The other day I was at Argo Tea and discovered, to my horror, that they're now offering pumpkin-flavored muffins. Target is in the full swing of back-to-school shopping, and even CVS is starting to sell Halloween-themed candy. Most of my friends love autumn; I would mind it less if it didn't mean sixteen months of winter were close on its heels.
Even so, I do have a fondness for fall in Chicago: it still feels like coming back to school after spending my summers in Ohio. It's been six years since I graduated from college – six years! – and I have an observation to make: it's hard not being in school. I don't mean dorms or dining halls or all-nighters, though I do miss having the majority of my friends and extracurricular activities be no more than a 15-minute walk away. No, the hardest thing is not being in class. I'm serious. I am that person who misses being in class.
We're lucky here in Chicago, though: if you're interested in something, think you might be interested or didn't even know you could be interested, there's someone in this city that is happy to teach you. I haven't been signing up for discourses on 17th-century philosophy or Introduction to Modern Physics (alas), but as someone who's always hungry for more art and creativity in my life, I've been very lucky to fall into improv comedy (iO and the Annoyance), singing (Old Town School of Folk Music), ukulele (Old Town again), all kinds of creative writing (Story Studio) and, as soon as I find the right time, swing dancing (Big City Swing) and photography (Chicago Photography Center). Let's not even talk about all the arts and crafts courses I could be taking, given how close I live to LillStreet.
It's a little addictive, taking classes in things you've never done before. At Old Town, I'm in the middle of a course called Vocal Techniques. I've never had any formal voice training, so I wasn't sure what I would be learning. This week after class, I said to some friends, "I thought I could sing before. Turns out I didn't even know how to stand!" It's addictive, taking classes, but it's also humbling to be a beginner all the time. That said, the great thing about progressing in eight-week chunks is that you can see your own improvement as you go, which can be another solid difference from taking college classes.
Possibly my favorite thing about classes is how unexpectedly they can improve other areas of your life. I know that improv and a former gig as a copy editor have been the best teachers of creative writing I've had. Learning how to correct my posture for better breathing has helped me adopt commuting by bike. My next goal is to find a way to learn and perform Shakespeare; I've been immersing myself in the history plays this summer, and I can only imagine how the chance to deliver those words in front of people might affect the rest of my day. (If I start doing columns in iambic pentameter without noticing, please let me know.)
So, it may only be early August, but the notices for all the most exciting fall classes are going out now. I'm far from ready for summer to be over, but there may be a greater travesty afoot than candy corn-flavored M&M's, and that is the sad truth that there is not enough time for me to take every course that interests me. Wait, hang on, I know that feeling… Ah yes: yeah, I was that person in college too.