*This is free verse and is meant to be read kind of like a rhythmic, passionate monologue and has no rhyme scheme.*
Throughout our pilgrimage of schooling, we are bombarded with facts. Tables. Laws. The exceptions to those laws. Worksheets upon worksheets. Upon worksheetsuponworksheetsuntilyoucannotunderstandifthisismathematics or español y no sé que es este papel, why can’t I just use a folder instead of this freakin’ spiral notebook since everything gets torn out anyway by my monster backpack with its zipper teeth, gnawing off the corners of my binders just like those absurd tables we make with those overpriced Crayola markers that devour my neurons as I copy the table on page 24 of the textbook that we have not opened until now, and I know this because when it opened, baby dust fairies shrieked, angry for having been trapped in the dark nooks of the book’s spine. OMG, I think I need to rest because all of this mindless copying is too much stimulation for my angular gyrus. Ms. Teacher Lady, you may wonder why my tone of voice was so aggressive, but if you had spent the last seven years of your life regurgitating a curriculum that some strange man sitting at a large cedar desk in an office far away from your school had designed for “your young, feeble mind” and it bored you to death, you would most likely be desperate too.
Aside from feeling as if my backpack had engulfed the remnants of the Hiroshima aftermath and catalyzed it into an unintelligible mass of poorly understood pre-algebra notes, I felt as if my brain were doing the same with the information being inculcated in it. “Ms. Teacher Lady, how do I solve this problem? And why? What’s the point? How is this applicable in the real world? Ms. Teacher Lady, is this the kind of math that astronauts use?” Somehow after divulging my curiosity to my 7th grade math teacher, all she could muster was, “Just find x.”
How could she say that? In my mind, I envisioned the pages of those books my dad bought me about the megalodon, the plesiosaurus, and the Big Bang. Numbers danced across my cerebral projector screen, with more zeroes than I had previously believed were organically possible. All of those thoughts ruminated there, fermenting into what I had hoped would become a eureka moment, a glorious shining of light bulbs in which math and the world around me worked in tandem. I had so much hope for my pilgrimage into the wilderness of the natural world and despite all that I brought to that classroom everyday, they did not respond to our questions with other mind-boggling knowledge issues, but a simple scapegoat. “Find x.” “Copy the table.” “Look it up in the glossary.” “I don’t get paid to play 20 questions, Google it.”
I was 12 years old, but I already wanted to check out of school. Why did no adult in charge of my “well-being” ever tell me how beautiful the stars shined at night, and that the most luminous ones were at the sunset of their lives? Why did those bureaucrats limit measuring our well-being to a number on a standardized test score? Is it because they believe that they cannot measure our vivacity with non-empirical methods? Why don’t we venture outside to find the Fibonacci sequence with our own curious eyes? How platitudinous of those middle school foreign language teachers to mask their passion for their subject! Why did no one explain to us the overwhelming feeling of joy and invincibility that engulfs the soul when you finally realize that a world outside of your own exists, and all you have to do is knock on the door. Do I need to count my questions for you? Or pay you to answer them? Are you hoping that if you let my unanswered questions ferment for much longer that I’ll surrender and let myself become inebriated by the charisma of the new SmartBoards and the YouTube videos you played during class as an alternative to teaching us? AY, that’s the rub!!
I did not want to learn how to find x and conclude my pilgrimage, Uncle Sam. I wanted to continue on, so that I could appreciate the great unknown around me, so that maybe, just maybe, I could discover something that would broaden my horizons or force me to abandon my comfort zone? You see, Ms. Teacher Lady in the Brown Shoes, I don’t care about your class. I don’t even care about “finding x”. I’m just a twelve-year-old girl with several inches to go and an undeveloped prefrontal cortex, but my coevals and I have understood something that may serve you and your colleagues for the pilgrimage of your own lives: the goal isn’t to find x; the goal is the apply it to everything you possibly can, so that one question leads to another and you don’t have to “put on your thinking cap” because all of the possibilities blow your freakin’ mind and then you’ll realize that there isn’t room for all of those questions inside your head. So you’ll begin to write, read, meander, travel, and pose questions to strangers. The goal was never to find x, because our pilgrimage was never meant to be a conclusive destination, but an eternal search for the next question, and this eternal search is something that I couldn’t bear to live without.