Ah! How fondly I remember my student years! I suppose the early 80s was Liberal Arts Heaven compared to nowadays. Near the end of every semester, the university would publish the catalogue of courses for the next semester in a tabloid newspaper format. You could see students huddled together everywhere on campus — sitting under trees, gathered together at tables in cafeterias, sitting on floors in the hallways between classrooms — perusing next semester’s delicious and alluring offerings.
“Oh, look! There’s a course on Caribbean Religions in the anthropology department!”
“Check it out, dude! There’s an advanced seminar on South American revolutionaries in the history department!”
“Oh man! Professor Smith is teaching his course on The Philosophy of Daoism next semester.”
And we all dreamed of the intellectual goodies we’d all be sampling in months to come. No matter that once the new semester was underway, even a subject like Egyptian history — that initially seemed unbearably exciting — soon became a serious chore when the reading load was more than fifty pages per lecture, and that was only one of seven classes you were taking. At the end of that semester we all became blissfully innocent again, and oohed and aahed at the at the new course catalogue, which included such delightful temptations as “Liberation Movements of the 19th Century” taught by that infamous poli-sci prof who almost got fired for leading a campus demonstration that got out of control, or “Progoff Intensive Journaling” led by that poet in the English department who everyone knows is some kind of occultist (or something).
I don’t recall how old I was when it hit me that the number of things I will still learn in this life is finite. You know what I’m talking about? There was a time I thought I would learn dozens of languages (To date there are really only two foreign languages I will claim that I speak. The handful of other languages I’ve studied at one time or another I won’t go farther than to say I have knowledge of them). And I thought I’d learn to play guitar, and half a dozen martial arts (I have a black belt in one and know a little of two others), and blacksmithing (I think pounding glowing iron must be so soul satisfying), become a master gardener (I’m so urban I haven’t had a garden in years), and… and…
The list goes on and on. And then I grew up, and the necessities of life bore down on me, and I had to earn a living and take care of a family, and I realized I no longer had the blessed life of a full-time student. And I also realized I couldn’t absorb things as quickly anymore either. Not to say that I gave up on learning; I am still a life-long student. But I realized I had to make my choices and focus my limited time and energy on that much narrower band of things I chose.
When Jason Miller decided to start teaching his One Year Boot Camp course back in October of 2009, I ached to sign up because I knew my magical technique could use some serious tuning up, but knew I was just too busy to focus on it. Then he started new cycles of it at regular intervals. Finally, when he announced a new cycle would begin on New Year’s Day of this year, I couldn’t hold back any longer. I decided that whatever it takes — even if it means trimming back on some other activities for a year, I was going to do it. I signed up.
This week, lesson three (technically lesson four, since the whole thing was kicked off with “Lesson Zero”, which included a ritual to do), is the first time I’m beginning to feel the commitment I made, like the wide-eyed university student who realizes that even if the one-semester “Faust” seminar offered by the German department (Hey! I actually took that!), is really cool, the work load is a bitch. Lesson three has A LOT OF EXERCISES IN IT.
But I plan to stay focused. It took me a year to decide to do this course. I don’t want to be one of the folks who wrote on their blog, or confessed to me in correspondence, that they got a certain distance into the course and then got hopelessly behind. I remember that feeling from college, too. There’s a certificate to be earned for this course. I’m going to get it! Why? Because I decided I’m going to do it.
And I remember how I got through college: one day at a time. One foot in front of the other. Focus on what you have to do right now.
And then one day, to my utter surprise, my advisor said to me, “Hey, you’re graduating at the end of this semester!”