In kindergarten I had a friend named Jill who had super curly hair and a polka dot shirt. We used to play with dominoes all the time. I never saw her again after 1989, when we moved out of Mt. Kisco, New York, but she’s basically all of my memories of everything school related before first grade. I do remember summer camp, when I said, “What the fuck are you guys doing here?” to a rival camp group. Who knows where I learned that. The counselors carried me to the bathroom, threatening to wash my mouth out with soap. They didn’t.
In Hebrew school, I cried for my twin sister because they split us up and everyone was nerdy, weird and way too Zionist for me. That was eye opening. I did learn how to read Hebrew, but have long since forgotten. I took gymnastic classes and got super good at doing crazy flips and cartwheels with no hands. I later taught my friend Dan how to do a back handspring—his bad form ended up copying mine. In third grade, I learned the scientific method. When I was pretty sure the anonymous crystal we were testing was salt, I tasted it to confirm. I was right, but got in trouble because it could have been poison. The same teacher gave me a good grade on my Pocahontas presentation and a bad one on my US states project. In sixth grade I made a fake music magazine with an article about all the musicians who died at 21. It had a fake ad for the No Alternative compilation. That’s where I learned about Sonic Youth. I got a B.
I got sick and missed a lot of school in 7th and 8th grade, so I taught myself all about punk rock and hardcore reading a million books and fanzines. My social studies teacher sent over a thick folder of study sheets I had missed, asking me to fill them out. I knew well enough not to. Then I started hippie private school and wrote a large research paper on emigration from Cambodia and interviewed a woman who survived the Khmer Rouge. I played tennis badly, couldn’t wear jeans (against dress code), grew my hair long, studied like crazy for the SATs, did okay. In college, I majored in English and creative writing and wrote a long thesis. My advisor always wore linen shirts. I took a class on women’s roles in national elections and found out there is a lot to say about citizenship.
School was fun. I miss learning being the point of my days. After I graduated I got crushed by the real world and sat around wallowing for six months. Then I got a terrible job that I hated, then one I was medium into and then one I liked. Looking back, I learned the most struggling through the first one. Now, to know new stuff, I just read a lot of magazines and constantly refresh the New York Times app. I look at the Facebook one, too. Not everything has to teach you something, but most of the time there’s something to learn. Welcome back to school, dudes.