I’m out of school for two weeks, headed to New York City for a Rookie gathering. My mom gave me an early Hanukkah gift for the occasion—new white Docs! I’m wearing them with a purple tiered polyester dress from a costume shop in China, and a yellow Marni necklace I borrowed from that very same mom. (Hi, Mom.) I can’t wait to meet the Rookie staff, especially because I’m the youngest staffer and I’ve always gotten along best with people older than me.
For as long as I can remember, teachers have thought I was awesome, and classmates haven’t. In first grade, I spent every recess playing with Shadow and Amy, my imaginary friends. In second grade, I ate lunch with the teacher in her classroom because nobody wanted to sit with me in the cafeteria. In fifth grade, my fantastic teacher Glory took me out for ice cream and dim sum, while nobody else in the school would speak to me. Now, in eighth grade, the person I get along with best is Graham, my advisor and history teacher. We play the ukulele and talk about Radiohead. I introduced him to the Flaming Lips and he showed me Neutral Milk Hotel.
Right about now I need to decide what high school I’m going to next year, and all my options have been looking kind of bleak. I love Latin, I find math easy, and I write essays voluntarily. I know I’m a nerd—I asked my parents in I could go to University of Chicago this summer to study advanced Latin, and my mom just said, “Are you serious?” I also want a place where I can be creative, and which has a liberal feel. Right now I go to a Quaker school, but I’m not Quaker and I’m not really into simplicity and everyone doing the same things. I could go to the school my mom teaches at, which is really artsy but has no grades, but that would probably frustrate my control-freak mind that always needs to know where I stand. My parents want me to go to this big public school because it doesn’t cost money, but I’m scared of going to such a huge place because I’d just be a number and I couldn’t ever fall behind because I wouldn’t be able to get extra help or time to catch up. And wherever I go, I’ll face the same problem as always: kids. Kids don’t like me. And if they do, it’s from afar. And if it’s not, they’re often embarrassed to actually be my friend.
Then, recently, I heard about this place called Simon’s Rock at Bard College. It’s an early college for advanced students, specifically for people who have just finished 10th or 11th grade. It’s a place where the work is a challenge and everyone is really smart. It’s a place where I could go instead of enduring my last two years of high school. I was like, damn, that sounds perfect. I could say goodbye to Shadow and Amy forever, for they would be replaced with actual humans (potential friends!) who could talk to me about the stuff I’m interested in—Virgil, or the latest Ryan Trecartin exhibit.
I don’t really know what Simon’s Rock is like—all I know is that it’s tiny (just 400 students), and is in the middle of nowhere. Would I have a social life if I went there? The prospect of getting my bachelor’s degree by the time I’m 19 or 20 is very appealing, and the fact that I won’t have to deal with high school for four whole years is even better.
All teenagers are so different, so why are we expected to all follow the same path? I don’t want to follow a typical teen path. I am going to visit Simon’s Rock at the end of January, and I’ll let you know how it goes. ♦