Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sister Joan

(August 30, 2008)

The College of New Rochelle was founded in 1904, so it had been in operation for barely thirty-nine years the year Dr. Carson graduated with the class of 1943. She was tiny and pale, and something was wrong with her health (which she never once referred to) that caused her to need a cane to get around. Her difficulties seemed like some kind of affliction with her joints or bones, but also she often broke into violent coughing fits in the middle of teaching, leaving her wet-eyed and breathless.

But she dressed in bright colors, always with a scarf tied jauntily somewhere, and maintained a funky short, spiky haircut. She could zoom around the campus despite the cane, her lurching style of walk and flying scarves making her easily identifiable from a distance, like some small, exotic bird.

Dr. Carson taught intense, colorful courses on the romance and metaphysical poets, on Ovid and Shakespeare. One of her courses turned out to delve so deeply into the raunchiest of the literary classics that we students started to refer to it as "sex class." Thanks to Dr. Carson's sex class I could write a book that points out all the naughty bits in Shakespeare's sonnets, Donne's epigrams and Coleridge's letters. Kinda like those websites that tell you when to stop any movie for boob shots.

Being an alum, she'd entertain us with stories about HER years at the College of New Rochelle. Out of these stories it emerged that she had been a nun. The college was founded by the Ursuline nuns in 1904, we all knew that, but didn't put two and two together...sure, the first generation must have turned out...well, nuns. Educated ones. Dr. Joan had been SISTER Joan, but had quit.

A raunchy ex-nun was teaching us the sexy parts of the classics. Classic.

She was also a criminology expert and could talk expertly on what motivates humans to commit crimes. We bonded, I was in her office every week. She was the best mentor. I had taken a bunch of Criminology courses by then, and Intro to Psych, and I was all fired up to seek out a career in Criminal Psychology. I could envision myself figuring out, using a blend of social science (background, family life) and psychology (interviews, profiling) what makes a criminal become a criminal.

 Dr. Carson didn't think I had the right kind of personality and said I shouldn't be "in that element." I guess we'll never know! 'Cuz I didn't go for it. Followed Sister Joan's advice. But I kept reading all the books written by criminal profilers and all the theories about the more famous serial killers. I wonder if there's something else I can do with all the years of knowledge I've amassed on the subject of "the criminal mind."

Maybe THAT'S the book I need to write.

Or...is thirty-something too old to go back to school?

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