“Don’t you ever want to DO something with your life, Dykey?”
That is what I hear on a regular basis, my friends. I’ve heard it from my elementary-school counselor, my mother, my siblings…An elderly man that I’d spoken to at the supermarket one day even uttered that sentence to me!
Now, just to be clear, I’m not some lazy-ass kid that spent all of her adolescent life sitting it front of a television, nor did I stay up until the wee hours of the morning texting on my phone instead of studying. None of that happened. In fact, it was practically impossible to convince me that watching some new TV show until midnight was more important than writing the essay that was due in twelve hours.
I was a weird kid growing up, for many reasons that I don’t have time to name, but mostly because I loved schoolwork. I’m not just talking about being excited about a particular topic that we were covering, or a fun project. I mean I adored schoolwork, way more than a normal child should. Nothing made me more excited than the teacher announcing that we had several pages of notes to copy, or being told that we were going to be given extra homework. Extra homework?! Lay it on me!
This obsession of mine began during my first few years of elementary school, and quickly progressed ever since. Now, in my school, if a student was displaying a lot of potential towards a certain subject, said student had the option of being given extra worksheets and after-school programs to strengthen their already apparent skills. This was the case for me, only I was showing potential in every subject they presented me.
I was brought down to the counselor one day, because she had heard about my speedy progress, and was interested in knowing how I would go about strengthening my skills further. I remember sitting down in the one of the big, overstuffed leather chairs in her office, wearing my favorite purple Henley and some blue jeans with the scuffed knees. The counselor pulled my file out of her cabinet and set it down on the desk.
“Now Sara,” she chirped. “Your teachers have told me that you’re showing great potential in your classes. Do you know what that means? You’re being a star student!”
And with that, she opened another drawer in her desk and whips out a strip of wax paper that was covered with bright yellow star stickers. She hands me the strip and let’s me stick a big old’ star right on the front of my shirt. After putting the strip away, she leaned in and smiled brightly.
“So tell me, Sara. What is it you want to be when you grow up?”
This question drew a blank from me, and it must have been clear on my face, because she tried to rephrase the question, asking me if there was any job that I knew about in the world that I thought were really cool. I thought as hard as I could, but all I could come up with was “I don’t know.” The counselor threw out a few occupations, thinking one would spark my interest, but to no avail. I told the counselor that I wasn’t interested in thinking about that.
“I just want to be me, and keep being me,” I remember saying, my face bright red at this point from not giving her the ‘right answer’. The counselor gives me another smile and tells me that it’s okay; I have plenty of time to think about it.
The same situation then proceeded to happen during my middle school years, as well. I was given pamphlets, links to YouTube videos and career websites, and even suggestions to visit the local firehouse or vet’s office to ask my oh-so-curious questions. But every time, I simply said the same thing: “I don’t know.”
In high school, the topic of “When I Grow Up” morphed into the question of “When I Graduate”. Even in my freshman classes, students were discussing the colleges they were applying for and the scholarships they were hoping to receive. What was I doing? I was sitting in the corner of the room with my head down, gnawing on my fingernails like a nervous hamster. How did everyone know what they wanted to do with their lives? Were these kids born wearing a University of Chicago sweatshirt and holding their transcripts?
I felt so alone and confused, and I was afraid that I was the only person without a plan for the future. When friends would ask me what school I applied for, University or local, I could only shrug and mutter “I’m probably not going to college,” which was always greeted with a mixture of confusion and utter disgust for the failure of a student standing before them. I was given pity speeches, pats on the back, and useless motivation that “I just have to look harder, focus more, and it’ll all be clear to me.” Yeah, thanks, asshole. I didn’t realize that I was speaking to the Magic Genie of Everybody’s Education. My bad.
For as long as I can remember, I never showed any interest in college whatsoever. Even when groups of college students would come to my middle and high school classrooms to try and motivate us for the future, I would just sit back and stare of into space. There was no spark, no drive for me to search for a college, pay thousands of dollars that I could use for something more important, and try to find a major and minor that wouldn’t bore me to death. It all seemed to so…useless…
I can never talk about this to anyone, however, because I’ll be labeled as a lazy young adult before I can even explain my side of the story. It’s happened plenty of times before, where said person would just blow me off and say that there was no hope for me, no bright future, etc etc. According to 80% of the people I spoke to, I was doomed to a future of serving fries and hamburgers, or passing out flyers on the streets. The other 20% attempted the motivation speech again, saying that everybody needs time to figure out what they want; it would all come to me in a vision one night; yadda yadda yadda.
As time went on and I grew up, I had begun to shown a strong interest in the Arts. Theatre, painting, sculpting, it was all something I was good at. I didn’t go out of my way to recieve attention on it, but I was struck with it, anyway. Teachers, parents, and students alike would ask me if I was applying for an art degree, maybe planning on attending one of the local art schools to focus on my talents. I would shake my head and explain how those things were just hobbies that I liked and was good at, not something I cared enough about to go to school for! I love cooking, and I’m good at it, but I wouldn’t go to a cooking school. What would be the point? I know how to do something and I do it, there’s no third step requirement. Unfortunately, no one seems to listen to this reasoning.
I also got myself very interested in joining the military, specifically the Marine Corps. This great discovery of mine was thrown back in my face by people telling me that joining the military was a typical move for anyone that didn’t care about anything else in their lives. Right, because I’m sure the millions of servicemen and women in boot camps and out in the fields are all whiny kids that didn’t feel like having a “real job”. My once exciting decision was wadded up and tossed to the side by the public.
As I reflect on these past experiences, it’s really no wonder why all of those kids in my school were so quick to decide on a college. They were probably just as worried about being called lazy, and didn’t want to face the wrath of their parents when their son or daughter tells them that they don’t want to go to school for four more years to live out dreams that may or may not happen.
I guess I took the blows for them, and to this day, I’m still taking them. Stay in school and remember to follow your dreams, everybody. I’ll be here on the outside, defending the others that want to take a different path.
I still have that star sticker, in a scrapbook under my bed. It’s not so bright, anymore, and the edges of the star have started to curl and wrinkle, but I still hold on to it, to remind myself that I’m still following the path I started all those years ago, even though it was unconventional.
Do what makes you happy, reader. Live on, keep a smile on your face, and stay gay.
-Sara, aka The Dyke