Imagine for a minute some alternate universe in which everyone was invited to a year of cost-free, compulsory education at some point in her adult years with a guarantee that you could return to your current job at the end of it with no penalty, if you so chose. What would you elect to study? Something to advance your current career path? Something to help with a complete career change? Something hobby-oriented? Something you wish you knew more about? Something you always regret not studying?
I half-wish I would say something practical, like accounting, which might be technically helpful as a self-employed entrepreneur. And I half-wish I would say something esoteric, in the realm of philosophy or theology, which might challenge me to think outside of the constructs in which I move so comfortably.
But I would 100% go back for more literature, possibly high modernism again or maybe fin de siecle or less predictably Gothic, which has long interested me as a mode rather than a period of time. (There are several first-rate Gothic novelists that write now, Ruth Ware chief among them. And looking a few decades back, many consider “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” a quintessentially Gothic text. There are entire conferences about it!)
My brother is a published academic (you can find his book on Herman Melville and ecology on Amazon!) and when I read what he writes, it’s as if gears in my brain are slowly creaking into motion after years of rust and disuse. It would be invigorating to oil that machinery, to rescue it from obsolescence, to more nimbly move between text and theory, to draw from a deeper well of reference and critical thought. I think a year of focused study would inform and improve writing work, too: when I read great books, I find, to borrow from Seamus Heaney, “the air around and above me alive and signalling.” Everything, in the words of Nora Ephron, becomes copy. And I mean that in the least clinical of interpretations. When I read well, the world around me swells with invitation. Metaphors present themselves. Stories unfurl, unbidden. I tumble into the open-handed wideness of language.
What about you? What would you study if a year of no-strings-attached, elective, cost-free education presented itself?
+I see this query as distinct from my earlier thoughts on what I would study in college if I could do it all over again. I am still unsure on whether I would advise my children to pursue a degree in the humanities. English is not wool-gathering, but it makes for a challenging transition to the working world. I do still so value the great gift of my degrees in English, the “or maybes…the accommodation of a multitude of narrative possibilities. English trained me to look at a single word and ask: “but why this one?” and to recognize a certain rhyme scheme and ask “what if it were another?” I am forever shaped by the way those questions both exact and forgive.”
+The best book I read in the last ten years. I think I am going to listen to this as a book on tape next. I am currently listening to Matthew McConaughey’s Green Lights. (You know I have a thing for celebrity-narrated audiobooks.)
+Of course, you can’t beat my favorite $98 quilted liner jacket, which I have worn heavily the last two falls in a row.
+ICYMI: all my fall favorites here.
+Love this outdoor chaise!
+Wanted to update on the toddler backpack search — I shared some initial finds here, but I think I’ve narrowed the options for mini down to this Paravel (which you can have personalized, or personalize yourself with patches like these) or this Cam Copenhagen. I like that both are small and super lightweight on their own. And, of course, blue for my blue-loving gal.
+Now on my makeup lust list: Saie’s Sun Melt (cream bronzer).
+Striped paper table runner — make an outdoor gathering ultra-chic!
+OK, adore this scalloped ottoman.
+These are my favorite dishes for children — microwavable, dishwasher safe, with sections that are the perfect depth (deep enough to hold applesauce/yogurt/soupy things). Come in the best colors, too!
+Yellow and white stripe outdoor pillows. So cheerful.
+Shirtdresses are basically appropriate in any season.