School-Dazed and Confused

Now for a totally different kind of blog post in a more personal story/memoir format. Part of the reason I’m doing this is because memoir will be heavily discussed in my latest Writing from the Body workshop.

If you like these types of posts, please let me know and I’ll post regularly.

Life is a Funny Old Dog

“A 0.02 average,” the white-haired Dean of Students said with a mixture of sarcasm and disbelief in his voice. He took off his glasses, pinched his nose and rubbed it before looking up from my transcripts. The bookish man with girlish fingers laid his wire-rimmed glasses on the table and looked around the four tables in a square that had been placed in the cavernous cafeteria as a makeshift courtroom that would decide mine and others’ fates who had murdered their chances at a college education.

I sat there at the opposite end of their world, a stranger in a strange land, knowing I didn’t speak their language.

“Can you tell us here why we should agree to let you back in with a record like this?” he said looking at the others but not directly at me.

“Yes sir,” was all I could think of to say at the moment.

“Tell this esteemed body why you want to come back to college. But before you begin I want to say two things. I think I can speak for everyone at this table. First, I don’t think I can ever recall someone with your record asking to be admitted a second time, and second, I can’t believe you can say anything that would convince us of your seriousness and gravitas to seek a genuine education. Now it is your turn, Mr. Lee. We are all ears.”

I was lucky I knew what the word serious meant, but I had no idea what the hell gravitas meant. I sat there thinking that before my Christian days I would have thought what an asshole, but I was bucking for sainthood then and had given up cursing a year before to impress that red-haired Christian girl.

“I want to be a preacher and a teacher. I believe with all my heart that is what I’ve been put on this earth to do, sir.” 

Everyone, especially the Dean, looked like I was talking like a tree had fallen on me, as we say in the South, which for you northerners, means talking like I was crazy. The silence was deafening as the corduroy-elbow-patched professors and the two women who wore their hair in a tight bun broke in to syncopated laughter.

“Mr. Lee, I have to hand it to you. That is the most original answer I think we’ve ever heard at one of these, and I think I can speak for everyone here. What a thought—a 0.02 student aspires to be a teacher and a preacher. Well good luck, son. I know you are going to need God’s help because you have got one hell of a job in front of you. I think,” he paused to collect himself and wait for everyone to stop laughing, “We all agree to let you in for a probationary period of two semesters. If you show yourself to be a serious scholar in the making, then you can stay. You really want to be a preacher and a teacher? That’s just the most outrageous and original answer I’ve ever heard.”

I was in to learn this time and couldn’t wait to see what would come next.