"Don't be late for life."
by, 04-07-2009 at 06:35 PM (425 Views)
They were the words of my eleventh grade AP english teacher, Mrs. Hilliard, after she left a long note in my yearbook - "To the female Holden Caulfield" (That always kills me.) I can still open to that page, and that one phrase -
"Don't be late for life."
The loaded phrase stares back at me, slyly tripping through my mind.
Then she handed me over to Mrs. Shuford, the 12th grade AP english teacher, lively at eighty-two years old, her mind crackling with energy, her voice full of wisdom that has been fought for. And to think, I had been terrified of this woman, of her thirteen page papers, of the way she could pierce through your soul with her clear eyes.
It was close to the end of the year, and I was crying, and she was holding my hands in her gnarled ones, soft and well-practiced in comfort. She was tearing up too.
I had a problem. I still do. I'm never on time, I'm always late. I'm not the white rabbit - I'm Alice, who could never quite keep up, getting lost in her Wonderland, never thinking that if the rabbit was late, and she was days behind - where did that put her?
So I had tumbled into class late, and we had to talk, and I can't quite understand exactly why I'm always late, except that I try to hold back the day with all my power until I suffer the consequences. I don't want to go to school and sit in class for an hour and a half and be there half the time and my mind fifty miles and five hundred years back, only to wake up with the bell ringing and discover that I didn't learn anything at all about economics and will likely fail my test on Wednesday -
But if I'm late for my test, I won't have to take it, and I won't have to look stupid, or maybe he'll give me another day -
And so the thought process goes.
And I apologized, because she had the best class I have ever yet been in and it's wrong and disrespectful when I can't wake up in the morning and have to interrupt her lecture because I couldn't get my lousy *** out of bed, because I was up all night doing everything and nothing.
She told me... that someday someone was going to catch me and hang me out to dry, to let me muck around in the consequences I deserve... But she couldn't do it. "It's not going to be me." Because I was making really good grades without perfect attendance, because I talked about Dostoevsky like he was an old friend, because I was the Fox from The Little Prince and she gave me the pin, because at the end of the year she would give me a giant book of poetry with the sweetest note I've ever received written on the inside for me and just for me.
Because we loved each other, because I was late, but...
I don't know what the 'but' is.
And maybe the awful truth is I work on my own clock.
I figured I'd fail because of it in college...
I thought it would be Dr. Bird, but it wasn't.
He was the one who set out the attendance on my desk to sign when I came in late, who sang Hobbit songs with me, who cried with me when I sang Eowyn songs, who shared stories with me on my essays.
We talked about beaches and secret mailboxes, and I gave him the seashells - "This one reminds me of Gandalf's hat" - and suggested a book to him.
My last essay was turned in late - the best essay I have ever written, and he took it, pondering, because he'd have to take ten points off...
And I told him to, knowing Mrs. Shuford had predicted it, and it was inevitable.
I got an A on that paper (and treasure it with all of my heart).
Today, I missed a test in my class this morning because I fell asleep studying for it and forgot to set my alarm.
And I e-mailed my teacher, telling him that it was ok, pretty much. I kind of figured I'd be taking the class again. ^^;
And he scheduled me to take the test Monday.
So here I am, shocked and frustrated. I called Mrs. Shuford a few weeks ago and we talked about Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and I told her how glad I was I became an english major.
And I realize now, the "someone" is myself, the someone who hangs myself up to dry. That every thing I miss, that everything I fall behind in, is weighing on me. I deal the karma upon myself with every failure, with every second chance. I know that I will never achieve my full potential, because every thing is last minute, done at the last second, late in every way, lacking in every way. And I want them to say "No" and turn me out of their offices, because I think then I would actually feel something, feel their disappointment, because that would be one of the greatest wounds of all.
So here I am, late for life, clinging fast to moving blocks, approaching the hardest part of the game without the bruises or experience -
We don't get second chances at life. And maybe I'm late because I'm dancing through dreams, but dreams are only dreams and hardly enough to save me from regret.