Better Late Than Never

I can say definitively that didn’t really enjoy my high school years. Some people do, but I was one of the ones who just hated it. I remember how sad I was and how disconnected from everything I was. I remember my trips to the library. I remember all the books I read. I remember waiting hours upon hours after school for my Mom to pick me up. I remember finally giving up the wait and walking the five miles to the apartment where we lived. I remember the sea mural under the 405 Freeway. I remember the 7-Eleven and the fancy blue condos on Nordhoff. I remember wondering who lived in the house with the messy front yard that I passed on the corner of Tobias Ave. I remember being pissed off that my Mom had made me walk home yet again!

Only the last year was okay. I forced myself to be social. I had a friend who was on the newspaper and yearbook staff and he was my way into becoming active in school. It was because of him that I wrote ONE story for the paper. It was because of Milton that I got my picture in the yearbook and my years at James Monroe High School were not a complete waste.

Many things contributed to my isolation from the normal high school activities. One of them was that I looked like a complete freak. My family was uber religious and I had to wear long skirts and big shirts. I couldn’t be fashionable. I couldn’t even wear Aqua Net in my hair! The most fashionable I got was being allowed to wear Keds. Vans were completely out of the question, they were just too colorful and hip. There was danger in color and there was fear in cute belts and flowery blouses. Wearing them would have meant giving in to vanity.

It wasn’t just the kids who saw the freak I was. It was the teachers too. And this intimidated me. So I didn’t engage with them. I didn’t listen to their lectures at all. I sat in the back and I read a book. I wasn’t even noticed. I didn’t even care. As long as I had a good book, I was okay. Until I got my report cards. I always got Satisfactory. Mediocre. I was there but not really. It was enough. I could get by. And I did. I barely graduated. I think I hustled a Math teacher for the extra point that gave me a D average or was it a C average? I don’t know. I can’t remember. Once I was out of high school I didn’t care to look back.

Until now. I’m 33 years old and I’m back in school. Trying to finish that degree that I started almost 10 years ago. At the same campus that evidenced my first attempt and with some of the same teachers. And I feel like I don’t know anything about anything. The professors keep saying, “You remember this from high school, don’t you?” and I may be the only one in the room who can’t seem to recall a thing about my high school Biology or English or Science class. Because I never existed in them. If I vaguely recall Darwin or how to make “sandwich quotes” it’s because I probably read it in the encyclopedias I used to pour over. So I’m riffling through my cerebral filing cabinet trying to retrieve all this information and feeling like I’m constantly trying to catch up on papers and reading and research.

The only thing that keeps me going is knowing that if I don’t get this done now, I may never get the opportunity again. I’m still young enough to have the energy to do this but yet too old. There are reminders of this everywhere. I heard David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” on K-EARTH 101 a few days ago. Since when is that song an Oldie?!? Can’t they keep playing “Unchained Melodies” by the Righteous Brothers?  Can’t they hold off on reminders of my old age for a little while longer? Nope. Time goes on. I have more reasons for doing this now than I have excuses for NOT doing it. It’s time to get it done because according to C.S. Lewis,”You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” I’m going to listen to him. He got himself a degree and a book (or two) published.