In high school, I was the typical bookish, writer-ly choir kid, vehemently opposed to anything on the math department’s hallway and usually found tucked away in a corner somewhere with a book thicker than most textbooks. My senior year, I was all set to take an Advanced Placement Environmental Science course, the only class where I knew I’d be comfortable in my hippie-liberalism. My advisor, however, had other ideas. If you want to take this class, that’s great, he barked, smacking his bubblegum. But you’re going to have to drop choir. Arms crossed and eyebrows up to my forehead, I asked him why. He leaned back in his swivel chair, facing me for the first time in twenty minutes. Choir classes mess with everyone’s schedule. Why do you need to be in the Varsity class? Needless to say, I was miffed. I walked out of the office having made the clear case that my choir class was my most important, and having resigned myself to an Anatomy class.
I didn’t know most of my fellow classmates and dissection enthusiasts. Most of them were future nurses and sports-medicine professionals, and many played varsity sports. Each long black table seated two people comfortably, and I watched in acute nervousness that first afternoon as student after student breezed in and slid in next to an old friend. I had a book. My teacher, Pat, in her last year before retirement, was likely the kindest person I’ve ever met. After the first day of class, I approached the tall former gymnastics coach and quietly explained that I was likely out-of-place, and that I was a little nervous about the class but excited to be there. When she assigned lab partners, she kept me the odd one out- giving me a whole black table to myself, and never asking questions when I spread out my massive volumes of drama and literary criticism in the few minutes before class.
What I learned in Anatomy was this: you never know a good story until it happens to you. I tried to build for myself the perfect senior schedule, and felt angry and cheated for the first few weeks when I realized I’d get no AP credit for my Science class that year. I was given, however, a new favorite teacher and the most beautiful and poetic subject I’ve ever encountered. Human bodies are evidence, pure and certifiable, that there is a power out there greater than all of us. I would sit in class taking notes from Mrs. Hutchens’ vibrant presentations, and suddenly begin drafting poems and short stories about blood processes and ligaments. Anatomy had a greater effect on my writing than any other experience- as evidenced my my highly visceral poetry in a creative writing course a year ago.
Apart from that fabulous teacher- who came to every sporting event and took pictures of her student athletes with her professional camera (she would allow you to go through them and send your favorites to your parents, many of whom couldn’t always be in attendance) and organized field trips and chaperoned dances and listened to me cry over many a lunch period- I met brilliant and wildly inspiring people. The students in that class were unique, funny, and had a desire to learn about bodies to help people. They could explain complicated processes and help me, all while laughing and making me feel right at home as a fish out of water. It was beautiful. I learned how to hold a conversation about football from the boys behind me. I learned that people want to ask about God, but sometimes they’re scared. I met a girl who knew how to French-braid hair and get over a horrible boyfriend.
That class helped me find my voice. And when I had my Christmas choir concert, guess who came with her expensive and beautiful camera, just for me?
Fifteen. That’s the number of blog post drafts I have sitting in my little WordPress queue. That’s fifteen posts worth of interesting stories, beautiful pictures, and my never-ending adoration of Claire Danes. I haven’t published them because somehow, somewhere, I’m still in the first week of Anatomy. I can’t settle in on a voice just yet.
And I think that’s okay. I think there’s a pressure, especially in the world of blogging and online identity to have the tightest and most consistent voice, all the time. Sometimes, I’d prefer to be a little more human than that. I’m erratic and excited, Elaine-slapping my closet neighbor hard when I learn something new. I like glitter, stickers, and puppies; but I also like dark walls and heavy furniture and the sound of thunder. I want my voice to be able to change and fluctuate, because maybe my voice is just that- a twenty-year-old in constant and delicious flux.
For now, let’s just spread what we love on the table- our books, our cameras, and our words- and live in the moment of not knowing. I think it’s better that way.
This was Valentine’s Day 2012, when all Anatomy students wore red for heart disease awareness. I overdressed. Typical.
This was the day when all Anatomy students had to paint a body system and wear it to school. This was also the day I found out I got into Georgia and flew to Ireland, but that’s a different story.