I Wasn’t a Happy Student


Determined beat throbbing
Measure by measure,
Expected rhythms of thought.
Tempo decided not by players
But those wielding batons,
Rulers measuring length
And breadth of life.
Meting out fractions of hope
For the futures
Of those in sync.
Dissonance, unwelcome, must depart.
Flee or be painfully twisted,
Bent to the chord,
Resolved to be accepted
By the same who dare
Freeze poetry into prose,
Locked by dots and slashes,
Rigid acceptable forms
In the name of learning.
Creativity transformed
Into pale variations
On one ordered theme,
The school song.

I did well in school. Very well. I was an excellent student, but a miserably unhappy one (from first grade right through college). I wonder sometimes what my life would have been like if I had been homeschooled. It wasn’t an option, but I wonder. It’s not that I didn’t like how I was taught—we were expected to memorize everything, which suited me just fine. I enjoyed learning new vocabulary and practicing multiplication tables. We chanted our verb conjugations and preposition lists. Great fun. But I hated having to conform to the school’s social image, whether Catholic grammar school or snooty women’s college.

I never fit in. How I thought, how I dressed, what I valued…nothing about me ever lined up with the cherished ideals of the administration. So I was miserable. I didn’t connect well with my peers (most thought I was weird—I was—and many didn’t like my getting better grades than they did when I wasn’t one of them). While they played sports and led cheers, I did plays and sang show tunes on the school bus. I tried my best to project the attitude that I really didn’t care whether I was liked or not. In many cases, it was true. I didn’t like the popular crowd any more than they liked me, so I wasn’t seeking their approval. Still, I wasn’t happy. I hated being stuck in those settings with no options other than conform or be ostracized. This wasn’t as bad at the college level, but it was there in subtle ways.

Maybe I just projected it onto the situations, having grown up feeling it so intensely right through high school. Were the schools really at fault or was it me all along? Was I depressed because of the situation or did depression create the situation? I could successfully argue both positions, I think, but for today, I’ll leave most of the blame with them.