the Composition
for Honours Class,
Howard University,

  Authors & Artists


Faces & Voices 4
Faces & Voices 5

The Beginning of the End
Jacqueline Fisher
Washington, D.C. - Political Science

         The month of January takes its name from the two-faced Greek god Janus, forever looking forward to the future while seeing the past; the perfect context for the first week of my last semester at Howard. I must look forward, whether I want to or not, and I cannot help but look back; the present must balance between the two. I must not become overwhelmed in what I did not do and I cannot fantasize (on a good day) or worry (on the much more common not-so-good days) about what I will do. But this week, the emphasis has been much more on yesterday.
         I have felt much of the same anticipation as my very first days here three years ago. “What will these next few years bring?” was the question in August 1998. It is the same question whispered by the wind in these blustery days of January, only now it is much less carefree, it is the demand that fills every silent moment of contemplation. Three years ago, the course of the following four years was set. But for the first time in my life, I am about to embark on unchartered territory. There is no set plan, except for the one I make for myself. There are no great expectations to be filled. The decision is totally mine and sometimes I wish it were someone else’s.
         Only recently have I recognized it is a privilege to take mostly freshman courses in the last half of your senior year. Before that epiphany, nearsightedness fueled my self-condemnation: “Only a loser retakes freshman courses in their last semester of senior year,” “If only I had done what I was supposed to the first time around, I could have graduated a semester or a year ago” and “I hope none of my associates from the first time I took this course find out that I’m taking it again.” I cringed when the class erupted into a fit of giggles each time my Introduction to Psychology professor said the word “sex”. I rolled my eyes at students jostling to get a seat on the front row of a crowded class, eager to make good impressions on the professor. They seemed to race each other to each lecture, overflowing with excitement and energy. I could not find anything to be so very excited about and had trouble remembering ever being so enthusiastic about anything. And herein lies the blessing. I have been given the chance not only to correct some of my past mistakes, but also the chance to really look at myself in a progression, to see what I was like before I allowed myself to become so cynical and so jaded, before I stopped caring.
         Somewhere over these three and half years, school did not matter so much. Under normal circumstances, this would be considered a normal part of the college experience, as fundamental as taking English or math. However, the problem came when I did not substitute another future goal, something that mattered even more. I “got hip to the game” and realized a college degree was simply a piece of paper that meant that you could follow directions but was by no means an indication of your intelligence or your potential. While this is an unfortunate truth about the American higher education system, it does not totally undermine the value of a degree, as can be discovered by a short conversation with anyone who only graduated from high school. I became frustrated when I had been here a year and had yet to learn anything new. It was far too easy to do nothing most of the time and still come out on top. I lost all sense of worth in this process and lost sight of why I was here in the first place. Bottom line, I just got lazy. And eventually it caught up with me.
         So what am I doing now? Or better yet, what am I going to do tomorrow? What is the lesson to carry with me to the next level? As for the future, the most important lesson I have learned about myself is that I must always keep in mind the task at hand and its summary execution, while still looking at the next step. Goal setting is truly a dynamic process and I must stay ahead of myself, otherwise complacency will lead to stagnation and a host of other negative emotions and states of existence. In the meantime, in the here and now, I will keep an open mind and see what else these freshmen have to offer, since they showed me in less than a week what these past three and half years really are about.

© 2002 Howard University
(First Published in limited print edition, An Anthology of Verse, Prose & Art, by the Composition for Honours Class, Howard University, Spring 2002. Professor E.R. Braithwaite)
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