Socrates & Shakespeare University
Summer, Fall, and Winter Quarters, 2007
Colleen Welch, Instructor and Sole Student
Week One—"Nature vs. Nurture"
Move across several state lines so as to gain a new physical perspective. Get used to new quarters and new close proximity to family. Become more attached to your cat when she’s the only one around to remind you of the home and life you just left. Get irritated by family by the middle of the week. Remind yourself how you deal with frustration—by being pissy and sarcastic, and then retreating to a solitary place and reading or writing. Begin to record family histories with the hope that you can turn them into a book. Learn to appreciate some of the more friction-y members of your family once you understand a few more of their lifetime of memories. Still, be a little relieved when the non-immediate family leaves. Idealize the city you just left and look down your nose at your home town. It’s full of hicks, after all.
Assignments? I didn’t know there were going to be requirements. Shit, this is so restrictive!
Sleep in until noon every day because you’re not used to this new unstructured freedom. Go out with friends from high school and spend the money you had set aside on beers and bumming cigarettes. Flirt shamelessly with anything that looks faintly masculine. Hedonism is the key word for this week. Remind yourself in as many unhealthy ways as possible that you could just choose to focus on fleeting, momentary pleasure, followed the next morning by embarrassment, regret, and a massive hangover. Continue to test the true support of your family. On the nights you don’t go out, stay up until two or three in the morning reading and writing down new vocabulary words. (Hey, we all know you’re really a dork, and that you go out and drink too much to try to avoid that appellation. Heck, even the fact that you used appellation there proves you’re a dork.) Realize by the end of the week that this is the behavior that distracted you from your true self in the first place, and swear reformation.
"Assignments." (The quotes mean that you chose this path, so it’s not really required. You’re learning to melt work into play.)
Begin your daily routine of meditation, yoga, reading and writing. Avoid the temptation to get a job simply because you feel restless. Settle into your new schedule. Take daily hikes into the small patches of remaining wilderness that sustained you as a child. Begin a cleansing diet, since why not change EVERYTHING unhealthy about you right now? Play the Beatles on the piano as your mom plays the violin. Scold your cat for doing what you did last week (sleeping all day). Forget to check your email once in a while. (!) Write a story idea for the weekly alternative paper, but don’t obsess about it, since this sort of thing doesn’t determine your self-worth—only you can do that.
General Themes of the Course, and accompanying texts:
Question: How can I be happy regardless of what I do?
- The Joy of Living, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
- The Art of Happiness at Work, His Holiness the Dalai Lama
- Various conversations with your father on the unavoidable fallibility of any religion. Try to keep him engaged by emphasizing that Catholicism wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for the Romans. (He totally digs the Romans.)
- Daily meditation and yoga, if possible.
Food for the Eyes and the Brain —My st-iz-yle of Modern Fiction
Questions: Am I really obsessed with reading and criticism?
Or did I choose the English major because it was the easiest thing to do?
"Read, read, read. Read everything." ~William Faulkner
- Pulp, Charles Bukowski
- The Watchmen, Allan Moore and Dave Gibbons
- The Notebook, Nicholas SparksThe Nobodies, N.E. Bode
- Lost, Gregory Maguire
- Anything else you can find that seems remotely interesting or is recommended by a friend. Be sure to obsessively list all of your readings on goodreads.com, like it’s a competition or something.
The Flow of my Pen
Question: Should I be a writer? Would I be able to support myself as a writer?
"Write without pay until somebody offers to pay you. If nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for." ~Mark Twain
- Bird by Bird: Some instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott
- Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Natalie Goldberg
- Sign up for a weekly humor writing class at the community college.
- Various creative writing endeavors on a daily basis. Inevitably, they will seem good at first. Then they will seem terrible. Many suggest that this terrible phase lasts a very long time…. Until you’re published.
Question: What is my calling? Do I even have a calling?
- What should I do with my Life?, Po Bronson
- The Ultimate Anti-Career Guide, Rick Jarrow
- The Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in your Twenties, Alexandra Robbins & Abby Wilner