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The Grade Which Meant Nothing This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   As my senior year reached its zenith in late December, I needed to complete the infamous senior thesis paper. The tale is a long one, but I'll try to keep it short.



In early December my English teacher, Mr. Rowe, had left our topic selections rather broad, perhaps the work "endless" could best describe the choices. He urged the class not to recycle the age-old issues of abortion, AIDS, the legalization of marijuana; for he felt these had already been beaten into the ground. Mr. Rowe challenged us to find a new issue - a topic which we would become immersed in.

We picked our due dates out of a hat, which ranged from three weeks to nearly three months. After closing my eyes and praying to the "deadline god," I pulled a ripped piece of blue paper with a due date in three weeks. Overcome with depression, I mumbled the date out of my mouth not soon enough for my classmates to chuckle and poke fun at my situation. After that incident, I decided who would have the last laugh.

The following days were hectic. Millions of topic ideas whistled through my head. My mind buzzed with the static of stress as I gazed out my front window. Leaving my house, I wandered into my neighborhood woods. For some reason those pines seemed to be my sanctuary. Left between the housing development, the several-acre greenbelt is one of the few remaining woodlands of Portland. After finding a comfortable seat on a freshly fallen elm, I filled my lungs with the crisp winter air. Closing my eyes, I listened to the breeze hug every branch as it neared my resting spot. My mind cleared and the sun warmed my face as I relaxed in the solitude of the trees. My body unconsciously stood in a moment of silence, my mind clicking and clicking. It had only one image; the woods. I could do my thesis on the battered remnants of the woods near my house. Ecstatic, I quickly tromped home and called several city departments. I succeeded in contacting eight primary sources. My paper was definitely not a dead topic.

As the days flew by, I continued to be preoccupied with my thesis. Every other day I had an interview with so-and-so at such-and-such a place. I gathered quotes, aerial photos, computer maps and city reports. When the time came to write the paper, I could not decide on a title. My mind tickled with ideas like: "Longfellow Woods: Any Remnants?" No, too morbid. Then I thought: "The Important Role of Greenbelt in the Local Watershed" What! That would be way too technical. Titles flickered through my mind for almost an hour. I decided on something simple: "The Past, Present and Future of Longfellow Woods." After choosing the title, I sat down for many afternoons, writing a solid, fulfilling paper. When I finally finished, it was two days before my deadline.

Two days later, the thesis was in Mr. Rowe's hands. Done! I knew who would be chuckling when my other "late-date" classmates stressed to write their papers. A few days passed until the paper was corrected. When I received my paper, I did not but glance at the grade. For five minutes I sat reading Mr. Rowe's corrections. As I reached the final line, I realized my grade did not matter. My paper, an excellent sneak-preview of college research and writing, had already given me something more important than a high grade. I turned the page slowly and peered at the grade which meant nothing. Looking at my binder, a picture of a tree covering the plain white square, did mean something. It meant that my life finally had a direction. The trees, leaves and animals of Longfellow Woods were resting in my very hands. I had never felt so certain about anything in my life. Where did I see myself in five years? At my new job, climbing a rocky mountain, high above the flatlands and office-trapped people working nine to five jobs. Four years of papers like this one sat ahead of me like street signs on the college highway. I had no doubt that my seventy-mile an hour drive to a career would be a fulfilling one. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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