, I’m not talking about bonding over what we’re learning in class. Oh deary me no, I’m referring the overall feelings of hate and resentment latent in the classroom. There’s really nothing like it.
This camaraderie existed in many forms. But my absolute personal favorite was the sense of community and fellowship that developed when someone in class was really hungry. I’m talking about full-out stomach growling, so loud that even people three or four rows behind could hear it. Not the slow rumble, but the kind of surprise growling that comes out of nowhere and legitimately frightens the person seated next to you.
I never met anyone in my entire schooling career who didn’t try all kinds of ways to stifle their CSG (Classroom Stomach Growling.) I would usually put my jacket on my lap, bend all the way over so my face was practically on my desk, and pray that it would disguise the horrible sounds coming out of my stomach. Other people would try to sneak small snacks or distract themselves by actually paying attention to the discussion. (This, of course, opens up the possibility for other problems to arise since once someone gives you food, you have to somehow manage to eat it quietly. I’ve personally never felt closer to someone other than when I’m sitting next to them, knowing how hard they are working to quietly munch their food. The slow, quiet, chew, bringing us together one crunch at a time.) In my close experience with CSG, my fellow students sitting next to me, whether I know them or not, have always been really friendly when this happens. They try to hide their quiet giggling or kindly offer up a morsel of food.
There are countless other examples of classroom camaraderie. For example the common hatred of a professor, noticing everyone in lecture is also online shopping, and towards the end of the semester the frequent problem when nobody does their homework except for the obvious suck-up in the class, so everybody stares at him until he answers all of the professor’s questions. But for me, alone here in my room reminiscing with Mr. Bun and my American Girl Doll as my only companions, there really is nothing that makes you feel closer to a group of kids, than all trying to quiet your stomach acid together. And I truly miss that. (Sort of.)
I recently applied to participate in a theater school blog for students and so I felt it could be appropriate to write about how I actually ended up getting into theater school in the first place. You see, I didn’t really think about going to college until pretty late in my high school career. Its not like I wasn’t planning on going, its just that at the time high school felt like it would last forever, and so I sort of just assumed it would.
Picking schools was horrible. So I just applied to lots and lots of schools I didn’t really want to go to and one acting school I desperately wanted to go to. (I’m graduating from theater school now, so I guess we all know how this story ends…)
I needed to write an essay for the Common Application that would be used for the majority of my schools. You wouldn’t know it now, because I’m just such a brilliant writer, but I hated writing when I was in high school. Trying to make me write something was like pulling teeth. The deadline for the Common App was New Years Eve. So of course, December 31, 2007 was me all dressed up ready to go to a party sitting in front of my computer in hysterics finishing my essay.
There was one essay I did end up liking though, which I sent to multiple schools. It was about how I first discovered I wanted to pursue acting during the summer I spent in the teen program at Stella Adler Studios in New York City.
At Adler we took all of the same classes the full time students would take. There was movement, voice and speech, Shakespeare, improv, and Adler technique. The Adler technique is based heavily in imagination so we would do some abstract exercises. In one of the very first classes my teacher had us slowly walking around the room when all of a sudden she shouted, “Be the color yellow!” Hah. Yeah, right. Like, I could be the color yellow. But I figured I might as well give it a shot and soon found myself bounding around the room like a little ray of sunshine. She continued to shout colors at us and I slowly got really into it. Then we took it to the next level and were shapes. “Square!” “Circle!” “Rhombus!” I was really digging this exercise and letting out my inner octagon when she did the unspeakable, and told us to be an animal.
First of all I was tired, because being colors is like, really hard work. But mostly, because I didn’t think I could be convincing as an animal. I had never done it before! I didn’t really have a chance to think about it though, because before I knew what was happening the girl next to me started grooming my hair because she had transformed into a monkey.
I looked around the room and was surrounded by dozens of chickens, giraffes, and some weird combination of a rhino/hippo thing which I’ll never really know what the heck that person was doing. I panicked and did the only thing my stand-offish self could think of and decided to be a cat. I brilliantly crawled over into the corner of the room, sat there, sort of glared at everyone, licked my paw, and then decided to take a little nap.
When I wrote about this in my essay for college, I made a very important realization: I often live my life as a cat; sitting and observing on the sidelines. I wrote about how I realized I needed to be more like the monkey girl by interacting with other people, taking chances, and eating bananas. Even though I hated writing the essays, I was glad I did because I was accepted into my dream school. A year and a half later, when I found myself back at Adler doing the same exact assignment, I decided to do things differently. Instead of licking myself in a corner, I found myself on one leg in the center of the room preening. I had decided to be a flamingo. A bold choice and things were looking up for me! Little did I know the flamingo would end up being a metaphor for the next crazy, wonderful four years of my life- one big balancing act.
EDIT: I actually ended up going back into my email and finding parts of notes I had written for the original draft of the essay. It included such gems as “If I can pretend to be a cat, and lick myself in front of strangers, I can do anything.” And “This wasn’t what I signed up for. If I wanted to do sports, I’d have joined a lacrosse camp.” Talk about sass! I’m so proud right now, I wish I could go back in time and give 17 year old Caroline a big hug and pat on the back.