Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Pearl jam

By highschool, my life had changed substantially. Fewer bullies. Better coping skills. And though it was still possible, it took a lot more to make me run away. New environment. New people. I was a better fit.

An observer who sat on the sidelines, I was able to blend. At the first sign of trouble, I moved swiftly into avoidance mode, and I was rarely backed into a corner. I had learned well. There were usually many ways to stay out of trouble. And when I was firmly stuck in the mess, it was never for long. I'd learned it wouldn't last, and I could wait it out. So aside from a few memorable blips, grade 10 was a better time.

I was smart, but poorly organized and easily distracted. My grades put me in advanced Math and English classes. But I didn't want to excel. I wanted to pass my classes, but with average standing. I didn't want to be smart. I had found my niche. I fit in well with underachievers and troublemakers. Hard work just wasn't my thing. But neither was failure.

I shortcut every assignment, always doing just the bare minimum that was required to get a passing grade. No more, no less. But sometimes, my poor organizational skills would get me into trouble, and I'd have to act quickly.

And that's how I found myself dumbfounded in 10th grade English, staring in disbelief. As I walked through the door, I saw the writing on the wall.

The note on the blackboard read "REMINDER: IN CLASS ESSAY TODAY ON 'THE PEARL'".

Scanning the room quickly, I spotted one of my friends. Wild-eyed, I straddled the seat in front of his desk and faced him.

T: Hey, D. Did you read the book?

D: Of course I read the book! We have an in class essay today on the book! What kind of idiot wouldn't have read the book?!

T: Shut up, and tell me the plot.

(I'm not even kidding. I vaguely remembered being handed the book on the first day of class. I have no idea where it went from there. I do not remember ever being told that we would have an in class essay on it, and I certainly don't recall a date being provided. See? Poor organizational skills. You have no idea.)

D stared at me in disbelief, fully taking in the situation. But not a moment could be spared. Class was about to start. In a matter of seconds, D ran through the basic plot. No character names were supplied. I seem to recall D saying something along the lines of "A guy finds a pearl, then a bunch of really bad things happen, so he throws it into the ocean".

I nodded. "Okay. Thanks. Got it." And then I went to my desk, and got ready.

Careful to use no character names, since I didn't know any of them, I wrote an essay on "The Pearl". I discussed the symbolism. At length. I uncovered the hidden meanings, and commented on the tragedy. All of the subtle nuances were revealed in my incredibly vague words.

I got a 79%. I'm not sure if D was more upset that I'd passed, or that my mark was actually higher than his. But I remember how his head nearly exploded when he learned I'd gotten a better grade.

To this day, I still have not read "The Pearl", though I really think I should.


I bring this up now because I am wondering what happened to the 15-year old girl who could BS her way through a project, still end up with a 79%, and call it a good grade. 'Cause now, I have to work really hard for my grades. I need superior organizational skills. If I get behind, I panic. Minimal to zero effort no longer results in a decent grade. A 79% makes me want to slash my wrists. Frequently, I lack comprehension skills. And my memory frankly stinks. I feel like an idiot all the freaking time. And what makes it even worse is that now, I'm actually reading the book!

I am totally not enjoying this class. Apparently, I kind of suck at it.

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