Sunday, March 05, 2006

It's such a selfish way to lose
The way you lose these wasted blues
These wasted blues
Tell me that it's nobody's fault
Nobody's fault
But my own
-- Beck

Last night, during Hollywood's self congratulatory event, my mom sent me home with a folder that summed up my academic history from grade school through college. I had only asked for my birth certificate, but instead got my life in school. Luckily, since opening that folder and perusing the contents, I walked away from the computer and cooled down since I started this entry.

When I started to type, the matches were standing by and I'd moved anything that could have caught fire away from the fireplace. I'd muted the Oscars, but wasn't ready to burn just yet.

As I looked through the report cards, it underscored my discomfort and failure within the school system to be anything but a below average student. I've said before that I was always smart, but was never a good student. Still, I got into a top art school since my artwork and awards that I'd won made up for the barely admissible academic scores. It was only later when maturity and life experience were able to intervene that my grades caught up to my ability. Also, I was taking the classes by choice and welcoming education.

Even knowing my turbulent history with school, I didn't expect the jolt that I got when looking at those report cards, with the "needs improvement," "satisfactory," and the so rare "exceeds expectations" marks. Seeing it so permanent just got to me.

Since opening that folder, I've now burned an essay that I did in high school, a letter I sent to my mom about my life in New York that so illustrated my youth, not in a good way. I'd mention what it said but since I just burned it, I'm not about to make it a permanent fixture in cyberspace to be dug up on long after this blog is gone. It is now floating above Baltimore in a million tiny sooty pieces and may it find itself in obscurity forever. Also cremated are my inquiries into FIT and my scant amount of other college choices. All would have ended up with the same ending. It's hard looking at it now, knowing the outcome. No longer is there excitement, but regret and some shame. I was so young then, and because of my school track record I was not prepared for the rigors and pressures of college. Also, I'd finally gotten to New York, and felt that I had lost time to make up for in my social life. That always took precedence, and while I got into the W Magazine society pages, I couldn't break the barrier of a decent grade point average.

Before it was more regularly diagnosed in people my age, I had clear signs of clinical depression. I couldn't concentrate worth a damn, dark spells would have me wandering the streets of New York at hours that only junkies, homeless, prostitutes, cops, and club kids dare roamed. People left me alone, perplexed at why a teenager would be out at that hour. Certainly I was carrying. Certainly I was something other than what I was.

Restless. Looking. Trying to walk off the darkness by walking in darkness.

A week ago, I heard a piece on NPR about a woman who had amnesia and lost a substantial part of her life and found myself envying her. A lot of positive things had happened to her since. A better relationship with her family, a sense of freedom, and a drive and fearlessness that she didn't have before. How nice in a way, it would be to start from scratch without the memories of the times that I struggled and failed to cope. Or, without the issues that surface when I want to move forward or be brave. I wonder who I would be, and what I would accomplish. I wonder what memories I would want gone. Could I start tomorrow, no memory of who I was? To be honest, I wouldn't mind. Who would that make me, set free from that frustration and anger that is so close to the surface.

And, it left me wondering if I should burn the other transcripts, which are the only copies that I have. They serve no purpose to me except to extract pain. Is this a way to erase those memories? It was seeing the names of the classes, the teachers, the everything, that brought back the dread. The knowing that I'd held those report cards in my eight-year-old, ten-year-old, fourteen-year-old, seventeen-year-old hands. The silent rides home in the car or waiting up in my room as I knew that my mom was reading the report card that I'd put on the kitchen table for her to see when she got home from work. The frustration that both parents must have felt. My own frustration. The letters that I got from my mom at home while in college, not understanding why I couldn't do better. Me not understanding, and at the time so angry. I had potential, but during school that's all I ever had. And potential isn't a good thing to have, permanently.

To top it off, after fighting hard to keep myself in school and refusing to give in to the demons, some asshole's clerical error kept my name off the graduation program and almost cost me getting called up at all during graduation. Imagine that, sitting there in my cap and gown, underneath that, a darling Miss Selfridge dress that I'd bought in London, while the person to my right was called, and then the person to my left, and my family wondering why I wasn't walking up to accept a diploma. Me thinking I'd just sat out of order, while name after name was called until the "I's" were reached, then the "J's." And yes, that program was in that folder as well. I looked at all the names, mine absent, and the anger burned again. I have no idea if there is even a record of me going to Parsons. I decided, while looking at that program in my shaking hand as Ang Lee accepted his Oscar for Best Director, that I was going to make damn sure that there was. I wasn't the best student at Parsons, in fact I was below average, but I was there and completed my degree. I did some damn good work, even though I couldn't maintain that level consistently, but most important; I hung in there. And though there is a record that would demonstrate the opposite, I learned.

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