Mom, you were wrong.

Posted: February 12, 2012 in Stories
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

As a teen The Think Viking developed severe insomnia.  Many times the only thing that put me to sleep was the rising sun. In hindsight I see that this was caused by my mom’s battling cancer, my dad’s near fatal heart attack,  my raging growth hormones and the fact that I’m naturally nocturnal.  At least dad had been out of my daily life since I was five, but still, it was a harsh reminder of mortality for a teen.

But back then, I didn’t know why I couldn’t sleep.  So when it came time to get up and get to school by 8,  no amount of screaming by mom would rouse me.   I would usually make it to class at 10 or so, but not always. It became very clear to me that my presence in class wasn’t affecting my learning – I’d read the books, show up for tests, and pass them.  Then I learned they were grading on “attendance” and the fact that my test scores were high B’s and  A’s didn’t mean that was the grade I would get.  This struck me as wrong.  I responded to this by not changing my behavior.

Mom would scream “You’ll wind up working in a  car wash if you fail in high school”.  This didn’t seem to follow, and I didn’t change.  One time she yelled “You son of a bitch!”  – I simply agreed and shut my bedroom door in her face.  But  nothing changed at school.  I still routinely missed my morning classes, and missed entire days much more than most.

Eventually, mom realized I wasn’t doing this to make her angry, and that I wasn’t deliberately not sleeping – I was a mess, having both parents almost die within a year while going through puberty, and she intervened and played the “his mom has cancer” card, and my more enlightened teachers allowed me to self study and as long as I passed the tests, they didn’t fail me, but my GPA still hovered around 2.0.  And then one day a “guidance counselor” mentioned that since I was now 16, I didn’t have to attend school, I could drop out and no one would care.  And I promptly did, right there.  The look on her face was priceless.

15 minutes later I was enrolled at an “alternative” school.  You know, where the teen moms and drugged up delinquents got their “last chance” (I was neither, but that’s not my point).  We could set our own schedules, so long as we were in class 6 hours a day.  My new schedule started at 10 and let me out at 4.  Perfect.  I got the sleep I needed, and took the classes I wanted, not the ones the school said were “required”.  There were a handful of others like me, too independent to conform to traditional school.  Several of these people are still my friends – and may well be reading this.  You know who you are.  My GPA skyrocketed to 4.0 and I graduated 6 months later.

After a stint in the Real World with no college degree, I realized that I was facing a life of labor and service jobs. I saved some money working like a dog at a cannery in Alaska and put myself into a community college – you know those little schools who take anyone who can cover tuition?  They never even asked if I had graduated High School.  After I graduated I worked at a high tech start up for a few years.  When they couldn’t pay me on a regular basis, I took out loans and headed to the University of Colorado, where I earned a Bachelors in Biology and studied Philosophy.

I have NEVER held a job based on my degree.  I don’t regret it, and I don’t think it was  a waste of time.  I am certain I have been hired partly because I was ABLE  to get that diploma, regardless of my course of study – it shows you have the determination and intelligence to succeed in a stressful and challenging environment.  It means you can think clearly and express this to others.

Where am I going here?  If you are a kid like I was, screw high school, get a GED and start at a community college  and then get a 4 year degree from an a credited University (many Universities automatically accept applications from students who already hold a two year degree).  If you are a parent of a kid like me, think about suggesting this to your kid.

I have also never worked in a car wash.  Mom, you were wrong.  A high school diploma doesn’t mean a thing anymore. Which is part of what I think is wrong with our country.  Our students aren’t taught to care about their education, it’s all about test scores and funding now.

Think about it.


  1. Yeah bookmaking this wasn’t a speculative determination outstanding post!

  2. jfeden4 says:

    Whooo! Have to agree with you again! I’m a retired teacher now teaching GED classes part-time, and what you say rings so true to my experience! I taught mostly middle school, but my last five years I taught high school – got talked into it so I could be the yearbook advisor, which I enjoyed – and I found such death and desolation at that level that I couldn’t keep doing it. We often get students who dropped out after 8th grade who do very well and in a few months are ready to take the GED and do very well… usually kids like you describe yourself. In the GED prep program, we find out what people know and work on teaching them the things they don’t know, so there’s relevance and urgency and motivation and all those things that high school lacks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s