Friday, August 10, 2012

a long, long, time ago, in a college far, far away . . . (a frog's tale)

When I graduated high school, I was seventeen years old and still hadn't formulated a plan for college. I knew, vaguely, that I should go (lacking marketable skills outside of retail cashiering), but though a good friend's mom had tried to light a fire under me a year or so earlier, the idea of choosing from hundreds of schools, applying, getting accepted, packing up all my stuff, moving hours away from home, applying for financial aid and scholarships, and enrolling in classes seemed way beyond my ability. So aside from taking my SATs and requesting countless college brochures, I didn't actively apply myself to the challenge. I was afraid.

If I'd really thought it out, I would probably have seen this: that the person who tried to light that fire (Bonnie, I'm looking at you) would have helped me, if I had asked. In fact, I had numerous adults in my life who would have helped me if I had asked (parents, a stellar aunt, a language teacher who thought I was great). But that's not something I accepted or thought of then. I thought I was all alone.

I was lucky, or perhaps some unknown benefactor interceded on my behalf; I still don't know, seventeen years later, how the nearby college got a hold of my grades and SAT scores. I probably owe someone a huge debt of gratitude there. Because one day, after the time for choosing a college had passed me by, the college chose me. A phone call was answered, a partial scholarship was offered, and before I knew it, I was an eighteen-year-old freshman in college. Lucky.

All of which I'm writing about now because soon, I turn 35. I graduated high school a little over seventeen years ago, half a lifetime now. And there are still lessons I haven't learned completely.

But there are others I have. Like that change can be scary, but that I shouldn't fear it. Sometimes, change brings the greatest things to my life, like a guy with a big heart who tells the best jokes (my husband), or a little boy who can light up a room with a smile while simultaneously driving me crazy (my son).

And trying new things, stepping outside my comfort zone, can yield huge rewards, or at least teach me something about myself, like moving to a new city and graduating from a different college. Like starting new jobs and making new friends and running a business. Or, as I found out this week, taking a rock climbing class.

Asking for help is still hard for me, and being awake and alert to the unseen helpers around me is still something I struggle with (I'm disgustingly self-centered sometimes). But I'm still evolving. And that's as important as having evolved.

All of which, strangely, leads me to my friend Froggy, here.

Froggy was one of the projects I made in Sculpture 101 (or similar) class my very first quarter of college. Yup. He's almost as old now as I was when I made him. Carved from a block of plaster cast in a bucket, Froggy made me see everyday materials in a new light. One of the students watching me make him in class later commented during a critique that he could tell, while I was making him, that I was in love with what I was doing.

Froggy has seen quite a life, moving with me eight times, I think, in the past seventeen years. He's all banged up, but oddly enough, the big chunk out of his cheek came only weeks after he was finished, when a roommate's bongo drum was knocked over by one of his cats, and cracked Froggy's cheek off.

But though Froggy's seen it all and been battered around by bongos and babies, he's not done for. He's still evolving, too.

Thanks to a little Milk Paint, Froggy's looking fresh as a forget-me-not.

He's doing the same thing I'm constantly doing; adding something new and different to a solid base.

I still (as you know) love making things. A particular joy of mine is taking old things and reworking them. And that's what I'm thinking about as I start my 36th year.

Thanks for reading. Froggy thanks you too.

p.s. you can make these photographs larger just by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that.

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