Things I Learned In School

While I was learning a^2 + b^2 = c^2,  binomial expansion, and Implicit Differentiation, I was not learning that life is not a math equation. You can’t plug in different variables, different circumstances, and get one definitive outcome, one definitive life. My life is different from your life is different from his life. My experiences define who I am as do yours. There are only two experiences every person has: birth and death; how we get there, and what we do in between is completely dependent on the individual. You can graph where a person’s been, but you can’t graph where they’re going. You can graph the past, but you can’t graph the future, because life isn’t a line or a parabola, or the sum of an infinite series, or etc, etc, and there are too many “what ifs” to get a clear picture anyway, even if it was or were (for being an English major, there are a lot of Grammar rules that continue to confuse me).

But, that was a tangent.

Hey, speaking of tangents, did you know tangents only touch a circle once? And circles don’t have points, and I guess neither did that fact, because school teaches you facts, but not how to apply them. It teaches you to think, but not how to reason. So, yes, I’m really good at spitting back whos, whats, wheres, whens, and whys, but not the “so what?”s. I’m still trying to figure out how the past has influenced my life and how I can influence the future. And as to where my story fits in the grand scheme of things, I’m still trying to figure that one out, too. But as I’m beginning to experience more things, that picture’s becoming clearer. That’s an equation I hope to solve one day.

Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. But, I bet you knew that already, didn’t you?

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, which I learned in Math, but I understand it the best when I’m trying to find the quickest route to avoid someone or the shortest walk to class in the cold of winter or the pouring rain.

Weight equals mass times gravity, and you learn this in physics, but you understand it when the bathroom floor pulls you against its cold, flat surface after you’ve emptied last night’s calories.

All matter has mass. But you don’t learn it school what it means to matter. You have to learn that on your own, and I’ve discovered that you matter because of what matters to you. Your level of mattering is directly equivalent to how much what you care about matters to you. Your value is not inversely proportional to your weight; it’s directly proportional to the amount you care.

You learn competition, because this whole system of class rank separates the “good at memorizing,” from “the not so good.” But how well you do in school has no bearing on how successful you will be when it comes to the ‘real world.’

You learn about Supply and Demand and Opportunity Cost, but you won’t really understand until you have to live paycheck to paycheck, or until your Dad has to work three jobs to make ends meet and he has to decide between earning money and spending time with the family.

You learn about interest rate and the idea of loans, but you’ll wish you paid attention when it comes time to pay back student loans.

You learn about Total Surface Area and Volume, which becomes helpful when you have to fit a week’s worth of dirty dishes into a dishwasher.

You learn how to compare yourself to others, but not how to love yourself despite others.

Life has taught me many things, and learning how to love myself is one of the hardest.

I’ve learned life is hard, some days you will hate yourself, but there’s always hope.

Why doesn’t school teach you that?

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Gene Pool

“Dear Je…”

“Hot food over here, cold food over there.”

My Grandfather was laughing so hard he couldn’t finish the prayer.

My Grandmother has always been a little hard of hearing. My Grandfather has always been a little hard of seeing. So between the two of them… they’re a perfect pair.

If that’s not the best way to describe my Grandparents, I don’t know what is. But allow me to continue.

My Grandfather is a well-educated, even-keeled man. He has a Bachelor’s, two Master’s, and a Doctorate. His official title is “Reverend Doctor Boppa Sir,” but we just call him “Boppa.” (Since I am the oldest grandchild on my mother’s side, I called all the shots). I’ve never heard him laugh, but I have heard him chuckle deeply. He may forget where he placed his keys, but if you ask him a question about anything he ever learned, he’ll remember the answer. He was a College Professor before he retired, and he was also head of the Religion and Humanities Department for a while. It should come as no surprise then that when I needed help writing a paper for one of my classes, I sought him out for help.

When I called him up and asked if I could “borrow some of his knowledge” (those were in fact my exact words), he didn’t sound too enthused. But I could sense excitement in his voice as he responded with a strong, “sure. When are you free?” When I showed up the next morning, he said it would take him a few minutes to find his notes. Not more than 30 seconds later he returned with a copy of all his lectures. (Clearly he knew exactly where they were, and clearly he was waiting for the day when one of his Grand-children would ask for his expertise on his specialty.)

Unless you are prepared to learn why you are wrong and are prepared to receive a lecture on what Grammar means, “where are you at?” is not the correct answer to use in my Grandfather’s presence. Yes, he was an English major in College. And in case you are wondering, I probably received my love for English from him. But that’s not all I received from him. We both love trivia and game shows, and we both think Jeopardy is fantastic. We both like puzzles of the jigsaw and brain varieties. And while he does his crosswords in pen, I do mine in pencil. And we both love a good game of scrabble. I beat him at Scrabble for the first time a few months ago. I was excited on the outside. He wasn’t. But, I know on the inside he was proud.

He plays Solitaire on his computer for hours, but he’s never lonely. He has seven Grandchildren. One of them shares his name. (One time my Grandmother was yelling at my Grandfather, and my Cousin put himself in time-out (ok, it was more than once)). I’m sure when we’re all together it feels like there are more than seven of us. Both of his daughters married Italian men, and Italians are good at being loud and eating.

My Grandmother knows how to cook. When you are at her house, you never go hungry. At her house, there is no such thing as a simple snack, because even snack is five courses. Phrases such as, “Grandma, I wanted a little scoop of ice-cream, not the whole tub,” are heard frequently. The candy jars are always full, and you always leave her house a few pounds heavier than when you came. She doesn’t know how to cook for two people; she only knows how to cook for a small army of people. And even though she has hearing aids, she may not hear you the first time you call. But when she does, she’ll be there immediately.

When I was smaller than I am now, I would curl up in her lap, and we would read books for hours. By the time I was too big to fit in her lap, we had three joke books memorized. That is why I’ll always understand the punch line before everyone else (living with my Dad may have helped my getting of punch lines too, but shhh. It’s a secret). She always gives the best advice: “Never get old, Kaleigh. Your memory starts to go/your knees get bad, etc.” I hate to tell her my short-term memory is not much better than that of a goldfish. I think I’ve inherited her bad knees, too. They are starting to mimic the sound of an old house.

Staying home from school because of sickness were always the best. It meant a free day at Grandma’s. She just knows how to take care of you. When I had my appendix out one Christmas Eve, all I wanted to do was see Grandma. So I ate that yucky hospital food. I peed in the stupid toilet. I took that painful walk. And even though it was 7:30 pm on Christmas Eve when I left that hospital, I went to Grandma’s, because she wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see her. Grandma makes everything better. And I’m not sure if it’s because she was a nurse, or it’s because she’s Grandma. I’m leaning toward the latter.

When she left her purse in the cart at K-mart, the first thing she thought was, “Oh no! The Grandkids!” She was more worried about not getting those pictures of her grandchildren back than she was about the credit cards. And if that’s not the perfect definition of Grandma, you need to change yours.

My Grandparents give more than they take. They’ve been to more concerts, school plays, soccer games, and piano recitals than I can count. They even came to my High School Graduation (bless their hearts)! They’ve let my sisters, cousins, and me spend the night. They even let me spend a week at their house, sleeping in one of their extra bed, eating their food, because they didn’t want me spending the week in an empty house (even though I am 19).

My Grandparents taught me what it means to love. They taught me love is in the little things, not necessarily the big. They taught me loving someone is not the same as liking someone. And you don’t always have to like someone, but you always have to love them.

My Grandparents are adorable. She calls him “dear.” He pours her coffee and opens the bottles she can’t. And sometimes when he’s going to meet my cousins’ school bus, he will pause at the door a little longer and say “bye” one more time.

So I know genes are inherited, but most behaviors are learned. And I want a marriage like theirs someday. I want to be like them someday. And I know life isn’t a competition, but I’m winning. Because when it comes to Grandparents, I have the best ones.