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1:49 a.m. - April 27, 2003
It keeps them at bay
In college I took the honors program and was freed from the burden of pre-requisites and required coursework, having only to take a series of Great Books courses. Most students in the honors program tend to graduate early and theoretically, I could have double-majored and received my teaching credential in 3 years. Instead I stayed for 5, because I didn't want to be done and have to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I'm like that, drowning myself in minutae, with details and plans and options and In-the-event-of-a-change fall-back plans to avoid moving beyond the rise ahead.

Professors began asking me to come during office hours to discuss the GRE, grad school, the best Ph.D. programs and along I went with that confidence of being a top student, secure in the my-professors-invite-me-over-for-dinner-and-I'm-special manner, the scary-smart brilliant paper-writer-cum-rebel living with his girlfriend constellation in which I was admired and knew so. And we'd talk African languages and literatures (Univ. of Wisconsin), literary theory and American literature studies (Harvard), linguistics (Johns Hopkins), review papers I had written, and talk about My Upcoming Big Future. Simultaneously I was planning on a Ph.D. program while using my teaching credential to revitalize an inner-city school, write articles for the MLA, win fellowships galore, and marry my girlfriend. Iíd tell my English professors that I also majored in Political Science for fun, because I enjoyed politics and of course Iím not pursuing the field; with my Poly Sci advisor, we mapped out law school and the LSAT and I pursued both, not seeing the inherent contradiction. Even while my time was drawing to a close, I wanted everything, I wanted to please everybody. I wanted to remain the Golden Boy. The mystique began when as a freshman I took the junior-level writing course intended for English majors and left my peers far behind and when I petitioned to take the senior seminar in Shakespeare and when asked why, I replied with 17 year-old bravado, Because I can. And I did. At a small university, arrogance casts a wide shadow and I made sure I was the top dog for my class. As a sophomore I took the senior seminar in literary theory and prided myself for holding my own; eventually I served on hiring committees (in a non-voting capacity, unfortunately), was involved with the Scott C. debacle, edited the literary journal, made sure my peers looked up to and admired me.

I could do no wrong.

I scoffed when asked to join the GRE study group, said I could do better on my own. I took the GREs and the English Subject Exam cold and was the first person to finish for both. I remember checking my answers on the English exam twice just so I wouldnít be done too early; when I walked up the aisle and passed Mary Jane she gasped and I wore that smug smile of mine for the rest of the day. Again, I was tops and everybody knew it.

You think you know whatís coming next, donít you?

I also took the LSAT and compared law schools, was contemptuous of fellow poly-sci majors who squeaked, I want to go to law school too.

Received both the GRE and LSAT scores and again, tops. I satisfied everybodyís expectations, pretended to be bothered when my scores became common knowledge. Iím private, but not when I want to strut; I remember a so-called English major waiting outside Professor Gís office and I deliberately evoked a comment of With your scores, Jason, you can go anywhere you want solely for her benefit. My poly sci advisor was immensely proud of the LSAT score and I couldnít tell him that really, I took the test because I was more indecisive than ambitious, wanted to please others more than myself.

And shortly after, I received a letter denying my application to the School of Education. In simple prose it said I failed to satisfy the criteria for admission and I freaked out. This was not in my plan. I remember sitting on the edge of my bed slowly and in shock, a classic scene from a movie, and thinking Is this a joke? I wasnít good enough for the School of Ed.? I couldnít fathom such a thing. That same day I was in my Education advisorís office demanding an explanation and quick reparation for this oversight, this foolish mistake. And she could only say that two of the three professors had decided I wasnít cut out to teach and that was that. I was upset primarily because the application to the School of Ed. was mostly a formality; I had already taken the coursework and half of the internship and damn it, that credential was mine. In order to be reconsidered, the team required me to go to counseling. I would have none of that. At the last meeting I told them to remember what they said and to realize the profound mistake they had made.

And that was that.

So, technically, I only double-majored and triple-minored.

When I moved back to California and began my masterís degree at Berkeley, my advisor mentioned something about being eligible for a tuition waiver because I was a credentialed teacher. Huh? At the alma mater, the credential was broken into Phase I, a quarter-long off-site-observation, a quarter and half of pedagogy, and two quarters of Phase II, the in-class-teaching. My advisor at Berkeley mistook my Phase I as the internship and signed off on the tuition waiver. I did not correct him. I was granted a California teaching credential after I took the CBEST on the same misunderstanding.

My first year teaching in California I was named Teacher of the Year at my high school. Donít think the team at the School of Education did not hear of it. I worked my ass off to be the Golden Boy again with the specific result and when that venture was successful, I lost my motivation. Or, rather, I had the gold medal at the Olympics and retired.

All this to say, I do everything for others. When Iím working towards a goal, it isnít for me; itís to prove something, to right a wrong, to be the Golden Boy. And now, for a while really, itís been just me. Thereís nothing pushing from behind, nothing goading from ahead, and thereís nothing inside urging me forward. Writing the book was part of the Golden Boy routine and now that itís out of my hands and in motion for the January 2004 release, thereís nothing for me. I donít know what I want, but itís something I donít possess. It angers me to lack direction and focus and truly, I seek a competitor, an insult, something to fuel motivation because it simply isnít in me. Itís frustrating and bothers me a great deal

Iím not the Golden Boy anymore. Thereís nothing for me to do, there are no piles of details and Do This, Do That to occupy my mind. I have no master plan. I didnít say so here, but I dropped out of Stanford again at the end of last quarter. Everything can be perfect and Iíll still be unhappy, unsatisfied, lacking direction.

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I have homework to do for my therapist by Monday. Iím supposed to think about a list of ďissuesĒ sheís given me, selecting three that are most applicable to Then and Now. I am to contextualize them, pull together details and shed more light on the megrim (hehÖ I love this word). Childishly, I donít like being pushed like this; I resent her intrusiveness. And I know itís good, or will be good, to talk about things but Iíve talked about the issues here and that didnít do me any good, so how will therapy? I donít know. Iím fighting this but I donít really want to; I want to talk about it, I want to talk about everything, but itís as if I need to be prodded, I donít want to seem weak with need. How fucked is that? Made a connection this week between the individual and group therapy; I never understood why I donít like to be touched. I can do handshakes but donít think of slapping my back or touching me, period. How stupid of me to not realize the origin. I found myself wishing I knew this before, when I was with Spec and that panicky feeling would come. I wish, I wish, I wish. Useless to wish, but still. If I could have articulated that Iíd prefer him to touch me slowly rather than throwing himself on me or getting grabby, perhaps I might have responded differently overall. Or maybe not, you know? I donít like to be touched but I like it sometimes when people disregard that like Ė when Iím forced to hug I hate it but I also never want it to end, I do it so rarely Ė but people arenít mind readers. Iím going to work on that. The touching people / people touching me, I mean. Not the mind reading portion.

Iím supposed to find a confidante and how quickly Dr. Indy was to insist that a written journal does not, cannot serve as a confidante. Smart woman, she. I didnít mention that I trust nobody and would never talk about ďstuffĒ to my friends Ė yeah, what friends? There are a few, but Iím sloughing left and right Ė so Iím thinking of a compromise. Iím going to write letters to people instead, and just not send them. I think thatís fair and as effective. Iím going to write them here, but Iíll lock those entries. A good compromise, methinks. Maybe not. My first counselor, the one who couldnít keep up with me, once said that telling people, talking about it to people, having them talk to me about it, getting things out into the open was essential.

I donít know. I donít like taking risks.

I dislike being vulnerable.

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Itís one of those nights, can you tell? I suspect this journal will, if it doesnít already, serve as the pet who listens to its owner prattle on because the owner is a shut-in and has nobody else to talk to. Heh. Somewhere nearby, Santa Cruz or San Francisco, people-with-pets are now called ďanimal guardiansĒ because you know, ownership of a creature is inherently oppressive and wrong.

Whatever.

Hey, Tim, if you still read this journal, would you send me an email? I think Iíd like to talk with you, if you wouldnít mind.

I want to write with substance.

One of these days.

 

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