My father is going to be eighty-six next month, and many of the details of his life seem to be getting a little fuzzy. Not always. An editor and educational writer for many years, he’s still capable of giving a rather sharp opinion about flow and the niceties of grammar.
Many of the little pieces are slipping away, though, and he has taken to going through old photos and random bits of ephemera. Today, sandwiched in between various photographs in no order whatsoever, was my truly terrible report card from the middle of my junior year.
Ugh. The best grade was a B, and there was only one of those. I somehow managed to fail Driver’s Ed, and I can’t for the life of me tell you what I did, because I got an A the first marking period and I really don’t think the work involved much beyond listening in class.
I can remember being suddenly completely out of my depth in math, and deeply mired in a programming class attempting to drum Fortran into my head. Uncomfortable in my own skin half the time, significantly depressed for months on end, fortunately not seriously suicidal for most of it, and unbelievably miserable.
There were a bunch of things going on, and I’m sure some of it was just being sixteen. I was one of those kids who got a very hard time in school, but that had actually eased up a lot by the time I was in high school. I had friends, and an established place in the small universe that is high school, even if that place was with the other weirdos. Pressure to succeed academically was some of it. I’m fairly good at math, but my head spins at the idea of myself in an advanced programming class.
As an adult and a parent I get that you want the best for your children, and want them to be the best, but that heavy academic load was at the expense of things I wanted to take and would almost certainly would have gotten better grades in, rather than feeling like the class idiot half the time.
I think a lot of what made that year so awful was the message that what I wanted and what I was good at weren’t important. Someone else, with the best of intentions, had gotten a particular idea of who I was and what I should be doing, and that was what was going to happen.
I am not comfortable posting the details of most of my personal turmoil from that time in a public blog, but I spent a lot of that year walking around feeling like there must be something really wrong with me, and waiting to feel like everyone else seemed to.
Luckily, I made it out of that year alive, my parents eased up a little on the academic demands, I got into a state college by the skin of my teeth, and while it was NOT all smooth sailing after that, I’m still here. I’m a whole adult, and I’m comfortable with who I am.