School May be Out, but the Hard Lessons Continue

To be honest, if you haven’t belted out your own lousy, eardrum-bursting rendition of ‘School’s Out for Summer’ at least once this month, well, I’m not sure we can be friends. 🙂

Sure, it may be the end of another school year, but I have a confession… I don’t want school to end. Yes, I’m well aware that’s likely not a very popular position in this household, or most others, but, hear me out, I have my reasons.

* Oh, by the way, yes, believe it or not, that is the same guy in both those pictures… one from my Grad night, and then a ‘couple’ years later, after my daughter’s Grad party. I’ll let you decide which is which. 🙂

As Alice so eloquently screams, school is out for summer – and yes, in some cases forever – so you may no longer be subjected to those teachers’ dirty looks. Fine. But trust me, like it or not, the learning never ends.

That is one absolute I abruptly discovered in trying to deal with this brutal take-no-prisoners disease. If you want to survive another day – mentally, physically, or emotionally – the learning can never end. Whether it’s about medicine, or treatments, or adapting to previously unfathomable life changes, my school always has to be in session.

All this talk of graduations and school create major flashbacks to my own school daze, er, days. 🙂 My academic journey was such a roller coaster. I had stellar grades in my early years, then they fell off a cliff. Like a Mt. Everest kind of cliff. I got bored and distracted, I didn’t find any of the work challenging, and eventually I limped out of High School with that 1.9 GPA (yes, One Point Nine) second semester my Senior year. By that point, I had simply mentally checked out.

Funny aside. What’s even crazier is that the GPA would have been 1.5 had Mr. McGinnis not given me an “A” instead of the standard “credit” in TA (Teacher’s Assistant – yes, that was a class, don’t judge me). 🙂 But the A was deserved. Mac often chilled in the teacher’s lounge grading papers, and I ran that class. It was a bunch of sophomores, I mean, what could go wrong? (I think it was math? Anyone here in that class?). Anyway, thanks Mac, you were awesome.

Now wait, before you totally write me off as illiterate, know that I scored in the 96th percentile on the NEDT and had a pretty decent 1210 on the SAT (back when max was 1600, not 2400, thank you very much). I may have been dumb sometimes (no I don’t need any examples, thank you very much…), but I wasn’t stupid.

Sure, I didn’t graduate with the fancy honors braids, but I am always proud to share the fact that I graduated in the Top 95% of my class – yes, 95% – and earned the distinction of Summa Cum Loud. (I always thought it was supposed to be ‘Laude’ but mine was very specifically listed as ‘Loud’ for some reason, whatever…) 🙂

Anyway, even graduating in that lofty 5th percentile needed a bit of luck, because, as you may know… there was CWP. Ah, Contemporary World Problems.

Note: I don’t know if they still do CWP or something equivalent in school, but can you even imagine? In today’s world? They likely need to rename it Catastrophic World Problems. Sheesh.

At the time, CWP was a class you were required to pass to graduate. (Hence, the reason my mom did not bother to order Grad Announcements until two weeks before the event). The one saving grace about CWP was that the tests were graded on a curve. So my strategy, to the disdain of many of my classmates (some of whom persist in reminding me of it to this day – hi, Trisha) was for me to BE the curve. I had finally found a challenge. I figured if I aced every one of the tests, I could neutralize the negative effects of my lack of homework and desire not to be bothered with doing a Thesis paper. And, then, if the planets also aligned, I could graduate.

In retrospect, my path to graduation wouldn’t have been so fraught with peril had I not totally blown off one class my Junior year. In what is likely the greatest irony of my life, I failed… wait for it… Oral and Written Communications.

Yes, seriously. I failed a class based on how to talk to people and write stuff. I may have never used my limited retention of the periodic table of elements, and Lord knows I forgot every word of French 101 years before I ever got to Europe. But Oral and Written Communications? I don’t know, that might have come in handy, since * checks resume * the entirety of my work over the past 40 years has been nothing but marketing, sales, advertising, and publishing… (sorry, Mrs. Walsh, you deserved better from me).

Regardless of the difficulty of the path, and despite the percentile or the GPA, I graduated. (Yes, my strategy worked, I aced the CWP tests). And as is one of my mantras, we celebrate all the victories.

Honestly, I could fill a book with all the regrets I have about what I did and didn’t do during my school years, but I wouldn’t change a single one of them if it would change anything about who I became and what I did with my life. To me, that grades the entire experience as a solid A+.

Now though, my challenge is not CWP, but ALS.

My concern is not about ending my school years, but about extending my life years.

My need is not to learn trig, or calculus, or chemistry, but to learn how to make the most of my remaining days while struggling to live with a terminal, debilitating disease.

Those are now my studies. Life is now my teacher. And no, I’m not yet ready for my school to be out, for summer… or forever.

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