End of Formal Education: A Lazy Walk Through My Scholarly Life

It has been a long 19 years I the making but I’m finally reaching the end of my formal, school education.

I started school at the delightful age of 5, a bit before my 6th birthday I entered kindergarten at Terraset Elementary School in Reston, Virginia. A school designed by hippies that had partitions for rooms the school was divided into circular pods for the classroom areas of the school and the library. The front end was fairly normal shaped. I guess the most interesting design aspect of Terraset was that it was inside of a hill. They built it and then covered the back end of the building with enough soil that they were able to plant some might fine trees, honeysuckle and other plants on the roof of the building. The things you consider normal.

I don’t remember being traumatized or stressed from my first day of school. I had gone to daycare, a place called PALS, I don’t know what that stands for. I remember one of the teachers used to tease me and I didn’t like him because of that. You know the book Hot Zone, my daycare was right next to where that happened, I learned that when I actively met people who weren’t from Reston, so around middle school? I still haven’t read that book. What else about PALS, I distinctly remember a bike day once, we rode in circles around a small parking lot. My mom got a flat tire from a nail in a tire so I was late to daycare and she was late to work, I don’t remember what I did that day. I also know I was at PALS for 2 years. With my November birthday, the Fairfax County school system made me wait one more year before I joined the ranks of real school, so kindergarten.

I was in morning kindergarten,(what what, half days) with Mrs Sybert, I believe. I don’t remember much, from then. I was in SACC (School Aged Child Care) after that, I remember never wanting to take a nap (something I think is insane now, I take naps many days) I also remember one day we went on a walking field trip to Lake Audobon (I think) nothing special happened.

Blah blah blah, elementary school. I got put into the Gifted and Talented class, which was cool, in second grade they pulled us from the classroom, put us in a different room and taught us other stuff. I felt special, I was told I was smarter than other people which lead to my education downfall. I know I don’t try as hard when I’m aware that the class isn’t a challenge. So when I got into classes I needed to study for, I was shit at it.

 I just remembered, my school was trying out split classes, first/second split, so forth. The idea was you’d have the same teacher for 2 years and half of each class would be each grade. You’d have more time to be friends with the people in your class at least and some other stuff. I don’t remember all of the theories around having a split grade class, and I only just thought to look into the findings from it. I think I will.

For third grade I went to Sunrise Valley Elementary school. It sounds all sparkly and nice. No. I didn’t like it at all. They had a GT program so my entire educational existence was advanced thinking. That’s cool except it was not a warm school. Terraset felt very homey, always warm, inviting and friendly. Sunrise Valley was cold by comparison, not just the GT class. People there were cool enough, we all knew why we were there, but the school didn’t seem as inviting of a place to be. I did have some interested experiences. We raised baby chickens all spring long. Our teacher had a student teacher shadowing her and we were all infatuated with the idea that she had a boyfriend. Thinking about it now, we were 8-9 and the other girls were super into this idea. I didn’t care all that much, but I did talk about Ed (oooH! So exotic?) with the others in the class. We went to DC, that happened a lot in elementary school, but this year someone in my class had a parent who worked in Congress (I don’t know what they did) so we got a slightly different tour and they let us ride on the tram between Congress and the House. We were told about some bloody stairs where someone hot hurt (shot?) and the blood stained the marble. That’s what I remember, the morose shit. I remember being bad at long division, so third grade was the start of my math problems, at least having problems with how they wanted me to show and do my work. I was also a part of some event with the 1996/7 oldest living woman, the school celebrated her birthday I think.

Around now, I think, I was in a pageant hosted by the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. I won for Little Miss AKA, I think I was told you won based on selling tickets or something, and maybe how well you did. I don’t know. I remember scolding my mother for styling my hair big, like Oprah’s and making her change it before I went on stage. I performed some ridiculous monologue/poem/play. I have it on vhs and haven’t watched it since I was in it. I learned etiquette for this and I actually follow when I’m in a formal dining situation. I’m not always aware of it but I guess it’s for the best? Hmm. I was taught a waltz and foxtrot and danced with my brother, so incredibly embarrassing. Other stuff happened, it was all afternoon that day.

Fourth grade I was back at Terraset, not in a split class. I made my first good friend with someone my own age because she got kicked out of the ‘popular’ circle. I do remember one insult she said to someone else, she told me about this some time in high school. She called some other girl a wavy line, as in she wasn’t straight.  Harsh. She’s a really nice person now, but all kids are dicks (she also likes all people so it seems out of place. Or she was describing herself, I don’t remember, I just remember the phrase and I think I want to use it in something). She also told me my favorite story about myself. I was sitting on the side of the school reading. She comes up or had been there, I don’t know and notices I wasn’t actually reading the book, I wasn’t turning the pages. I responded “If I look out at everyone someone will bother me and ask what am I staring at. Same if I look at the ground. If I look at a book they leave me alone.” I still think that the 10 year old me who said this was a genius. I think it also shows how much I live in my head that at a young age I wanted to be left to my own thoughts. It’s things like this that make me think I’m in introvert. I started orchestra this year, I played the violin and it played assist to my love of classical music. It made it better because I now got to PLAY classical music.

Fifth grade happened, nothing special. Sixth grade they tried making it like middle school with a home room and we all changed class rooms for different things. One teacher taught history, another English, another math. Science and art happened somewhere. I was still in the GT classes but now I also left class for orchestra and to be a mentor to a pre-k kid. I liked that I got to leave class for three hours every week to do something else. I don’t remember the name my pre-k girl had but I remember not liking her very much. She was mean and didn’t like playing with me, which was fine. I got to miss class for an hour every Friday and play dress up and do stupid shit with a bunch of 4 year olds. I did try to engage my kid but she ignored me no matter how much I tried, so I ended up mostly playing with a friend and their kid. I miss school one day; I’m surprised I don’t remember why. My mom never let me miss school (I was also never sick, luckily I really was never sick but I never got pretend sick days either. As an adult I realized she couldn’t take off to take care of her kid. She was a single mother) I think were might have gone up to New York to visit my grandparents, I think my grandfather had been sick, I really don’t remember. I do remember the following week after talking with the teacher that my kid had actually been upset that I wasn’t there to play with her. She apparently liked ignoring me? I don’t know. She was a bit nicer to me after that. It was weird. I think this is the first time I noticed that I had an effect on people even if I didn’t notice it. I still don’t know or notice whatever affect I have on people. I do remember being told this was my kid I was also told I was being given a more difficult and less engaging kid because I had a calm demeanor. They figured I’d be a good match and I’d be able to put up with her better and help more. Maybe I did. I don’t remember the point of the program I just remember I got to leave class and every week and not do anything.

Seventh grade, I went to Langston Hughes Middle School, most of the middle schools in Fairfax County are named after poets. Herndon is one of the few that isn’t because everything in Herndon is named after (Lord?) Herndon. Langston Hughes is an oval, I’m in the GT group of the seventh grade classes, I’m in orchestra. I’m newly into manga having been into anime when Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon started years earlier. The first manga I ever bought was a Sailor Moon Super Stars, book 3. I had read books 1 and 2 in the Barnes and Nobel and I wanted to finish it, so I bought that first $10 crack book, starting a ten year (give or take) addiction to manga in addition to liking anime. I made a bunch of friends in from other elementary schools. My grandfather died that spring, it was my first funeral, I was nervous and laughed out of being nervous which my family misinterpreted. This winter was the first time I got depressed, I think. It was a shitty winter, I didn’t know how to handle it. I did so poorly in school.

Eight grade 9/11 happened which was weird. All of a sudden, after one class, students were disappearing, their parents having picked them up. The rumor I first heard was that “They” were targeting school. No one said who ‘they’ was (how often do we know who ‘they is?). I learned what had happened when I got home and watched the news with my brother, not knowing it would be the only news that month, or just about the next month and on. A bit later, my brother’s godmother got re-married, which led to my favorite picture of my with my mother, we’re both wearing claret dresses, I had just gotten my make up lightly done and there were still a few hours until the ceremony. My brothers were just off camera. It’s one of the last good photos of her taken. There were others but that one was special.

I moved on to South Lakes High School, following the same schools my brothers had both graduated from. I was now in International Baccalaureate (IB) classes (It’s advanced thinking, I’ve always called it the same as AP and I still think is pretty much is – I guess a major difference is that the county pays for everyone in an IB class to take the IB exams as opposed to other places where the students have to pay for them. That, and my school wasn’t just one focus IB, it was everything. Science, math, English, the arts, history – we gave out IB diplomas) they were fun, I got to read banned books. I hung out with my first gay friend a lot more now, I had never known he was gay and now more often than not I don’t think about his sexuality. He makes it such a non-issue that instead of being my gay friend, he’s a friend who happens to be gay. This is a good dude. He’s also one of the few friends who would hit me back, which just lead to me hitting him harder, I was angry and a dick. I’ve (mostly) stopped hitting people (they were always love taps anyway).

I can’t think of anything spectacular from ninth or tenth grade. I did orchestra just for 9th grade, which is well enough, after that the teacher left to go do other things and there were rotating teacher/conductors who varied in skill. I started at the school newspaper and was in the anime club which introduced me to yaoi and hentai, things that I think have played into me not caring about other people’s sexualities, I don’t know. I almost moved out of Virginia to go to South Carolina but I argued that I had just made friends in middle school so we stayed, which I think made other things better. I loved my 9th grade English teacher, Mrs Lynch. She retired after my tenth grade year but was a blast. We read like, 14 books that year, she had us read Night by Eli Weisel (I hated it) and then Maus by Art Spigelman (which I loved! I had never been able to read comics for school, I was excited, even with the holocaust being the point of the book). Across Five Aprils, which we covered with a student teacher, the student teacher gave us the dumbest assignments, something I almost told her to her face. I really didn’t like her. We read Dickens, Great Expectations,  which was the first book I had to read for school that I didn’t finish. Yellow Raft on Blue Water still stands out, that was during the banned book (specifically banned books) session, one third read Catcher in the Rye, one third read Tuesdays with Morrie, and my group Yellow Raft, I’ve been meaning to buy and re-read it, it was a discussion on each generation affects the next starting with the narrator as a teen then her interactions with her mother and grandmother. It made me think about families and now it’s making me think about my relationship with my grandmother. I need to re-read this book. We read a few others, that’s not 14 books. Mrs. Lynch also let me borrow some books, off the record, that I never returned, including the Invisible Man by  , I’ve been meaning to give it a real try, I didn’t understand it too well when I tried reading it before.  ((Thinking about it, I think my brother’s godmother got married when I was in 9th grade, I need the year…)

Tenth grade I was mad that my English teacher had been a clerk or something and that he didn’t teach us anything off the  IB curriculum. I spent a lot of time drawing in his class, with my colored pencils on my desk. I was that bold. This was also the only year in high school I didn’t have history at the end of my day, it was all wrong.

Eleventh grade I met the two people who effectively became my first pair of best friends and were instrumental in my transition to being an adult, in a way.. It was a special summer program for IB students where I met one who had an obsession with England and the Kaiser Chiefs. She introduced me to Shaun of the Dead in I tried watched Doctor Who then on Sci Fi (back when it was spelled in a logical fashion) I brought her into my swarming mob of friends and was vulgar, relishing in making her blush. My other best friend is male, years later I named him Ficus and I had a crush on him for so long which thankfully has broken and left us as really good friends. He introduced me to Game of Thrones by giving me the first 2 or 3 for my birthday and I promptly read them, falling in love with Westeros, being fascinated by dragons, loving the insult ‘brotherfucker’ and having to put them down and read crap for school.

While my friendship romances were happening my mother was diagnosed with Lymphoma and started getting her affairs in order. I worked a job at Target and was able to buy my first laptop, a little HP that had issues (probably viruses) from the start. School was a thing, I went to class but it wasn’t that important. I started teaching myself photoshop during the newspaper class and I drew comics for my high school paper! I remember some of these. One was about fitting in and this one kid who didn’t dress like everyone else being mobbed to ‘be unique’ like everyone else (EMOs! Am I right?); the school being a hellish maze to get from your locker to your first class, it was an impossible maze, we actually had to print a retraction explaining that. They forgot I did comics not draw mazes; I did some rock star singing ‘eep opp ork ah-ah’ for Valentine’s Day and one about poor temperature control in the school. I remember I wrote articles about the school plays and because I had so many techie friends I made sure to highlight the crew, because no one remember how important they are to a final production.  That spring I joined track, to hang out with 2 of my friends more really, I was okay at throwing shot put and discus (wherein I start my short lived love affair with weird sports). I dropped out of IB physics with our OCD teacher (who was proud of his being OCD) and took regular physics, which I barely passed.

Twelfth grade happened. I dropped out of IB bio and took psychology I was writing for the paper still and I think I took an art class, I don’t remember too well. This was my best and worst year of high school, I was finally “done” with school and worked to apply myself places. It ended up being the worst year because that’s when my mother died. I was pretty much prepared for it but that doesn’t mean it didn’t suck. I took my IB exams and was a part of my school’s Model UN that spring. I graduated a month after she died and I still think that I got more applause than I would have had she been alive and fine. Everyone knew,  what had happened and I’m sure they called me “brave” for finishing school, but come the fuck on, I know I wasn’t straight, I know I was fucked up but I had to finish school, take those exams and move on with my life.

Not too long ago I called myself a shark to a friend of mine, I need to keep moving and progressing or else I’ll go insane. I also can’t go back to where I’ve been and I know I’m not where I need to be to spend the rest of my life. Norfolk has been a good ‘training ground’ for me and my young adulthood but I have always known I was not meant to live here forever.

College happened. I started as a bio major because that’s what my mother wanted. I hated my freshman year roommate with such a blood lust that I know I have never really hated anything, not before or since. Thinking about her makes me aggravated, and puts me on edge. I can honestly say I wanted to grind her face into the cinderblocks that made up my room. Any time I was around her. I decided she wasn’t worth going to jail for and my RA was useless in making anything better. I started fencing (hey, remember that sport thing. Yeah, there we go, weird sports!) and made me next best friend pair, one was the grad student who started fencing club and the other was a freshman and I don’t remember how we met. We never had classes together, let’s chalk it up to that’s just how my life works. I spent parts of almost every-single-day  around these two. They kept me sane, I wonder if they know how important to me they were, are to be honest. The grad student friend insisted a group of us go and see Iron Man which introduced me to Western comics and started me on my current life path. I also spent my summer volunteering at the US Botanic Garden in DC, that was cool.

I have college things documented on my old blog and around online. I don’t feel as much the need to write everything I can in some slipshod order.

My second year I lived with the worst roommates and I never had the Hollywood experience of making friends with my roommates, and having lifelong adult pals! I hated them all so much, if you read my earlier post about them you’ll understand why. I was diagnosed with Hidradenistis Suppurativa and smoked my first cigarette this year. The smoking has helped nothing and anytime I get stressed and anxious I go back to smoking knowing it makes everything worse. I’m a big dummy. I also got really depressed this year and it lasted longer than any other and was kind of worse than any other. I had my first surgery to excise my diseased skin which went really well. I had been losing mobility, I limped quite horribly and I could barely move. I loved the pain killers, I’ll be honest here, I never abused them. I first got into podcasts with Kevin Smith’s SModcast. I remember the first Monday after my Spring Break surgery it took me an entire hour to slowly shuffle across campus, a direct distance of a bit less than a mile. I would normally make that was in fifteen minutes.

That summer I moved into my first off campus housing, taking a sublet room in a tiny duplex. I also decided, after doing a week long wetlands conference that I wasn’t right as a biology major and that fall I transferred to being an art major. I made a bunch of friends in who live in Ghent and are a part of the local music and arts scene. I started going to Borjo more and made friends there. I spent that fall taking classes I didn’t really need, I didn’t know that until way later. I moved into the apartment I current live in that fall and my roommate was a girl who was a senior my freshman year of high school who was in the orchestra with me.

I progressed as an art major, going to more local art things. I did my first 100 Days journal comic the following summer, 2010. I created Lawrence and co that fall in a creative writing class. Even though I got depressed I was overall a lot happier than I had been any year previous. My following years progress with me spending most of my time in Norfolk with a rent, friends and social life down here. Even now, I feel I miss on things when I’m not down here for a holiday. A party happens that I wish I had gone to, a show, an event, or I even just miss being in my own bed.

It has been a long climb, I have changed as a person but I can also see some important aspects of me now reflected in who I was when I was younger. I made sure to say I was done with my formal education because I will always be learning and seeking out new information. I spent a few hours today watching Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk YouTube show. I’m done with my formal, in class, in school education with as far as I’ve planned it out. I’m excited to try new things, to travel and move and meet more people. As shy as I am, I want to meet the people I know online. I want to be known for my comics and I’m ready to feel like I’m really getting a grasp on my life. I look at other comic artists only a few years older than I am, and I feel like I’m ages behind. I feel like I’ve wasted my time and it’s too late for anyone to know who I am. And then I remember I’m only 24 and I (should) have many years ahead of me to live and experience the things that I have been flirting with in my imagination. I have time to meet more internet friends, I have the time to have some great romance to be heartbroken. I have the time to wake up in an unknown place, cramped from sleeping in my car and hung over. I have the time to freak out when I meet idol and the time to act on that first rush of a lust and a crush with that scruffy haired dude I just met. I have the time to do things I sometimes write off, feeling like I’ve been forgotten. I’m unknown, not forgotten and I have the time to make a name for myself and to figure out how to market myself as a comic artist who writes crazy essays, generally about herself, but also questioning life and those around her.