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by Lorin Michel Monday, October 3, 2016 9:48 AM

When Justin was little, back to school entailed going to Target. With him leading the way, we found the boys’ department and proceeded to go through, finding jeans and shorts, t-shirts and long-sleeve shirts, socks, boxers, a new belt. We’d find a new hoodie. Then we’d go over to the shoe department so he could pick out sneakers and a pair of work boots for rainy weather. Just before school started, we’d go see Tammy so he could get his hair cut. Occasionally we needed to get him new glasses. Finally, we’d go to Staples to buy school supplies. This was my least favorite thing to do because every other parent and their child was in Staples, picking out notebooks and pencils and whatever else was needed. And making a huge mess. But it was all part of the ritual. 

Years ago, Staples started running a back-to-school commercial that was laugh-out-loud funny for the simple reason that it was true. Exasperated yet glowing parents and petulant, sad children would race and trudge, respectively, through Staples, shopping to the well-known Christmas song “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” The juxtaposition was something any parent could understand. 

I haven’t been to school since I graduated from college in 1984. I was always a good student in high school, straight As, a member of the National Honor Society. Because I didn’t have to work very hard, I developed poor study habits and so in college I was just an average student. My dad always used to joke: “Imagine what you could do if you just applied yourself a little more.” It used to make me mad, probably because I knew he was right.

When my first husband and I split up, I thought taking a UCLA extension class might be cathartic. I went to one and it was not for me. Rather it was for people who’d never been to school and were just playing with a new hobby. I commend those people, but I wanted more. If I was going to take classes, I wanted something more substantial, something more school-like.  

In those days I also took a course through the Director’s Guild called Robert McKee’s Story Structure. It was fascinating and I loved it. I was dabbling in writing the greatest screenplay ever at that point, and even though I eventually decided I was more of a long-form writer, much of what I learned in that class was universal and invaluable. About plot, about protagonists and antagonists. About flow.

As I write this, Justin, who graduated from college summa cum laude, is on a Cathay Pacific 747, flying from Hong Kong to England. Or the United Kingdom. Or Great Britain. I suppose it’s technically all of the above. He’ll be in Manchester for a bit, then various other places in the Kingdom. He’s there through New Year’s when he heads to Stockholm. It’s part of his continuing tour with Disney’s Frozen on Ice. He is putting his education to use. 

And while I put mine to use every day, I’ve also decided that I need to challenge myself more, so I’m now taking a writing class for the first time in decades. It’s online but it’s exactly what I always felt school should be. Interactive, fun, and as I hoped, challenging. It makes me want to write more which I didn’t know was possible. 

I’m getting back to basics and back to learning, back to expanding my mind and back to good habits, or perhaps developing them for the first time. Somehow it’s easier when you’re older and understand the ramifications more. 

I’m also back to realizing just how much fun it is to be in school. I don’t remember thinking that when I was in college. Most of the time I spent trying to just get finished so I could get on with the rest of my life. I’ve been getting on with my life now for quite some time, and it’s time to do something different, to flex the creative muscles. 

The idea of learning and expanding both terrifies and excites me. But it’s all part of getting back to living it out loud.

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live out loud

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