My scholarly career ended nearly two years ago, in May of 2010. I graduated in that month from college with a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism and departmental honors in communications. This is a lot to say when I first meet a person (none of it flows out too well, either), so I usually just go for the quick alternative of “BA in comm” followed up by the name of my alma mater. Which also feels weird to write down, too – I have an alma mater? Say whaaaaat? That’s cray cray.
Overall, in the course of 16-17 years of schooling (give or take a semester), I generally liked school. School to me when I was in the grade school portion meant running in the classroom excited to read some new books, getting some gold stars for A’s on my tests and secretly playing with my Giga Pet koala underneath my desk. Grade school in the ‘90s was filled with the kind of naïve bliss I doubt any future decade will be able to capture again.
In middle school, the decline began in which I still kept reading and loved my classes but grew steadily aware of my role in the classroom as a not-popular girl and began to develop a stronger opinion of who I was, what I believed in and what I wanted out of life. I suspected early on that I would probably not enjoy high school and love college and sure enough, that was what happened. College was so good to me that I keep thinking one day I’ll wake up and my time there will turn out to be some kind of beautiful fantasy I made up in my head to cope with high school with. Even the bad times in college turned out to make for some hilarious and yet truly heartbreaking memories of their own. Nearly two years later and I still feel so close to some of those moments, like I could walk into a room and real life would fade away, replaced with that other moment in time. The memories, like so many, are just at arm’s length away and while I love reflecting on how it felt when I first arrived on campus, I can’t bring it any closer to the version of “me” I am now. You just keep moving in your life to your new dream and hold the ones from school that were good filed away in a separate portion of your mind.
Not included in that portion are the following 5 moments. Five things throughout school that I dreaded to the point of getting sick to my stomach, fought in a fury of rage when I was an angry teenager and generally laughed at their general ridiculousness when I began hitting my more lax twenties.
1) Group Projects
Burn it now. Group projects are the devil’s work in action to me because “random pairings” always featured me being stuck in a group of burnouts and slackers with the teacher looking at me to be the great hope to getting these kids to do some actual work. Which I wound up doing all of by myself. Huzzah!
2) Pair Up With a Partner!
Similar to group work, I didn’t like pairing up with a partner, either. Whatever classroom I was ever in, there was always an odd number of people in said room and I always felt like the odd partner out. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard a teacher say “now pair off in twos” and nearly stood up upon hearing that to shout, “NO! No more of these pairings! Nobody will pair with me and I’ll be alone again and the third wheel in another group! Does nobody ever see a pattern here? I just want to get these last six hours of school over with so I can go home, listen to music, not talk to people and just be myself!”
These thoughts would all make for wonderful suburban emo poetry when I hit 14. You’d think teachers would stop pulling this stunt by now, but this is a practice that even in college I was trapped with. Time to retire it and let us work on our own, yes?
3) Presidential Fitness Tests
I have a fear of heights and in grade school was forced yearly to climb up the monkey bars and hang there in midair for two minutes as part of the Presidential Fitness Test. Believe me, I cried a lot to get out of these things but I’ve had a slew of unsympathetic gym teachers in the past who still made me hang. I always feared falling off, breaking a bone and being out of writing commission. A kid in my grade school class fell off of the monkey bars once during the test and an ambulance had to be called. He went to the hospital that same day. THESE MONKEY BARS WERE NO JOKE.
4) Pop Quizzes
My teachers clearly had strong radars for knowing when I spent the night before class shopping/dancing out with my girlfriends/writing something on my free time/reading for fun because it never failed: the moment I would walk into my trig classroom on a random Wednesday morning, a surprise quiz would be announced. 10 questions paired with the hellish “show your work” directive. Help me. I’d be racking my brain for the answers but would only be able to get through the first 4 steps, tops. The rest of my brain was too focused on my cute guy friend sitting right across from me who was just as lost as I was and would occasionally grin at me and make faces. I know I’m setting the women’s feminist movement back 50 years when I say this, but nothing I ever learned in that class was as important as our flirty convos together.
5) The Lunchroom
Whether you had a clique to sit with or not, I’m just so thankful that the cafeteria portion of my life is over with. Do I even need to rehash the sheer dread that filled the pit of my stomach in not knowing where to sit after buying my curly fries or the countless quiet hours of solitude I’ve had in the comfort and safety of a public restroom? I think not. Though I will note that it did get substantially better in college, almost to a Queen Bee point where I could walk through a lunchroom and wave and smile to people on my way to my table. A good Queen Bee though, not one who abused her powers or anything. I like to think that it was good because during this time, as with now, I felt the most comfortable with who I was. If I could bottle this grown-up version of me and give it to the 14-year-old version of myself, I would have been set. Though I doubt it would have stopped me from picking at my turkey wraps and shredding them to pieces… I ate food weird when I was a high school freshman.