What all this means, I am appalled and bewildered to discover, is that I have to repeat my senior year. So I have gone back to take classes again as if I were a teenager, feeling lost and overwhelmed by the whole experience. At last count, it has been eighteen years since I had a math class, leaving me ill prepared to pick up on concepts that I've spent years forgetting.
I keep finding myself sitting at a desk with a test in front of me, generally math or history, that might as well be written in Neptunian. I don't know any of the answers; I've missed too many classes. I am panicky and know that I am going to fail miserably. Senior year the second time around is hopeless!
I've tried talking to the counselor about my situation, but he (or she? not sure which) is always either out or too busy to talk to me. I sit in his (her?) audience for endless periods of time, being ignored by the secretary, and when I try to talk to the principal, try to get a copy of my transcript to prove that I have already taken these classes, everyone I run into is clueless.
I don't understand why they can't just dig out my original grades and use them, you know the grades my 17-year-old self earned. Why do I have to repeat the classes? I want to explain how ridiculous the whole situation is. I want to tell them I've already graduated college, that I have gone on to earn two masters degrees. But no one will listen. It's like I'm lost in a labyrinth of bureaucracy.
It is a nightmare scenario. Literally. It is a nightmare.
The weird thing is that I've been having versions of this dream for years. It's like I can't get over high school, and every time it appears in my sleep, it's a monster dogging me and making me crazy.
I have a few theories about the repetitiveness of this dream. Of course the whole situation reveals more about me and my fears than about the status of education in the country. I doubt there are very many high schools who would recall a 36 year old and inflict hell upon her. They've got enough problems.
Maybe the source of the problem is my master's degree in English. When I was in grad school, I dropped one of the classes I needed to graduate and had to get special permission from the department chair in order to earn my degree. Maybe it's that feeling that I cheated, that I didn't quite complete what I set out to do.
Or maybe it has to do with my fear of failure. I was actually a really good student, but somehow my fear of failure has manifested in the form of tests that I am unprepared for and tasks that I only thought I succeeded at.
I think it probably has a lot to do with my identity, which I've all but lost since attaining adulthood. When I was young, I was the smart girl, the nerd, the overachiever. I was the girl did the whole cliche "above and beyond" thing. It wasn't enough to pass; I had to excel. But now I have a regular life with a so-so job, and I'm no longer a standout. In fact, without a report card to back me up, it's hard to communicate to people that I am, indeed, intelligent, and they should believe me despite the stupid mistakes I'm always making.
It's been eighteen years since I graduated high school, yet it seems like just a blip in comparison to the amount of time I was actually in public education. It seems like I was in school for decades, centuries, like most of my life was spent in the chalkboard jungle.
High school has made a greater imprint on me and my sense of self than anything since, no matter what I've accomplished. I will always be that little nerdy girl more comfortable doing geometry proofs than making small talk with my peers.
Yes, that's me. The nerdy girl sitting at her computer, who never quite lived up to the potential she was supposed to have, a little leper girl with one foot in her mouth during every social situation.