When I was in high school (oh, just a few moons ago), I had an advanced English class that was taught by one of the best teachers at my school. Now that I look back, she could easily have been the mother of Harry Potter – down to the round John Lennon style glasses & a short black hair-do with severely cut black bangs.
One of my best high school girlfriends, Sandi, had such a way of writing and always used twenty dollar words in her papers. She was also very good at using a Thesaurus to find words similar to other words. I wanted to write so eloquently, as Sandi did.
If I could only crawl inside Sandi’s head to see how her brain connected her thoughts to form the words that her pencil scribed onto the paper. (Back in those days, we did not have computers – it was the old fashioned pencil and lined paper to put our words on).
I donned my thinking cap – pulled it extra tight as if the snugger it would fit the more it would squeeze all of my creative thoughts into one little ball – to form those perfect words into sentences that were creative, thought provoking and that might actually sound intelligent. Like Sandi’s. Out came MY thesaurus, too. Page upon page I scouted out “smart” words – those five, ten and twenty dollar words that I thought might impress my teacher and get me that A that I needed to make the grade to graduate in that white robe and gold tassel – to be a lifetime CSF member!
A few days went by before the graded paper, with the best handwriting I could have scrawled out on the white lined paper – even at 2 in the morning, came back. Of course, she had to place it face down on my desk. Fear crept in my body – why did she do this? Was she trying to create paranoia or just trying to tease me, like leaving that last chewy chocolate chip cookie in the cookie jar to see who would be the selfish squirrel to snag it. As I looked around the classroom, I could see that other students had their papers face down, too. Ok, she’s not picking on just me…it must be a teacher control thing. The could be Potter mom told us to wait to turn over the papers and went on to give us her lecture about how disappointed she was in some of us. Oh good! Just keep putting that hot poker in my heart. It seemed like an hour went by before we could flip our graded paper over. When the red light turned to green, I hesitated. The room was filled with sighs of relief from other students and other sounds of disappointment. What would my reaction be?On the top right corner of my paper was a letter written in red ink. The letter was not the letter I had hoped for. Below the letter was a note that the tight faced teacher had written in her distinct back-slanted and very small handwriting. Further down on the page were words circled in red, more side notes, more circles, more side notes, and more circles. My paper looked like a crime scene with so much red ink on it!
My heart fell to my toes. I got a C-. Yes, just dig the knife in a little deeper with the MINUS sign. After reading the comments, tears welled up in my eyes. I had misused the words in so many “described” ways. Where was the hole for me to crawl in? This meant that I would not be getting the grade I so needed to graduate with honors. I was .5 points away from it. All because I tried too hard to write the paper using those twenty dollar words. All because I was trying so hard to be like somebody I was not.
I went home and drowned my sorrows with a half dozen chocolate cupcakes that my mom had made. My room was my retreat away from the world – and there I cried for hours. The light from the large window in my room faded to darkness and a bit later I heard my mother at my door asking me if I was ok. No words could be formed from my parched mouth. The door-knob turned and the silhouette of my mother came towards me. She sat on the ground next to me, at first saying nothing – just quiet, as if she could read my mind. I finally told her what happened. Mom understood me because she was an over-achiever, too. She had the same disappointment as I did – she was a fraction away from graduating with honors.
If only I had been myself and not tried to write in a style that was not my own. I learned that it is okay to try to better yourself, however be authentic. I learned a valuable lesson that day in the could be Harry Potter’s mother’s classroom,: a little
VICISSITUDE change is good now and then, but keep it real, keep it simple, just be yourself. (I will stick to the 19-cent words.) Remember to give yourself credit for who you are and to use your God given gifts to be authentic. Take those gifts, talents, blessings – whatever you call them – and run with it.
Looking back, I laugh at myself. I did look better graduating in that blue robe – it enhanced the color of my green eyes – rather than the drab white, which only would have washed my freckly complexion out! Yea, I will keep telling myself that. Sandi looked beautiful walking across the stage in her white robe with the gold tassel hanging down from her cap. She always looked better in white anyways!