So this quarter of school has been sort of a let down. By “let down,” I mean “trainwreck,” and by “sort of,” I mean “of epic proportions.” Next week is the last week of the quarter, and I’m really looking forward to it, because it’ll mean the end of me wanting to crawl under my bed and die rather than show up to class.

One class is just so bad I don’t even want to talk about it because it’ll wind up devolving to the point where I’m writing in all capital letters using far, far too many exclamation points. I will say, however, that since about week 3, my notes from class have all been about what I am going to write on the end-of-term feedback form. It’s unfortunate, because I really thought the class was going to be helpful and I was going to take away a lot from it; sadly, what I am going to take away from it is that I just spent about $1800 for no damn reason.

The other class… man, I dunno. I thought it was going to be sweet. I emailed the prof for the syllabus months before the quarter, so I could see if I wanted to take it. I had planned to take another class to address the credits this one does, but I thought this class sounded better and so I went for it. The first problem was when it turned out to be a hybrid — half online, half in person — course. I took one of those previously, and I didn’t like it at all. It felt really distant, and there was no feedback, and although I did like that other course well enough despite the hybrid impediment, I decided that I wouldn’t take any more hybrids. I swear this class was not listed on the timetable as a hybrid when I signed up for it. But the first week, we got an amended syllabus and the professor announced it was a hybrid. My heart sank a little bit, but I decided to stick with it rather than drop it and find another class at that late date. This was possibly a strategic error on my part.

But I still thought the class was going to be pretty cool, I really loved the topic (writing about Chicago! I can write! I love Chicago! I bet I would love to write about Chicago!). I did all right for the first two weeks, though I wasn’t entirely happy with the first assignment. I rocked the second one, and read it out loud in class — the class was structured to have four essays with one to be read aloud in either week 5 or 9, student’s choice, so I chose week 5 to get it over with early, which was a really brilliant move because… well.

The third assignment absolutely broke my head. It was to write about a liminal or sacred place (though it was set out as “liminal/sacred” space, so I thought that meant both), and since I would say I don’t actually have any particular “sacred” places (or even “reasonably special” space), I tried focusing on liminal, but the explanation really cut me off at the knees. In class, liminality was explained as a “border” or invisible place, or “a place where heaven and earth meet.” I’m sorry, I tried, but that means literally nothing to me. Heaven does not exist, ergo heaven never meets earth. That sounds like something that I would find on a Hallmark greeting card. There’s a reason I don’t buy greeting cards and I just hand-write notes to people: I hate cornball, nonsense greeting card sentiments.

So I tried to be a good student. I said to myself, ok, so go do some research, read about it, it’ll clarify it. This was a mistake. Reading about liminality just confused me more. For example, according to Wikipedia:

Liminality is…a psychological, neurological, or metaphysical subjective, conscious state of being on the “threshold” of or between two different existential planes[.] … The liminal state is characterized by ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy. One’s sense of identity dissolves to some extent, bringing about disorientation. Liminality is a period of transition where normal limits to thought, self-understanding, and behavior are relaxed – a situation which can lead to new perspectives.”

What? Are you kidding me? And I gotta go find some place in Chicago that embodies this and write an essay about it? Oh, hell no. But I tried. One of the parts of the hybrid course is that we have to post our ideas for the places we tour to Blackboard, and so I brainstormed and came up with three ideas — three ideas that I thought were really stupid, but they were all I had, so I posted them. But it’s not like you get to have a real discussion about the ideas, so that was basically that. I still hated the ideas, didn’t see how they worked, and now I had less than a week to pick one, tour it, write it up, and then write an essay on it. Grrrrreeeeeat.

In the end, I punted. I tried to flip over to the “sacred” angle, so I thought more about places where something special happened. Other folks were doing ideas like writing up why their car was a sacred space to them, or why fishing is sacred, and honestly I don’t get that at all. But hey, at least they had something, which was better than me. I spent way more time on this than it deserved, and wound up thinking back to when I was living in the dorms at UIC, and me and my friend R. would sometimes go to the lakefront, behind the Adler Planetarium, to watch the sunrise over the lake. I thought, okay, that’s sort of a special, transient time and place. So I looked up sunrise times, set my alarm, and biked to the lakefront to watch the sun come up on a warm, clear morning. I wrote an essay, which I immediately hated, and which I couldn’t actually relate to the assignment because I didn’t frigging understand what the hell I was supposed to be doing. Hated it, hated it, oh, hated it so very much. It gutted me, too, because I was so frustrated by this abstract concept that made no sense to me, and I am really unaccustomed to things not making sense to me. I actually was so pissed at one point I was sitting there going, “This is stupid!” like a five year old throwing a tantrum because math is hard. I very nearly threw my laptop, which is saying something because I really like my laptop, and I don’t actually wish to smash it into bits. I just wanted to smash that godforsaken assignment.

Class came around, and I dragged myself there though it was the last thing I wanted to do. And then we were talking about it, and someone mentioned the ideas I’d posted and was curious which one I’d gone with, and I said something like, “Actually, I didn’t go with any of them…,” and then the floodgates opened, and out poured all this frustration and “I DON’T GET IT” and “I HATED THIS ASSIGNMENT” and “NO YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, I DON’T GET IT” and “I ALMOST THREW MY LAPTOP” and raaaaaaar and splah and I kind of think I really surprised the professor with the amount of frustration towards what she probably thought was an easy project, which I feel moderately bad about. But sadly, I still just don’t fucking get what the hell we were supposed to write about. And then class was over, for two more weeks.

This week’s assignment I thought would be a fun one — it was to pick a place and then write a short story set there. I knew immediately where I wanted to set my story. I thought about what the plot was, and first it was going to be a heist movie sort of story, and then it was going to be sort of noir, and then it settled into a tale of crime. And I worked out the basic plot and whodunit and all that, and as I was merrily writing along, I realized I don’t actually have the stomach to kill little old ladies, even in a short story, and that shifted it into a sort of gag thing. I dunno if it really worked, and it was much longer than I’d intended — something like 3300 words — but I was at least OK with handing it in, which made it light-years ahead of where I’d felt about assignment 3. Except…

The last assignment for the class is to turn in a portfolio of your collected essays from the class, with one seriously revised and lengthened. No problem. Except…you have to submit it to a publisher. Like, not, you have to prep it as though you were going to submit it to be published, but you have to actually go out and find someone who accepts submissions for pieces like yours, write them a cover letter or email or whatever, and submit it, and in your portfolio, you have to turn in proof that you have done this. And here we reach another oh hell no moment: while I really don’t have much problem blathering happily away in most any other situation, and while I would have no problem at all writing up a whitepaper for a conference and submitting it, or writing something for a technical magazine, what have you, … the idea of turning one of these things in to some anonymous capital-letter Publisher just makes me feel this really unspeakable dread. I’m really not kidding, it’s visceral, and it makes me physically cringe – my shoulders curl inward, my arms cross, I hunch over. I dunno why this is, it’s not like some literary editor is going to come pluck all the limbs from my body and then light me on fire if she rejects my submission, it logically should not be a big deal, but. Just take it as writ: I do not want to do that. Full stop.

And so in tonight’s class, the last class, after we get done with other people’s readings and we’re talking about the project, and the professor is talking about all kinds of places we can submit to, and I’m just getting wound up tighter and tighter and I can feel myself tensing up, and I’m fiddling with my pen like I’m singlehandedly generating electrical power to the entire city of Chicago each time I flip it over. And frankly, it’s really unpleasant to be there feeling like this. And the professor says something about how blogging is really scary and personal, but submitting to publishers is nothing, and so I finally spoke up. I said something like, “No, I don’t get that, it’s exactly the opposite. I can blog about whatever, no problem, doing it for years, but the idea of submitting to a publisher fills me with so much horror that I’m pretty much at the point of deciding it’s OK to blow off that part of the assignment rather than do it.” And I think I totally shocked her, again. It’s like there’s some sort of bubble she is in, and maybe the other people in my class, where writing is easy and impersonal and artistic, whatever, share it with the masses, life is good, no fuss no muss, just submit to a publisher, no big. And I am standing on the outside of that bubble, looking in, confused, going, “Why is this so hard? What is my problem? I know I’m a good writer, what the hell is going on? And why do I suck so bad at this?” The problem is that talking logic to yourself doesn’t really work — saying “they’re not going to light me on fire, chill the hell out” — doesn’t actually do anything at all to relieve illogical anxiety, it basically just makes you feel like an even bigger failure because now not only are you feeling helpless for damn near having a panic attack about something lame, but now you’ve just called yourself a moron for doing it.

And I really feel let down. Because I thought this class was going to be awesome, just a chance to explore places that I love and write up about how fantastic they are. And there are really so many places I love, I feel like I could have written some good stories. But it didn’t turn out that way at all for me, and I’m at a loss to explain why. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if my other class hadn’t been such a soul-sucking disaster (ironically, I expect to pull an A in that class, no problem!), and I’d had something enjoyable… but it was, and I didn’t, and it’s really disappointing because all my other DePaul classes have been virtuous if not enjoyable, and mostly they were enjoyable, so this summer has been just terrible on the school front. I kind of hope it’s just the frigging curse of my doomed 2010 continuing, because that means it’s got an expiration date and I can go back to liking school soon. I liked school for a while there, I was really getting into it, and it’s really bumming me out that this summer quarter has been so bad to me. Anyways. Screw you, 2010! Man, when 2011 gets here, we are going to completely rock this place out and you’ll be all wishing you’d been good to me back when you had the chance!

So, anyway. I dunno. The professor did give us an out, and allowed that we could publish our pieces on our blogs if we have one. So maybe in the next few days you guys will get to read one of my little essays, and nobody will comment because after reading this you’re probably worried I’m going to completely wig out if you point out I dropped a comma or something, but that’s okay. (I probably won’t wig out. I may respond in a lecturing fashion as to why I chose to leave that comma out as a stylistic choice, but if you’re throwing down for grammatical/syntactical pedantry with me, you should see that coming.)

Or maybe I’ll just post some other inane bullshit, and trick you into thinking that you’re reading my homework – ha, ha!