1 Minute, 37 Seconds

November 26, 2017
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You might say that life is like an orange. They say that throughout your childhood (and, to an extent, your existence in entirety), you learn lessons that will make you a better, more auspicious person. Throughout your being, you will stumble and make mistakes. This corresponds to peeling the orange peel. Eventually, you will be left with one, pure orange that is free of all mistakes.


Others may agree that life is like an onion instead. They might state that the stages of your life are like the layers of the said onion, and as you live, the layers start to peel away. As a child, you’ll make lots of slip-ups, but you’ll eventually master these skills that you failed at. Then, you’ll become a teenager as you start really becoming a successful human. Eventually, as you grow old, you’ll be a wise member of the elderly who have perfected their lives. It all seems to make sense.


But, no. You see, I don’t think life is like an orange. And I certainly don’t think life is like an onion. Instead, I think life is like frozen yogurt. Hold that thought for a minute.


Kindergarten was a rough time for me, but not the way you might think. You see, I feel like Mrs. Hope, my teacher, didn’t quite understand that I already knew how to count before she taught us numbers by taping caterpillar art on the wall - one red or green caterpillar segment per school day. And, the problem is, it’s sort of difficult to actually prove this. What were you going to do? While everybody watched the teacher grab a sharpie and a red segment of the caterpillar, explaining that today is number 79, it’s not like you could just stand up and scream, “and I know the next number will be 80!” in an emphatic celebratory triumph, while everybody else just stared at you awkwardly because you just gave a ginormous spoiler alert as to what tomorrow’s number would be. It’s puzzling, because there’s no way to get ahead, and your only option is to sit down criss-cross applesauce on the numbered carpet while counting along and gazing at the teacher.


On one day of Kindergarten, we had to do this reading assessment with the teacher to see how good (or bad) we were at reading comprehension. I got excited when it was my turn to go since I was pretty bored in the hour we had every single day for free time. “Parker”, Mrs. Hope announced. “It’s your turn to go.” Her peppy blond hair pointed out her genuine positivity. “Okay,” I chirped as I trotted up excitedly to the white, circular table. I was honestly relieved to be called up, for I then was able to prove that I could put my money where my mouth was. I had believed that I was the smartest person among all of the students. I actually wanted to take action on this, and my opportunity had arrived. Finally, I thought, as I skipped up to the seat and excitedly sat down. My waving hair hung down on my forehead, explaining that I was a playful student in Kindergarten. This truly is my chance to actually do really well at something! This was my moment, and I was but one little test away from proving it. I prepared to read in my waving, yellow T-shirt. She gave me this one little picture book with the exuberant ‘k12’ logo, the brand that produces the little books and tests. It seemed to be about monkeys playing in some green jungle. “Okay, so what do I do?”, I said, smiling. She told me to read until the little asterisk (she called it a star so our 5-year old brains could understand) on page 2. Seems simple enough. I carefully opened up the little plastic cover to start reading in the fastest voice possible, because I knew this section was timed. The faster, the better. This is going to be pretty easy, I figured. Reading two little pages would be no problem.

 

So, I sped through that little paragraph, and I actually finished in record time. Called it! I knew I’d do well. In her bright blue pen, she wrote down “1 minute, 37 seconds” on her paper. She stated surprisingly, “that’s the fastest in the whole class. Good job.” I was relieved; so far, so good. “Well, thank you,” I said. I had to stay modest, of course. But we weren’t nearly done yet; she then told me to read the rest of the 10-page story, which was still fine. “Go back to your desk and finish, please. Do a good job!” So, I stood up, feeling proud of my prowess. I skipped happily back to my desk to continue on my trek of reading. Naturally, my excited self burst through this story, trying to show to her (and myself, to an extent) that I could read laser fast. So, I skimmed through the pages about monkeys going outside to play, and to eat, and do whatever else monkeys tend to do. I blushed and my face lit up with excitement as I came back to the teacher. She actually was a little surprised at how fast I had read it, all while I was disproportionately excited about how I thought I was finally proving my point, which was that I knew how to read well. I sighed in relief. Finally, I am able to show that I am right, once and for all.


But after that, the plan really started to go off the rails. She had one of those parent volunteers come and do the next part of the test with me out in the hall, so Mrs. Hope could teach the rest of the class. I stood up, pushed my chair in properly (learning manners was a crucial part of elementary school, in case you didn’t know), and walked outside with confidence, following the tall, dark brown-haired lady who took me outside into the “Red Zone”. The Red Zone was the school’s way of telling students that you couldn’t talk during the school day in the hallway. All of the lockers were a slick bright red as a way to enforce the rule, in case students forgot. Our school was lenient about many things, but talking was a hot-button issue that was covered thoroughly. I plopped down on the scarlet hallway’s carpet ground eagerly, preparing to continue, while the lady I was with sat down elegantly on the blue chair, which technically bent the rule of the hallway being the Red Zone. This person clearly was fine with breaking the one strict rule of Bayshore Elementary School, which was to respect the Red Zone.

 

How dare she, I thought. She grabbed her blue pen gently (once again, she really didn’t respect the color red) with an antagonistic look on her face, ready to bombard me with questions about my understanding of the content of what I had just read. And, I quickly realized the problem: I hadn’t understood what I just speed-read through. I had so much of an underlying, burning desire to prove that I was some sort of genius that I didn’t even really pay attention to the words’ context. I just ran through the reading, and now, I couldn’t go back to reread it. Now, I was paying the price for sure. I breathed heavier. Oh no, I thought, as my relief plummeted into stress. Now she was asking me things like, “what did the characters want to do in the story?” and I realized: I have no clue. What do I do? What can I do? I don’t know anything. Help, somebody! Tell me how to get out of this mess! This question - what did the characters want to do in the story - would be an easy thing to answer for pretty much everybody, but I just didn’t know the answer. How was I supposed to know we’d have to answer questions like this with such interrogatives? I was sweating now. My stress level then flew right through the roof. I felt my face getting as red as the lockers. “What do you mean,” I asked somewhat meekly to buy me a few more seconds of thinking. All she responded with was the same blunt interrogative: “well, what did the characters want to do?”. Well, now I want to scream. Is that what you want, miss Whatever Your Name Is? Why does social dignity not allow me to just yell, “How am I supposed to tell you the answer when I have no idea?” Oh, right. I know why. It’s because we’re in this stupid Red Zone. By the second, I was blowing this attempt to get my teacher to see that I was some prodigy at reading, and it was apparent I wasn’t. So, I continued to be confused. “I really don’t know,” I answered back, deflated and frustrated. I crossed my arms to help prove my point. We just glared at each other after that, with her trying to force an answer out of me that I didn’t have. After this frustrating back-and-forth game like ping-pong, I sat back up against the wall. Reluctantly, she went on to the next question. Finally, she gets it, I thought to myself. She then sternly announced to me, “Why did the characters do what they wanted to do?” and my utter anger reached an all-time high. I thought, For the millionth time, I don’t even know the stupid characters’ motives! My yellow shirt certainly wasn’t waving anymore. We kept going through a cycle of her repeatedly stating, “What is your answer?” and I almost cried, furiously. “I. Don’t. Know,” I answered. Why must there be so much agony involved in this torturous exercise? This painful fifteen minutes had not turned out how I’d hoped at all. I was utterly frustrated because the gaping hole in the boat that was my master attempt at the reading test was inevitably discovered. After this debacle, I trudged along inside with this volunteer, rolling my light-up tennis shoes on the ground slowly. This was failure.


Back to the frozen yogurt. You see, I really don’t think life is like an orange. And I certainly don’t think life is like an onion. I think life is like frozen yogurt. You can go on through your life, trying to fix your mistakes. When you do something wrong, you tend to realize it shortly after and you might have that painful guilt tagged along with it. When you try to become a better person in your life, you take a spoonful of your frozen yogurt. Imagine that the amount of dessert remaining is how bad of a person you are. Throughout your years, you try and try to finish eating the cup of the frozen yogurt so that there’s none left - you attempt to stop making any single mistake - but you just can’t. There’ll always be that little amount of melted yogurt liquid left - you really can’t ever be perfect. The more life lessons you learn, the more you try to remove yourself from being an inferior person like I have since that one dreaded incident in Kindergarten.


Although it may not seem like it, I honestly did enjoy elementary school. Sometimes, however, you can assume that you are better than everybody else, and that tends to backfire. You can be a really great person at a lot of things, but if you intensely keep trying to prove it to everybody, you just tend to come off as a person who brags. And, there are many people in the world that still act like I did in Kindergarten. I was one of the lucky ones; I was able to learn how not to be arrogant before I even got into the grades of school that had numbers assigned to them. If you aren’t remembering the fact that people can see through your own boasting, you’ll end up being unpopular. It may not be possible to ever finish your frozen yogurt, but try to perfect your being as much as possible anyway. Sometimes it takes a little while to realize that if you show off a thing you are good at, that really only allows pernicious calamity.






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