I worked very hard in school.
School doesn’t always work for some people. Einstein routinely failed, Bill Gates dropped out of college, etc. The list goes on about famous people who did not need ritualized schooling to become smart and/or successful.
But I was good at school.
From a very young age, I was the “Straight E” report card that became “Straight A” once kids were determined able to handle the “A-F” scale (even though, you know, E comes after F…). In third grade, I received “First Honors,” the first grade at my school where honors could be awarded. It was the top honor until middle school (sixth grade in my case), where Principal’s List was the top.
I got all of them. Every quarter, every semester, every year.
Then came high school.
I took a placement test and was put into all honors courses–one of three students that year to do so, one of whom would go to a different school the following year. The other one will come up again in this story. I even received a scholarship to this private school (specifically parochial).
I worked hard. I dealt with medical issues (much more severe than many kids my age dealt with). I worked with an eating disorder, horrible times at home, deeply personal issues.
But I got those “A”s.
I worked harder. The only other person in my year who took as many AP classes as I did was the Valedictorian–and I still took more honors classes than he did.
I got “A”s. “A+”s. “A-“s that teachers always said didn’t “count,” because they were in AP or Honors courses, where it was routine to get a C average. With the weighted GPA some colleges gave me, I had routinely a 4.5-4.7 GPA during my first semester of Senior year.
Then life started rearing its head–afterall, this rant is in the “Life” section.
My senior year involved working five days a week, every day after school, on top of three AP classes and two Honors classes. My “free period” quickly became an internship of sorts–my quirky guidance counselor took a liking to me, and soon I was doing his job. Literally, I created the next year’s school schedule, handled “top secret” documents, corresponded with both teachers and parents, and the most ironic: advised other seniors and juniors on college placement.
Then came a top secret document from a teacher (who we will call Miss B) who, on my first day of Freshman year, informed me I looked “just like someone I used to hate.” Professional, yes? Remember–Catholic school. Things work differently there.
[Side note: Miss B also attempted to fail me out of her Honors Math course Freshman year. I had been so embarrassed about doing poorly, I didn’t look at my tests. One day, I knew I had done well and still received a bad grade. Comparing the test with other students who did well, I realized I had correct answers marked wrong. I approached Miss B who said, “How could I tell where your answers were?” I told her they were circled, like the few problems she had marked right. Her response: “Would you like me to mark those wrong too?”
She handed me a list to submit to a certain national merit society–the top 20 of the Senior class were to be inducted. I was not on the list. People I knew to have lower GPAs and ACT scores (remember, I had to file all of this information, so I was acutely aware of my standings) were on the list, but my name was conspicuously absent.
Miss B stood, waiting.
I asked, “Oh, what is this list?”
“It’s nominations for that society. The top 20 Seniors.”
With a knowing smirk and a beat, she continued, “I was in charge of nominations.”
I was no stranger to “Life” fucking me over; that happened to everyone. Academia, though, was my safe haven. Where I did well; I enjoyed doing well; I was known for doing well.
But academia’s protective womb had just thinned a bit, ready to flush me out. The first contraction of “Life’s not fair–that extends to school.”
So I submitted the list and said nothing, because at 17, I had not yet learned to stand up to authority.
It was, after all, school.
So then I graduated. I did not get into my #1 choice school; I was deferred from an institution notorious for its unfair admittance rates, but somehow I thought my academics, my extracurriculars, my “early life story” essay would all sail me in.
No, but the “third all honors” person I mentioned earlier got in. The person who I took over for as president in an organization because he/she was unceremoniously removed for doing nothing. The person who I had helped with homework and “shared” notes with for four years.
Similarly, this person landed in the “published” Top 10 list for the school, as issued to the local newspaper.
I knew the GPAs of students–this student was not in the Top 10, but for many unethical reasons, ended up as “#10.” One of my best friends at the time got her final report card, saying her standing was “#10,” but she did not get on that list. I was #11.
At graduation, various awards and announcements for scholarships were given. The valedictorian(s) (tied, in a move that also left many with a bitter taste in the mouth, for the “#2” was a full .1 behind the “#1”) received many… and then so did I. It was the top two students, and then myself–no one else in the Top 10 received this recognition. While still rankled at not sitting in those first two rows, I happily accepted the awards. The optimism of youth.
So, I went to a college that, while not my ideal choice, gave me a tremendous scholarship for my academic achievements. Finally! Out of that hellhole of a high school.
I spoke too soon.