As the saying goes, “some things never change”. It’s an adage that I’m familiar with, being something of a history jockey and currently trapped in a never ending cycle in Darkest Dungeon (it’s the second least possessed achievement in the game that I seek; which means my sanity is about as ragged as my heroes), but the idea that there are simply some things in life that, no matter how you approach them, the method, or mayhaps even the result, will remain the same. In many regards, this can be a good thing. In others, a practice in tedium.
For myself, however, it actually bears more of a resemblance to the latter. Wednesday last week marked the beginning of my school year, in an exercise that I hope does not prove to be fruitless. I have significant doubts it will, though, as this first term will already be testing my mental mettle in a “winner takes all” sort of struggle.
To really understand this, you need to drift with me way back in my personal annals of history to the tailing ends of my primary school education. Back at the turn of the millennia, mental health awareness was starting to become more prevalent in societal understanding and common school faculty education. I know this less from fact and more from practical experience: quite recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, most of my teachers will ill equipped with the tools necessary to assist someone of my peculiar quirks and essentially non-existent focus. As such, my report card scores were, to put it frankly, not great.
This isn’t to say my teachers had it out for me, on the contrary: many helped in what capacity they could to spur (or, in some cases: drag) me through to my graduation from elementary to secondary schooling. I was able to drudge up the marks I needed to get into the Academic line of courses, and amongst my peers, the only real consideration for getting anything resembling a real chance for the future.
In essence: if you were in the academic stream, you were smart. If you were in applied, you were dumb. In essential, you were basically a useless lump of flesh that wouldn’t amount to much in your future. This isn’t to say I agree with these prejudices, rather this was the common perception of the course options for those sagely early-teen minds. Sufficed to say, I didn’t want to be dumb, so I pushed my way into the academic courses.
Fast forward a few years to the end of high school. My marks were abysmal, classmates were making everything look sincerely easy and I was frustrated with being trapped in an environment that was practically written to work against what few talents I possessed. I’m not going to pretend I was “so smart the work was too easy so I got bored and didn’t try” line, because that is a blatant lie. Fact of the matter is that my mind is less than conventional, so typical methods of teaching and memory retention don’t jive well with me.
As such, I had basically given up on anything resembling an education and was determined to prove a point that, with a little hard work and determination, I could get to great places in my life.
Idealistic, if not horribly inaccurate.
Half a century ago this was the case; but in the society I was finding myself in, not having a $150,000 piece of fancy paper was proving to be a significant stoppage in getting anywhere in life outside of menial labour or factory work. As such, I bounced from dead-end to dead-end, still trying to scratch out a means to make a living for myself.
There are other factors involved in the reasons this didn’t work, but those aren’t my focus today, so let’s move along.
- I’m working a night shift stocking shelves at a grocery store. It’s winter, I haven’t seen the sun in a week and a half and had no social life. I was in a hell of a depressive slump and there was no real way out of it. I was stocking cans of pasta sauce to a shelf, listening to the cranky wining of a middle aged lifer behind me when it struck me: if I don’t do something now, this will be the rest of my life.
Screws to that.
If the only way to make it anywhere in life was to get a fancy big-boy education, then so I shall. But first, I had a horrifying high school transcript to make up for. I enrolled into a certified adult learning centre and, after having research university options and discussing with a guidance councillor, I was decked out with a (while not impossible) workload and began my academic blitz.
I had a whole school year to make up for in four and a half months. The first term went well, the second: rather disastrous.
In all my years of education, math was never a strong suit. On the contrary, math had been the scourge of my existence, and physics (which is a great deal of maths) was not much better. Well, one of the courses I needed for the university programs I planned on taking was Chemistry. What I hadn’t known was how much physics are in chemistry. Or maybe there aren’t, I don’t really know for reasons that should become abundant rather shortly.
Last year, 2016, I was completely devastated when all my hard efforts and attempts at understanding chemistry was, basically, for nothing. The demoralization came not from the material itself, rather the frequent surprises that was “oh shit; I thought I knew this material, but now I see I have the brain of a spoon”. One of the things that had caused me the most anxiety and distress in high school had come back full tilt: I was completely confident I knew the material, but my test scores were averaging out to 35%.
Out of 100%.
And a lower score is not the goal here.
All my courses unravelled very quickly after that term and my plans for an education pretty much dissipated from there. I buried myself in work in an effort to try to find something I could take pride in.
Again, time skip to a couple months ago. My interest in just working basic, dead-end jobs had completely waned again. It was time to re-approach university. I still very much wanted to pursue my interests in psychology and similar, but I wasn’t going to be able to working in the service industry. I reapplied for course upgrading, which leads me to today.
In a cruel twist of fate, I find myself back in the exact same classroom I took chemistry in, with the same teacher, and the same course breakdown that had so stupendously defeated me the year past.
This is it. Do or die. I largely consider this course to be the one that destroyed me last year, and so I will return and conquer this now. This is less a test of my mind, so much a test of my willpower. My brain is not well tuned to the abstract numerology and scientific notations that I’ll be taught. Not to mention that my memory retention is awful, and all my marks will be reflected upon that one trait.
If I want to pursue a career in conquering depression world-wide, I need to conquer grade 12 university-level chemistry.
Granted, should I fail this course again, I can re-take it. But that’s kind of the point here: how many times can one person bash their head against a task in the hopes of surpassing it? Much like Stoic the Vast told his son Hiccup, he bashed his head against a rock until it broke. Much like Michael Palin told Terry Jones in The Holy Grail, he kept building Swamp Castle until it stopped sinking (and once, burning) and remained upright.
Divines above and below I will get this right eventually. And this will be the year for certain. I understand that this will not be the greatest test of my abilities I face in my future, but it will mark a milestone in my journey that I can look back upon in times of hardship and say “I beat stoichiometry, I can beat this”.
As Chumbawumba said, “I get knocked down, but I get up again; you’re never gonna keep me down!”