I’ve always been a fan of the Olympics. There’s something to be said about watching people compete to be the best in the world. I remember wanting to attend the summer games when the Olympics were in Atlanta. We only lived about 3 or 4 hours away but my parents quickly vetoed that course of action. But in their defense, they DID have 4 children under the age of 7 at the time. As a homeschooler, I talked my mother into letting me write a report on the Olympics to count for school credit and I watched for hours at the 2000 Summer Games. I remember always thinking about how old I would be when the next Olympic games came around and what my life would look like. So much has changed every four years in my life up to this point. From watching the games in my living room in the middle-of-nowhere Alabama, to watching in between classes and homework as a college freshman, to watching highlights online in my Colorado apartment because I didn’t have cable as a struggling graduate student, to watching in my living room as a doctoral student in metro Atlanta. I have so much respect for all the athletes who have dedicated their life to a literal pursuit of being the best in the world in a particular sport. It takes so much focus and determination and work behind the scenes to be able to get to that point. They have pushed themselves over and over again and now are engaged in a competition where they will have the chance to prove themselves and bring home the gold to their home countries. But it’s also a reminder to me to do something interesting or reinvent myself in some way every four years. There’s too much time in that 4 year gap to not do something unique and productive. After all, they say “good” is the enemy of “great.”
I always attempt to not tell personal stories too soon after the fact so that I doesn’t seem like I’m going after anyone. Anyway, this story is about 2 years old so I figure that it’ll be ok. Here goes:Two years ago I lived in a western state and decided that I was going to try online dating. I didn’t have any prospects and figured that after years of “focusing on school and my career” that it was time to at least test out the waters to see if the bad luck of college had followed me through graduate school. I created a profile on a very popular website that has tv commercials all the time talking about how people are matched based on their compatibility in multiple areas. I got matched with someone and went through all the preliminary questions in order to finally message him. I’ll call him “Sam.” Now, Sam looked really good on paper. He enjoyed playing soccer, had a masters degree and seemed pretty well rounded. We started talking and he asked for my number. Not too long afterwards he called me and we chatted for a bit. He had a Caribbean accent and seemed ok. He asked me out on a date and I picked a burger place not too far from where we both lived. I drove out to the place and got there early as usual. I went inside to wait for him. So he got there and he didn’t look like his picture. I take it back, he looked like his “from the shoulders up” picture. But I was looking at him in his eye. We were the same height. Now, I know height is something that can’t be changed and that no one has any control over so I kept an open mind. We got out seats and sat down and proceeded to order food. At that point I told him that I was a vegetarian and homeboy was flabbergasted. You would have thought that I said I was the offspring of aliens from Mars. “You’re just so weird,” was said multiple times during the conversation in response to other things that I disclosed (like being homeschooled). The food arrived with his coming first and he proceeded to eat while I was still waiting for my food. I understand that there are people who weren’t raised to wait for others before just digging in but I was still somewhat annoyed by his declarations of how weird I was. The conversation continued. He said that he was ready for a serious relationship and marriage and asked if I was on the same page. However under closer inquiry he disclosed that he lived in a 2 bedroom apartment with 3 of his friends and didn’t intend to get his own place anytime soon. Fine. Rents are high, you save money when you can split bills. Then he says that he doesn’t have a car . I asked why because it clearly wasn’t a financial issue (he was a CPA working for a decent sized firm), and he said that he didn’t think it was necessary. But you’re “ready” for a wife and kids? The conversation ended soon afterwards (to be honest I was just tired of being called “weird” 20 times in a row). When the bill came I’m pretty sure we split it as he didn’t offer to pay for what I ordered. We start to go outside and I realize how dark it’s gotten and I look at him. The poor thing doesn’t look like he could defend himself against anything, he looked about 115lbs soaking wet. He had taken the bus to the restaurant. So, out of some maternal urge to help someone in their time of need I had compassion (maybe pity) on him and offered to drive him home. He eagerly accepted the offer. So I took him home. He thanked me for not leaving him to wait for the bus in the dark. He tried to hug me before he got out the car and it was the most awkward hug I’ve ever experienced. He asked me when we were going to get together again. I smiled and never replied. Ever.
One of the features that I enjoy on my most used social media site is the one where you can see what you had posted on that same day in years past. Not too long ago I ran across a status I had written describing my excitement of starting college and classes. Looking back, it feels like it happened a million years ago. I remember agonizing about what my major would be and feeling torn between social work, psychology, and music. College was unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was great because I had the opportunity to meet new people, manage a schedule, and experience life in another structured and sheltered environment that was in a lot of ways like my home life. I learned a lot about assertiveness when I had to challenge grades with certain teachers. Before graduation I had to advocate for myself when it came down to required classes for graduation and I found a loophole and used it to my advantage. I learned about discipline and while I never perfected the art of studying, I learned about the benefits of procrastination and racing to meet a deadline while still delivering a quality scholarly work. College taught me the importance of time management and balancing conflicting priorities. The untimely deaths of several of my classmates reminded me of the importance of appreciating and living life to the fullest. Looking back, there’s not a lot I would change–except maybe being a bit more open minded and allowing myself to have more fun instead of being in the books all the time. Ah well.
It’s funny how adulthood doesn’t always turn out the way that you planned as a kid. I remember having a grand vision for my life as a kid that included doing what I wanted when I wanted to. Each birthday was a year closer to being 18 which was the magic number in my mind where I would suddenly emancipate from the endless rules of my parents. One perk of having a non-traditional education meant that i had a little more time than most my age. After finishing high school a few weeks after I turned 17 I decided that I wanted to take a break so I did. For the next year I chilled at home and took community college classes with the intention to hit the ground running when I began college. The great thing about that year was that I could collect my thoughts with minimal responsibilities. During that time I sold books door to door and even sold knives. I know a lot of people who went directly from high school to college and still had no idea what they wanted to do with their life. They go through a year or two and drift from major to major spending large amounts of money they don’t really have. The thing about young adulthood is that you expect to have more answers than you did as a kid when in fact you just encounter more questions. You want the world to be black and white but sometimes it ends up being a really weird shade of gray. The thing I like about being an adult is that it was similar to what I imagined as a kid. I do what I want, when I want. The sad part is that there are also hundreds of stipulations to that simple fact. The stakes are higher, the consequences for stupid mistakes can easily wreck the future. It’s similar to driving in a fog on a dark night. You know where you’re going but still can’t see five feet ahead of you and your headlights just illuminate how much more fog is ahead.
Many of us had a subject in school in which the relationship between it and use could be characterized by the word “complicated.” For me, that subject was math. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that anyone is born hating math. I once read an article that asserted that hating math is a result of how we are raised and taught to do it. I remember learning addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables through memorization and songs. However, for some reason, my dislike for math seemed to deepen. It wasn’t until 11th grade that I realized I had a knack for creating a spreadsheet of a budget and calculating profit margins. This was a bright moment in my dark relationship with math. My experience with math was further complicated by the fact that while I was homeschooled, math was not a strong point with either of my parents. I did my high school education through a correspondence course. That meant that I got a math book and a workbook and I had to teach myself the concepts. This was an extremely hard thing to do as I got into advanced algebra and geometry. Even with the help of tutors it was not easy going. I managed to pass both classes with grades that probably should never be reported. It was a good thing that I managed to escape trigonometry, calculus and other higher level maths that most people have to take. It’s funny how certain things decrease in significance as we get older. I was genuinely stressed out by my algebra homework. Yet, after passing the class (thankfully), other than critical thinking skills, algebra is a thing of the past. I’m not tested on my ability to solve for x or any other operation that requires a lot of steps to solve. That’s why I think it’s so important to not make mountains out of molehills. You acknowledge it, you confront it, and you move on. Chances are the things you worried about ten years ago aren’t even relevant now and you wasted valuable energy that could have become something productive.
I’ll be honest, I very strongly dislike standardized tests. The source of this dislike can be credited to my mother, who also strongly opposes standardized tests. Growing up, I didn’t have many tests. The homeschooled life afforded me the luxury of learning my way. High school was challenging because I literally had to teach myself subject I knew nothing about with limited internet access and textbooks. Yet, this was not as challenging as it sounds like because all my tests were open book. When I say all, I mean ALL. Because of this experience, I am quite comfortable with open book tests. Partially because I think that it’s reassuring to know that all the answers are contained somewhere in the book and you just have to find them. Piece of cake. Consequently, when it came time in my high school career to take the tests that indicate if you’re smart and if you’ll go to a decent college, I experienced a high level of anxiety. The results of this anxiety was that I took the SAT three times (yes, three) and the ACT twice. For a grand total of…………a lot of hours spend in a cold room filling in bubbles. I prefer essay tests to filling in bubbles. Eight pages of blank paper and a one sentence question on top of each page? I’m down. I’d much rather give a speech in front of thousands of people than take a timed standardized test. Honestly, one of the things that I liked about graduate school is that I only had ONE test the entire length of my program. It was great. However, my professional goals demand that I take tests for licensure in my field. And, the time has come to start to study and prepare for this test. No, I’m not excited but I am more than ready to get this out the way so that I can move on with my life. I can’t wait.
Recently I have come to the conclusion that I really really really hate school. At least the regular kind. This epiphany comes on the wake of realizing that I have total of over 29 pages to write in the next week or so. While I prefer these 12 week quarters to the 10 weeks that I had in graduate school, I still don’t want to do the work. One of the challenges of distance learning is that you have to be so disciplined because you don’t attend class every week. I think that my irritation with school comes from the fact that this is only my 5th consecutive year of traditional education. Being homeschooled, I had the freedom to learn what I wanted to learn without any restrictions or guidelines on how it should be done. My high school education was done through a correspondence course that included many of the typical subjects but all the tests were open book. No big deal. It was only in college that I actually had to learn to study in order to learn the information required to pass tests. However, after a certain point, tests were obsolete and all methods of examination were by essay. I remember a final exam that was six blank pages with one question per page and it was the expectation of the teacher that each page be full with writing as you answered the questions. I’m sure that my annoyance with school is partially due to the fact that I have a slight problem with procrastination. I say slight because although I don’t usually wait to the last minute, I still put it off more than I should. I have a lot of respect for people who have completed a doctorate and now I understand why so many people insist on being called by their title of “doctor.” That being said, I’m taking a break from school after this doctorate. A very long, and a very much needed break. That being said, let me return to this very large, endless, and pretty much pointless pile of papers to write.