Ashley's tale.


When I was three years old, I climbed into my mother's lap and started learning to read from the Dr. Suess book she was attempting to use to put me to sleep.

My mom and dad were always ultra-involved in my education when I was in elementary school, but a change in jobs and two younger siblings meant that eventually I was put on autopilot. However, something from my younger days had stuck with me, the best way to understand something is to experience it.

I'm one of those kids that others call an overachiever and a teacher's pet. I can't ever seem to just not care about an assignment. If a teacher give us a project, I like to know I've got the best submission in the class. But high school is winding down now, and senioritis has hit, HARD.

Last year I made a 34 on my ACT score. In the spring of my junior year I started applications for universities (I know, a half-year early), and got a secured admissions deal with a small college in the pacific northwest, far from home. I could have started this year but my parents said they didn't want me to leave until I was 18, so they asked me to postpone my freshman year. I chose the program because it was the best school for my field (meteorology--yeah, I wanna be a storm chaser) but lately I'm beginning to think it was a good choice for other reasons. Senior year has been. . .well, different.

One school morning this August, as I was climbing out of the giant hunk of polluting metal my mother calls an SUV and I call "the monster" something struck me. . . there was a very simple requirement for my admission to college--my GPA had to stay above a 3.0. Everything else was taken care of.

I had a 3.95 at the start of junior year. Thanks to Mr. Steven's freshman mathematics class ("I don't give out As for anything less than perfect mastery." What an asshole!) I didn't have a 4.0, and since I didn't, there was no point in trying to keep one. My college entrance was assured, due to dual enrollment last year, I'm not even numerically capable of dragging my GPA below a 3.0 without failing a class. And I couldn't fail these classes if I tried. I knew I'd make Bs at least from habit alone even if I slept through every lecture in every course.

So it was, walking into Oilmount, that stuffy little private school on that first day of the fall I realized. . . I was being given a yearlong vacation by the Academic gods. They were telling me that I could screw around just as much as I wanted, and nothing could go wrong.

For the first three months, it was really hard. I tried my best to relax and blow off assignments but I found myself doing every homework problem, studying for every test, and re-writing every essay just like always.

Until the one about sex.

It was a research paper. Kindof a big project. 10 pages, with notes and references, all of it in MLA format. The teacher gave it to us in the oddest way.

He told us to draw cards from a hat. On each card was a letter of the alphabet. I got S. Then he told us he wanted a research paper on a topic that started with that letter. It had to be controversial in some way, and it had to be engaging and important to my generation.

I have no idea what made me pick sex. I suppose it was one of the first things that came to mind. One of my close friends had been telling me about all the wild sexy games that some people had been playing at a party the previous week --(they sounded like grown up versions of spin the bottle) and it seemed to be pretty controsversial and important to my generation. . . so there it was.

I started it just like I started any other project. The night it was assigned, I scribbled some notes on the project assignment page, then wrote an ridiculously rough outline. Then I went through the ritual: stare at the outline while doodling (puppies and a flower this time--I gotta grow up!) and then heading for the Encyclopedia set upstairs. Yeah, I could use Wikipedia, but there's something comforting about the Dad's old copy of Encyclopedia Britannica, even if it doesn't know that the Berlin wall has come down, it's still the first place I go.

On my way downstairs with S-SN in my hand I snatched dad's Oxford English Dictionary off his desk and headed back for my room, then curled up and started reading.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


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