His name was Conrad. I don’t know if he was a full fledged professor or a grad student but he was the Instructor of Educational Psych class during Spring quarter 1970. And he wanted us to call him Conrad. Not Mr. whatever ( I don’t even remember his last name because we never used it). So we called him Conrad, hesitantly at first. It was so COOL! He wore jeans, shirts and sweaters and sometimes one of those corduroy blazers with the elbow patches. And shoes with no socks! He was so COOL.
He was there to teach us Psychology. And to provide us with 3 credit hours toward graduation. But first, he insisted that we know ourselves. His premise was…. how can you know anyone else without first knowing yourself? How can you know what you want to do with your life if you don’t know who you are?
Two years earlier, I had graduated from a little Midwestern High School that literally was in the middle of a cornfield and I traveled an entire hour from my home to a Midwest ern State University which was also in the middle of a cornfield. I was now out in “the real world.” I spent my senior year in high school still wearing dresses and skirts that needed to touch the floor when I knelt, and I had to ask my teacher for permission to go to the bathroom. Now here I was, wearing bell bottom jeans with ragged edges from dragging on the ground, tie dyed T shirts, no bra, and any piece of clothing made of leather with lots of fringe. My hair was getting longer and make up was no longer a necessity. I even had a pair of Birkenstocks. Out in the real world there was a midnight curfew on weekends at my dorm but quickly that was changed to “no hours”. Yes, the Times were changing fast and I was trying to keep up.
My roommates and classmates were eager for change. We didn’t like the way Society was trying to mold us into our parents. It was time to rebel. We couldn’t yet vote, but our male counterparts could be drafted and sent to Vietnam. The world was overpopulating so we joined ZPG (Zero Population Growth) and vowed only to replace ourselves in this world. We went to anti war rallies on the lawn of the university. We shouted and complained to each other and wanted nothing more than to live hand in hand as we stood together on the threshold of a dream. Which brings me back to Conrad….
I don’t remember much of what we learned in his classroom. It has been a long time. But I do vividly remember one particular week of class. Conrad had reserved the Grand Ballroom of the Student Union and class was scheduled to meet there for a week ; the Grand Ballroom, the size of a couple of high school gymnasiums with polished wooden floors.
It was to be the week we were to become enlightened. We were to “find ourselves” so that when we went out in the world, we knew who we were and what we wanted to do. Conrad enlisted the help of a record player and an album by The Moody Blues titled “On the Threshold of a Dream”. On the first night we sat on the floor in a big circle and listened to Conrad tell us what his goals were. Then all the lights were turned out and he played the album.
We could move about, we could lie down on the floor, but we were to fill ourselves with the music and the message of the songs and try to find our inner selves. I looked around at the other students. Our class of about 30 had grown somehow to many more. Friends of Conrad, I guess. Some students stood and swayed to the music, some appeared to be asleep, some quietly sat and listened. Over the course of the week, we divided into small groups and discussed current events and spent some time on team building activities. But it always came back to the music.
I hadn’t ever thought much about my inner self. I had goals but finding myself had never been one of them. I tried very hard to fit into Conrad’s mold but I wasn’t very successful. My world had always been filled with more practical things. Getting an education, finding a career, getting married.
Turning into my parents, I guess.