The first time machine has nothing to do with the space continuum or anything to do with the Theory of Relativity or black holes or space time continuums. Al Einstein likely never thought about
it nor any of his book-reading pals had the depth or interest to hypothesize about affairs of the heart and the random nature of the human condition. The first piece of advice when talking about
the first time machine is to hit the right syllable and emphasis: it is not the first TIME machine...it is the FIRST TIME machine. We all have first times and we are usually aware of that fact as we jump
into the new experience; the need for the machine is to let you know so you can pay attention and to enjoy the adventure.
Cindy Mulcahy was standing in front of her freshman physics class, waiting for the large lecture hall to empty out and realized she was actually tapping her foot impatiently. She had been a college freshman for technically three hours and her heart rate was clipping at a high rate due to adrenaline and the first two cups of coffee she had ever drank in her life. She saw other students lined up at a coffee kiosk and since she got up early, she felt it was time to jump into the whole college experience. The Physics class was her first class in her new college life and thanks to the crucible of demands brought on by a large land-grant public education monolith, she was moving forward with a class that technically had nothing to do with her desired major but one has to do what one has to do for education, enlightenment and general education credits.
A sign of a healthy lifestyle is to enjoy first times all throughout one's life. As Cindy slowly worked her way into the still-warm room and found a spot up front, to the right of the eventual instructor's speaking position. She always like that position, as she had determined that instead of determining the left/right orientation of an instructor, it was easy to lay claim on the predominantly right side and things went well. She had estimated that a small minority of her instructors were left-handed so it was a fairly good strategy to lay claim to the right-hand side, eye-level spots and deal with the occasional southpaw when eye contact seemed appropriate.
She was aware of the first times in her life and since last Spring, there appears to be more and more of them happening all the time. Whether it was graduating from High School, moving away from her small-town home, living in a dormitory and the first time hits just kept on coming at her. This was her first college class and the first class she had in about six months. She was excited to start learning again but kept her expectations low. She ran into one of her favorite teachers over the summer and they shared a few moments outside the main shopping mall. She was buying new clothes for school and the teacher, true to the form of every teacher everywhere, was scouring the clearance rack for bargains.
"Looking forward to start college, Cindy?"
"It will be so great to start," said Cindy. "Not that I hate this town or my classmates, but it will be great to be at a place where everyone will love learning like me."
Her teacher paused. She couldn't remember what school Cindy chose but she did remember it was some place academically strong. "Well, don't get your hopes up too high" said the teacher with a kind tone. She knew, just like anyone over thirty years old with a Bachelor's degree, post-high school academics was more art than science. This epiphany would also play out at one's first adult job, the first Lamaze class, the first time one gets jury duty and of course, dealing with civil servants who control driver's licenses, notary stamps, license tabs and building permits.
"What do you mean?" asked Cindy. She was more curious than concerned but the speed of her follow-up question added some subtle urgency.
"Let me just say this....there are personalities that may run counter to your hopes. In other words: there are geniuses everywhere, there are jerks everywhere, there are lazy people everywhere and there are hard-working people everywhere. College selection boards have not been able to filter out under-achievers and while you will meet many lifelong friends at school, there will be some exceptions. Nothing can filter out personalities which may confuse you at times."
Cindy smiled. She deciphered the message and appreciated the honesty. She was going to hope for the best but try to verify as best she could when new paths and characters crossed. However, it is rare when wisdom is immediately embraced; usually, it takes both time and context before the general jist of the insight is absorbed in a manner that will actually benefit. However advice and wisdom are rarely fungible; individual units of truth cannot be capable of mutual substitution as each one has a time and a purpose. Cindy's purpose today was to be one more day closer to escaping and pure truth had to wait its turn. The insights of her now-former teacher was not up for scrutiny; she was likely right but who in the Hell cared....Cindy was almost out of there. Cindy nodded the nod of someone who was beginning to move so a brief hug and Cindy was on her way. She didn't want to get her hopes up too high but no college could be worse that what she was currently experiencing in the town where curiosity had moved to die; it was time to hit the academic road and not look back.
As she sat in the class, watching unknown faces wander in at their leisure, she continued to grow impatience with her surroundings. She had been waiting a little over eighteen years to get her college on and the pressure to start learning was quickly reaching critical mass. Finally, a dusty looking hippie shuffled up to the podium, plugged his laptop and the projection screen came alive. He clipped the microphone onto his tweedy lapel and introduced himself with quiet but bored cordiality. Cindy was pleased that he appeared right-handed and she turned her entire focus onto this stranger; it was time to learn or at the very least, remember enough facts to get a decent grade. Now was when this dance of listen and remember began.
It felt as if the class was over was almost as soon as it began; the instructor (not Professor....that was obvious) spent about ten minutes going through the general housekeeping issues and the rest of the class summarizing the upcoming reading assignments. Cindy had already downloaded the class syllabus and completed the reading, complete with notes. Physics appeared to be fairly straight-forward and she had already endured an entire year of it during High School. She found physics to be far easier to understand than its pesky cousins of chemistry and biology; and it came with a lot less reliance on mathematics or other sciences. When faced with a forced science obligation, she entertained something completely new like Geology or Astronomy but after some thought, embraced the devil she knew. Once the class was over, everyone got up and headed out the door to either bound across campus to another class, coffee shop or some other place that college kids enjoyed. She had planned an open hour between classes for general prep time as well as removing any anxiety of rushing to another class and coming in late. She was on top of this college stuff.....she figured anyone could earn a "B" if they just concentrated and showed up. The instructor had been browbeaten into teaching this introductory class and while it was mundane, it allowed him to fantasize about someday obtaining tenure due to his fantastic teaching skills because he had not published anything of merit in a long, long time.
The first week of classes flew by; she was either asleep, studying, eating or going to class. Her roomate was a nice enough person; generically pleasant with a finite approach to life. She had been the odd one out as seven women/gals/girls from a single high school had chosen to attend the University and while the other six were one floor above her and she knew any plan to spend significant time with them was a pipe dream. Whether she hoped for one of the six to flame out or because she did not want to miss a single thing with came with a familar contextual reference, she was comfortable with a new social arena. Whil, they remained cordial with superficial hellos, Cindy knew their paths were going to be an inconsquential intersection at best. It was the first time that she was without official friends but she knew she would be just fine.
Walking back to the dorm, Cindy decided it was time to get her hair cut short. She had been wearing the longer hairstyle for her entire life but it was way too heavy, way too time consuming and most importantly, served no purpose except to brand her as a small town frosh with no fashion sense. A brown-haired ponytail in a sea of other ponytails caused her both anonymity and a forgettable persona that did not lend itself to breaking out of one's shell. She walked into the first salon/stylist she saw, made eye contact with a funky young stylist and said, "Get rid of this: make it interesting and easy to manage."
Thirty minutes later, she walked out in the bright sunshine with a cute hairdo and the hearing of a hawk. She had lost about five pounds of hair and felt, for the first time, that she could actually fly.
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