The bright eastern sun streamed through grey plastic blinds into my drowsy eyes, the clicking of a hundred mechanical pencils, and a throbbing hand cramp was all that I could think about. I could not concentrate for the life of me. My literature teacher (a forty-something man who has never prepared for a class in his life yet thinks he is so brilliant and passionate, you know the type) calls outs that there is an hour left of the examination.
You know it’s critical, because it would have taken my literature teacher several minutes to figure out how much time was left since the exam didn’t start on an even unit of time. So obviously there is less than an hour left. I mean, when there’s an hour, or over an hour, left in an exam, you feel as if you have plenty of time to roll around in, no need to rush. But once you hit the minute measurements, the clock really begins to race. And now that I’ve thought about all of this, there has gone another couple of minutes.
Stream of consciousness is killer.
I glance up from the blank paper on my desk to my classmate, rapidly scrawling and swearing under her breath. This is the type of schoolgirl (I don’t say young woman) who absolutely FREAKS over any kind of little school-related assignment. I am talking about pop quizzes that are worth ten points, informal speeches, the like. As she is writing (I am serious when I say she is writing as she’s doing this), she darts her eyes at her classmates to see their progress. If anyone is seemingly ahead of her, failure has engulfed her. Her breathing shallows, her eyes widen and narrow, and she takes a second to shake out her tired hand from writing, yet hurriedly dives right back in with a puff of air. I mean, come on, she has wasted three precious seconds.
Then I turn my neck over to a whole other breed. A quirky Marc Jacobs-like straw hat is perched haphazardly on her wild head. Her short black bouncy hair is bobbing to the beat of her hand as she writes not with ease, yet not with impatience. Almost with acquiescence. Her eyes remain focused, yet gloss over, and she lifts her nose every once in a while to check the sun’s progress or muse over a memory perhaps with glittering orb-like eyes. Her nose dips back into her ocean of essay writing and intermittently continues her task.
I take a peek down at my own leaflet. The topic blazing gallantly in ink before me is “Finding Happiness through the American Dream.” I note the habits of each of my schoolmates, and reflect on their goals.
The first girl wants to be a doctor. Not very surprising, n’est-ce pas? Of course she strives to be the top of the class at this somewhat elite private preparatory school (this is Nebraska, not Gossip Girl, keep in mind). The girl does not have many friends, and I swear to God spends most Saturday nights memorizing her polyatomic ions for AP Chemistry. You know the phrase, keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer? Well, this girl’s enemies are scholastic rivals. She has to ask every smartie before every exam or essay how exactly she is preparing for the exam, what exactly are they writing their essay on, how long they are spending in preparation, and any additional knowledge that deems itself useful. If she can know the strategies of the enemy, she can outshine them, outsmart them. I have her exactly figured out. Yes, I am kind of a bitch.
The other girl is your typical artist, yet so much more. A fashion designer one day, a painter the next, a model the following, and an eccentric every day of the week. Yet she is just so intriguing. She knows exactly who she is and does not care what other people think of her. She wore gloves in her hair as an accessory one day and never looked fiercer. She is enjoying her life and knows where she wants to go. The first girl isn’t really enjoying the ride in my opinion when she gets a heart attack at age nineteen.
Ok, so at honors assembly, we all know who will be recognized more. But what about after graduation? I don’t think many people will remember, well, the girl who never came to prom because she was drilling conics. People will remember that quirky girl who left an impression, an image, a style.
This may sound superficial, but it is true. Chanel is more of a household name than many top scientists. Schoolwork is important, sure, but not when it consumes your life and ability to breathe.
You have two guesses as to which will be happier in life in the long run.
Smiling, I turn my suddenly increasing attention back down to the pamphlet before me.
I know exactly how I want to write my essay.