The College Writing Class that Hooked Me on Journaling

I don’t know if it’s  because I was in school between the mid sixties and the late seventies or if I hit the Weston Public School District in a very generous and creative curriculum steering away from rules and regulations. I remember being encouraged to be creative rather than structurally perfect.

Grain of Salt. There were many teachers who tried to teach me how to use paragraphs and sentences. Not my speed. I also have a way of checking out on things I get bored in. I highly doubt I was able to do that in an entire year of diagraming sentences. Antiquated perhaps.

Here and there, high school teachers like Mr. Williams, the most beloved Social Studies teacher on the planet, assigned us journals. They were especially effective for me. I didn’t know that I had started in the best form of counseling.

When I went to Ithaca College in 1978, I had not a clue what I was supposed to do. I had been away from home at hockey tournaments, but I didn’t know anyone at I.C. It was like jumping into the deep end of a very cold pool. The transition took my breath away, and I had to work very hard to get it back.

You might be wondering what caused me to go down this rabbit hole? In a notebook, I come across stray journals. I had tried to do some blogging about Weston High School Alumni, but that fell flat on its face.

Typed on onion skin paper. Some of you can’t even fathom this image. I can see the typewriter. My high school graduation gift; it was a Honthumb tradition. Each typewriter got better and  better. Not sure if the cost was as dramatic as the abilities. Barbara and Pam’s were probably not electric. Deb’s might have had a return handle that you had to hit to return. Mine was four years newer and had the button return. It used a cartridge for ink. I got rather good at ejecting the ink, throwing in the correction tape, typing over and over the mistake, ejecting it, throwing the ink one back in. Big clunky things that didn’t seem to always have a full thing of ink. I couldn’t see through it. I’m thinking that the company at three letters, and they may come to me as I write about typing on a very old type writing. SRA or SRC.

The thing that burned me about my typewriter was that I was faster than it was and sometimes keys would jam on top of them. I had learned to type on a manual typewriter, so the selectric was so much smoother. In trying to type quickly on a manual typewriter, my fingers often slipped inbetween the keys. Not a fun feeling.

In my second semester at Ithaca College, I chose a personal essay class. I had been toying with the idea of keeping a journal, just didn’t know how to start. What I am reading is written strictly for my eyes, and I’ve not even seen this page in many years.

Finals were breathing hard. I really, really needed to improve my grades or coming back wouldn’t be an option. I thought I was making the adjustments, but most of the time I struggled. I wanted to be in so many places at the same time. I learned how to stretch time.

I should have been coasting as most of my classes  had been stamped incomplete the second I torn my ACL. It’s really hard to do gymnastics or basketball or swimming with a leg in a brace.

I wonder if I am writing this 5- 5-79 journal in the middle of the night after everyone has gone to bed. I used to set up in the rec room to my typing wouldn’t keep my roommate awake. I’m sure people could still hear me tap tapping away. I’ve always been a loud typist.

So, I’m reading about my 19-year-old self. Par for the course, I waited until the last minute to read a textbook; that had been my modus operandi in high school. I squeezed by. Since my strategy just barely worked in high school, it sure wasn’t working in the big leagues.

Chances are I’m writing this in the wee hours on a Saturday, though I’m in a dorm, so I can’t imagine anytime being quiet. Maybe that’s why I became a loud typist. Can’t I be a typer instead?

When I dug academic holes, I dug deep ones. On this night I’m lamenting that Monday’s final in the History of Sport was going to be a gigantic hurdle to get over. I had read the first three chapter  assignments, but had let ten others slip through my fingers. And it’s not like I was going to totally immerse myself into the book from sun up to sun down. I had other things to do.

And then there was biology, “I am not even sure what to think.” My solution to a boring teacher was to simply not go to class. Great plan my nineteen-year-old self.

The thing that I really enjoy about re-reading my own words is that I get to chew up the words and spit them out. In this journal, I admit that I’m banking a passing grade out of Personal Essay that she feels sorry for me.

It just happens that I have one of those lives that every so often a really sad event happens. My mom’s death at twelve trumped them all, but they tried. Losing an ACL for an athlete and physical education student devastated me. This was back when there wasn’t an easy fix. The surgery wasn’t a guarantee that I’d have much mobility. I took in all of the doubts and begged for pity. It sometimes worked. I’d have to look back at my transcripts to see if it worked in Personal Essay, but my so much older self is just laughing. If I had to snake my way through a cake-walk class as that, I must have had slacking down to a science.

There was one class that I was so glad I got out of the final. Stunts and Tumbling. I think I called it bumps and fumbling. Put me in a leotard and all my athleticism goes right out the gym. Maybe I felt too  naked. I didn’t have trouble wearing bathing suits. I do have a note that I got a solid B in social round dance, another class that wasn’t my favorite.

I did return to Ithaca for my sophomore year, or at least the first term, but my knee wasn’t stable enough for vaulting a horse, and since the philosophy was if you couldn’t participate in an activity, I wouldn’t be able to teach the activity.

Now that I have someone else’s ACL, I sometimes dream of going back to Ithaca and finish my degree, but since I can’t even carry the laundry two flights of stairs without resting, I don’t think I could handle the multiple activity classes, and with my lack of balance, I’d not stand a chance on the  balance beam. Maybe next life.




  1. Reading your description of your typewriter brought me back, and of course, I am even older so I used the kind of typewriter with the lever that you had to stop and push over to the left to go up a line.
    I just have to say that people now-a-days don’t know how easy they’ve got it with computers, if they never had to type things out on an old standard typewriter like we did! They haven’t a clue!

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