Have you ever done something you were both proud of and embarrassed by at the same time? If you know me very well, you’ll understand that it’s not hard to believe I really did this. I’m proud I did it. And more than embarrassed, too.
My years in high school didn’t go well. Motivation was lacking, pimples were not. For some of my teachers, the best thing to come out of Louisiana High School was me.
That’s not because I was such a great student. It’s more because they got to witness a true miracle.
Trust me. I don’t mind telling folks I graduated in the top 70 of my high school class. For many, including those whose high school graduation classes number into the hundreds, that would be considered an accomplishment.
For example, my daughter’s high school graduation class had about 600 students. If I had graduated in the top 70 of 600 students, that would get me into the top 12-percent.
Except that my high school graduating class only had 72 students. I’m proud to say I graduated in the top 70.
There were two students who didn’t rank as high as, hence the miracle when I finally grabbed the diploma and made a run for it.
Sophomore and junior years in high school required plenty of homework. Reading, actually. Reading I enjoyed. Reading also took time. Lots of time. Time I would rather devote to whatever else 16 year-old guys in small towns do.
Riding around in cars. Dreaming of girls. Dreaming of girls riding around in cars with me. You get the idea. There just wasn’t enough time to read all those books we were required to read. So I didn’t.
What about the two book reports we were required to turn in each month? Oh, those! I turned them in. All of them. On time. If memory serves me well, I got an A on almost every one of my book reports.
What’s remarkable about the book report saga is that I managed not to read a single book. Not one. The reports I turned in were not fake.
They were actual book reports on books that I would have written if I were the writer. Well, I guess I did fake it. I faked the author’s name, the subject, the plot, the antagonists, the protagonists, all the characters, even the publisher. I made it all up.
It was just bunches easier to write a whole book report from scratch and include all those little details, than it was to devote time to really reading a book. After all, I was 16 or so. I had pimples to pop and girls to bring into my dreams. Who could be bothered with an education?
So I made up the entire book report. Not a made-up report about a popular book like Silas Marner, or a made-up book report on something by Shakespeare (God forbid). I made up everything. Even the publishing company and the number from the Dewey Decimal Classification System from the public library.
So good were my reports that one of my English teachers once complimented me on finding an excellent book that others should consider reading. I’m glad the others in my class thought so little of me that they didn’t bother to consider her suggestion. They’d still be looking for the book I didn’t read.
That’s one of those things I’m both embarrassed and proud of all at once. It was my earliest foray into the win-win situation. Ingenuity won. I got to exercise my imagination. And I got a few good grades in the process.
My teacher won because she felt like she was finally getting through to me. I won because I received enough good grades to help balance the other grades that had become deflated for, uh, other reasons.
That same imagination and diligence (to the effort, not the requirements) didn’t carry over to chemistry or physics, but, boy could I spell.
I still owe an apology to my English teacher, Mrs. Griffith; among others.