near the edge

There's something to be said for general education requirements.

Sure, like every disgruntled student, I've propped my head up in Middle Eastern studies and wondered if my astronomy teacher wore anything that wasn't plaid. But general education actually has had more purpose in my life than just material for cocktail parties and Jeopardy tryouts.

Don't get me wrong. I think all this personal growth and life enrichment yap administrators throw around is pretty lofty stuff. Personally, I use my general ed classes to restore humility.

This semester my general education/fun class requirements find me in intermediate tap dancing. Intermediate is a misnomer in my case I dance like a troll crossing hot coals.

Since the Fates are against me, there is no advanced class, causing my three hours of dancing humiliation to be witnessed by horrified classmates who have leotards that dance better than I do.

Nonetheless, twice a week I cast off my reporting blazer and strap a $60 pair of sparkling tap shoes to my leaden feet.

Magically, I'm transported to a wondrous place where great dancers like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers lift me heavenward above a pool of lily-capped synchronized swimmers. It is simply tapping joy.

Then class starts.

Suddenly, I'm flooded with flashbacks to my second year of piano lessons, when my jovial "Hot Cross Buns" of the year before turned into two-handed scales and "Bach for Beginners." Yeech.

Some days tap gives me the same sensation (only I'm getting credit for it) and flap-flap-flap-ball-change has become petit-four-Irish-step-shuffle-ball-change-time-step-collapse

in a fit of frustration and cry. Or something like that. I think I missed a beat somewhere.

And like piano, tap requires you to give mini-performances for your peers. Great. I knew my life needed a little more ego squashing.

Why do I endure the snickers and pained looks? I like tap. It's a pleasure entering a foreign realm for a few hours even if I stink at it.

Not only do I get the pleasure of deflating my ego twice a week but I've found a camaraderie with my fellow classmates that only a liberal arts program can provide.

For example, a group of us tapping misfits gravitate to the back of the mirror-lined dance room to hide and eye the dancers my teacher calls "divas." We envy these people. They make it look all too easy, prancing like gazelles in spandex while I "shuffle-ball-change" like a water buffalo in heat.

These people are the reason we're in the class in the first place. We want to be like them. Plus, general ed classes provide us the opportunity to take classes totally inconsequential to our academic lives for the sake of exercise, novelty, adventure or my excuse ... masochism.

So my shins have bruises from stepping on myself and I can barely climb the three flights of stairs back up to my bedroom. I can handle it.

(Keep saying the mantra ... Happy feet, I've got those happy feet, And I want to go daaaa, daaaa, Happy feet!)

On days when my talent account is overdrawn I recall the words that a famous, green-wooly frog once whispered it my ear. He said the secret to tap dancing and general education survival is, "It isn't easy being green."

Good thoughts from the frog, who, if you'll remember, was a mean tap dancer and a stellar reporter. So anything's possible.

I don't believe in being an expert at everything, nor do I believe I will ever achieve that level in very many areas. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes tenacity.

And it isn't one bit shameful to be a tap dancing frog in a room full of sugar-plumb fairies, or a cyberphobe in a computer class or a comic book classics fan in a Shakespeare course.

It's just another step toward graduation and the reassurance that you're not to old to learn new tricks. So don't be afraid to lay your pride on the line to look like a complete klutz wherever our great registration roulette takes you.

And for you dance majors, try Journalism 151 for your next gen ed experience. I hope I'm your TA.

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