i dream of 1994

i woke up the other day reminded of a particular time in late summer, 1994.

i was 19 and about to attend north carolina state university, but not yet – it was still summer. i was going out quite a bit, nothing new for me during those years. i went bar hopping with a good friend that i worked with. she was a few years older and i, like always, had a fake i.d.

it was my female friend and two guys (who were even older) and we were in it for the long haul. bar after bar, drink after drink. so much fun and debauchery and many discussions were had.

cut to a week later when classes began…

i’m sitting in my english 100 class and in walks a familiar face.

the guy from that night.

he walks to the front of the class, puts his stuff on the the desk, looks up and pans the room. Our eyes lock… i’m sure he was having the same flashback of everything that went down that night that i was having. he gave me a sheepish smile as he looked down.

after class, as everyone left the room, he asked me to hang back. we both kept looking down, not sure what to expect on the other’s face.

he finally got up the nerve to talk, or what seemed like talking. mostly it was just mumbling. he hugged me and said it was good to see me. we sat down and talked for awhile, then walked across campus together.

neither one of us knew how the class would pan out. i knew i wouldn’t get special favors or attention – i would never expect that. i also had this feeling that i didn’t want to let him down. i knew i was going to have to work my ass off and not just coast along like i’d done in the past. because he’d met me outside of class and since we’d talked and talked for hours, i knew he knew me. to a degree, anyway. he wasn’t going to accept mediocre or excuses or bullshit.

he was one of the smartest guys i’ve ever met, inside and outside the classroom. he had this way of making me want to be smarter. of making me want to push myself in a way i’d never pushed myself to date, and probably even since.

i hung on his every word during class, wanting to absorb every bit of knowledge he dropped on us. it’s hard to find people that love what they do enough to pass along that same feeling while they’re teaching it, and he was one of them. he made me care. his enthusiasm got me through that class and my first semester at ncsu.

it was such a hard time for me. i was working multiple jobs and going to school full-time. i was also going out and drinking about every night, semi-seeing a guy that had been my good friend and also hanging out with someone else, another completely unavailable and inappropriate man that i was fascinated with. my sister was moving to japan and that made me incredibly sad. my grandmother had been very sick and ended up having her leg amputated. and my beloved childhood dog grew sicker by the day, needing more and more attention. we had to put him to sleep during finals and it was brutal.

i barely hung on… i ended up dropping every class the week of finals, but his… i felt like i couldn’t let him down and most importantly, i couldn’t let myself down. he believed in me and that’s all that carried me through.

even though it was the hardest class i’ve ever taken to date, i’m grateful for it. i’m grateful for him. if only all teachers could be like that, willing to bend over backwards to inspire. to find a way to connect to students. showing they care and reaching out when they know you need them. i know their job is to teach a subject, but the other stuff is what lasts a student a lifetime…

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