Note: This is a re-post of work from 2011.
The days leading up to mid-June 1997, I was working through a series of mind-frying anxiety attacks, all over a stupid math exam. Somehow I managed to work my way through school without being held back a year.
Come 12th grade, I was going to get out one way or the other. From pretty much April on I went full-out in hopes of pulling through. I was back having to work with a math tutor who lived two streets over. All this in order to just slip by at the end of it all.
Traditionally the day before exams were days that many people never bother to show up for. I was one of the few schleps who decided showing up might be the good thing to do in order to survive and maybe get through. That final day before exams I landed in math class, pondering what I might have to do in order to get through the coming days.
I was the only one to show up. Incredibly. The mathematician who owned the chalkboard in that classroom knew I was struggling all year. I remember publicly proclaiming at mid-terms that I wanted some of the stuff he was smoking when he drew up that particular exam. So on this day leading up to finals he pulled up a chair and said “let’s work through some questions”.
I finished the year with an even 50. I just made it. I figure my effort in showing up the day before must have been enough to put me over the top.
I never tire of telling this part of the story of my final day in school, so I write it fresh again for these pages. My final exam was Global History. This was taught by one of my favourite and most influential teachers in school. Mr. Greene is a Leafs fan and always was able to capture even the most troubled student audience. I managed to rip through his exam in no time but I left one small detail incomplete.
The room monitors were not going to let us leave the room until a specific time. So for several minutes, I looked like I was about to stab my desk with the pencil. Mr. Greene walked in to the room several minutes before the designated release time. As he made his way around he walked up to me and asked if I thought to check over my work since I was finished? I snarkishly replied that “I am not quite complete, I have to put a period at the end of this sentence”.
Shaking his head, Mr. Greene walked away not knowing whether to laugh or celebrate that he would finally be rid of me. A few minutes later I could not take it any further. The lead monitor in the room happened to be a friend’s mother so I figured I should be able to leave and she would leave me alone. They all cut me loose as soon as they saw me moving.
I ran for my car as if I was running from a gun-wielding mad person. In seconds, I was on the Highway headed back to New Glasgow.
I was driving a 91 Topaz as if it were a Ferrari. The speedometer needle was close to buried, and the stereo playing Alice Cooper “School’s Out” at maximum volume.