IS 572
Summer 1999

Assignment 1: Coming of Age Reflection

Fyodor Dostoyevsky gave me my first peek into the adult world I would inhabit - who I would become and what I would care about.

Loomis, California. 1967. Sitting in desks, in neat rows, in eleventh grade English; my best friend Karen sat across from me, I sat near the window, and Mr. Livesy stood at the front of the class. We were discussing a Dostoyevsky story we had read for homework. I still remember the instant when I realized the deep wondering and amazement that that reading and discussion created. I remember because it was the first time I had glimpsed a deeper meaning in a piece of literature. It was the first time I had seen beyond plot or character; beyond a sensory response. I still remember the incredulity of seeing Dosoyesky's brilliance. I remember the "wow," the astonishment, the admiration. That was the beginning of me as a real reader. That was the beginning of a life spent in love with literature and it has since provided me with both work and pleasure. That moment - those people - that classroom, are all clear and clean in my memory and I think of it often.

Mind you, I don't read much Dostoyesky now, although I should. I even had to go look up the spelling of his name. But that's where it started.

It taught me something too. It taught me to encourage young people who are just discovering their identities to follow their passions. "Forget practical," I tell them. "Go with your passions. Learn what you love."

I didn't follow my passion. I thought you were supposed to get a practical education. So I went to nursing school out of high school. It was not a great fit. But passions don't die. I went back to school after several years of nursing and spent three happy years in a grand romp with Shakespeare, Johnson, Twain, Pope, Spenser, Dickinson, Hemingway, Updike, and many more. It was heaven. At the age of thirty-one I received a BA in English - it has served me well.


Bonnie Hanks