plus c’est la même chose.
In cleaning out my file cabinet the other day, I came upon a long-forgotten packet of essays I’d written, some dating as far back as high school, others from college, still others from graduate school.
One of the assignments I found, typewritten on yellowed paper with white-outed corrections (remember when?), is a letter to Elizabeth Bennet, the protagonist of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, inviting her to dinner.
I often find myself repeating to teenagers that they aren’t yet who they are going to be. Their educations are important not only because of the facts and “how-to’s” they learn but because of what they learn about learning and, even more significantly, what they learn about what they love to learn.
And that’s a sort of, well DUH, issue, isn’t it? We’re constantly growing, changing, discovering ourselves?
This assignment I just found, this artifact from my formative years, begs to differ.
The letter begins formally, with the initial invitation to join me for dinner, but evolves into an explanation of why I think we would enjoy each other’s company. I write about my tendency to get carried away in the drama of certain situations, how I am learning to manage my preconceived notions about people who have had different experiences than I have, how, like Elizabeth, I “hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can…” (102). I talk about how I have difficulty expressing my true feelings and disguise my insecurity with a sharp wit or spirited manner.
Same as it ever was.
Maybe this is why William Deresiewicz’s book A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship and The Things That Really Matter rang so many of my personal bells. The book has its flaws. I identify one or two in this review I did here at BlogHer, but if you like Jane Austen, or if you’ve ever wondered what the big deal is about Jane Austen EVEN IF YOU ARE A DUDE, you should read this book.
And now that I have said my piece, I can go spend a few hours trying to decide if I never grew up and need to, or if it’s a sign of something more positive that I am so much unchanged.