I was depressed enough in 1993 to live in a state run boarding house in North Carolina for people trying to recover and get back to work. The house was an old, three story house on a once historic street near downtown Charlotte. Four of us bunked in a room, and one was named Robert, who enrolled in several courses at the nearby community college. I couldn’t understand how Robert could be the slightest bit interested in college or have the focus to do it, whereas he wondered why I wasn’t doing more with the BA degree I already had. Each was an enigma to the other.
I don’t know why Robert was depressed. I was too depressed to ask, or remember. It just seemed absurd to be depressed and go to college, but some self-esteem and purpose in it drove him. It made him feel good about himself, like he was going somewhere, and he probably had gotten mired in dead end jobs. Maybe this was a fantasy, and he had no business going to school at that time. I watched him go off to campus with his books as I went off to a job with the temp agency, pulling orders in a warehouse. At night when others were watching television, Robert would study.
I was just glad to be working, making a check, and looking for a better job. It took a while to see why Robert scorned my disinterest in education at the time. It’s easier to be disinterested with a degree, and no matter how useless and impractical a BA in English seemed, it was a bird in the hand and represented tons of work that didn’t have to be repeated.
As a college instructor, one might not know the stories behind students. For some students, just getting through with a C might be monumental, given other life circumstances. At any time, a student might move to the B tier, or even the A plateau. Any accumulation of courses successfully taken means a body of work to build on.
Later, I was able to build upon my BA. I don’t know what happened to Robert, but I commend him for not sitting around in his depression. He got into the game, and you can’t play if you don’t get into the game.