You might not know it, but I’m a slacker. But not in the usual sense of, oh, that person who never does anything, ever. I just don’t do the stuff I don’t like. From as far back as I can remember, my dad tried to get me interested in math and science. After innumerable instances of barricading myself in the apartment bathroom and about a tubful of tears, he had me doing long division (stuff I can’t do now) by the start of 2nd grade. It sucked. I don’t know whether my aversion to the sciences or my love for English came first. What I do know is that books were my escape mechanism. I could tune out mom and dad’s bitter bickerings with stories of adventure, mystery, blood & guts, posh princes, pretty princesses, heroic heroes and heroines, love, death, everything. I loved books…still do. This caused me trouble in middle school. It’s a long story involving a near-expulsion. Suffice it to say that I’m a slacker. One who does little to no work on the stuff she dislikes and labors lovingly on the things she cares about. I ditched all that math and sciences stuff as soon as I could.
Because of the shit I pulled in middle school, I was banned from entering the honors 9th grade English class. It doesn’t really sound like a big deal now, but I still think that was pretty screwed up. Why limit a student’s clear potential in one subject because they fucked up (even if royally) in another? Sure I flunked out of math two years in a row (to my credit, I aced all the tests–it was homework that was the issue), but my writing was pretty damn good, even for a 12 year old. I remember I wrote a short story about a vindictive, one-eared cowboy named Chad (in honor of the Bush v. Gore election) who shoots his half brother, Vince, in the stomach over a gambling debt. Chad lets Vince bleed to death. I was aiming for two personifications of Van Gogh in an American Western setting. What English teacher wouldn’t want their own student to write that?
I transferred from a public high school where most people showed up with popped collar lacoste shirts and venti caramel macchiatos in hand to an arts high school where I was free to take university classes (many…most…nearly all of which I did not attend), play awesome music for four hours a day, and wear whatever the fuck I wanted. I drank chamomile tea with petites madeleines while reading Proust and had black coffee and cigarettes while reading Camus. No one told me I was being pretentious because we all were. But just like that non-slacker slacker quality, this was a non-pretentious pretentious quality. There’s a line from Breakfast at Tiffany’s that goes like this: “She’s a phony, but she’s a real phony.” It’s easy to say we were being pretentious, but honestly, we weren’t operating under any pretenses. We believed in our actions. We inhaled the steam from our tea, the smoke from our cigarettes; we weren’t pretending.
Thankfully, I grew out of my dramatic phase of nouvelle vague films and only ever speaking Spanish with a Castilian accent (which is totally impractical in Southern California). I got a real boyfriend. One I had a real relationship with. We helped each other grow up. I dumped him in a regrettable fashion one month into college and started learning how to use my own two feet. I studied English because it’s what I love most. I found out that I love music no less than English, so I started studying that, too. I had time, so I decided to travel and study in Scotland. I came back surpassingly and surprisingly more appreciative and grateful for my home country.
The following year, only two months before grad school applications were due, Fate told me to study music and my heart agreed. I spent three years devoted to Renaissance literature and dropped it all over a course of a half hour long revelation. I’ve never regretted that decision. I’ve been doing what I love for a while now. It’s not all easy, and sometimes I feel confused and lost and bewildered and totally ill-equipped, but then I realize that it’s okay. We’re okay. So long as we know who we are and why we’re doing the things we do, we’re okay. And then I usually laugh…