By high school I was very unhappy. Three parts angry, five parts sad. I thought the proportions reversed. I tried a bunch of things to fix it. Nothing worked. As a result I stopped trying. In fact I rather stopped doing much of anything at all.
Every year I hoped it would get better. It got worse. The schoolwork stayed the same; I grew better educated, more capable, and hungrier for challenge and for work. The exponential tied down to the arithmetic. For years, and years.
The only reason I didn’t look for some way out – well, besides not being able to think of any; how *do* you get out of high school? – was the reward at the end. College. The word rang forth! It would all be better then. Freedom of ideas. New ideas. New people. Real studies. Lectures, seminars. Research. Scholarship. Exposure to new things. All that and a side of bacon. So I was promised. Everyone assured me. My shining city on a fucking hill.
Towards the end I managed to force myself to a few things. I wrote a play. I wrote a few poems – a few of which almost don’t make me squirm to read them. I gave a lecture on using Swinburne to read Milton. I wrote a monograph on early colonialist autocritiques. I was young and unguided – yet I had an idea or two.
The intersection of literature and history. A common theme in my studies. Small wonder. My best friend growing up – and so remaining – is a math nerd. A very, very good one. Far be it for me to compete with him, so I thought. But moreover, I had heard that most nerds – the ones who could claw their way out of the Buddhism-like cycle of semester into semester – were math nerds. I thought, therefore, I would try to stand out in another way. I’d be a literature nerd. A poetry nerd. A humanities nerd. But that I would bring to my domain the same focus, the same standard of excellence, as any mathematician brought to hers.
(Masochist am I.)