“You’re so weird!”
“You’ll never be anyone other than Grammar Lee!”
“You’ll always be the weirdo with the grammar obsession! You’re always correcting everyone, and you’ll never grow out of it!”
These deteriorating sentences—though grammatically correct—hurt Georgie so much throughout middle and high school that she only showed her grammar smarts on paper. Whether that assignment be homework, quizzes, tests, a textbook or a story she read every night and before homeroom. Nevertheless, Georgie was the laughing stock of Jasper M. Knocks Middle School and then High School simply because she knew so much about grammar. She really became an expert in it when going into sixth grade—meaning she spoke it fluently even when she graduated high school and landed herself at Hood College in Fredrick, Maryland.
“I’ll never be anything other than a narrow-minded person. All I do is focus on grammar because I know so much about it!”
Georgie falsely accused herself while sitting across the table to her friend, Jennifer, in the library. Surrounded by textbooks and articles used by anyone from naïve but curious freshmen to know-it-all seniors, Georgie was safe from her Middle and High School tormentors. However, she was still trapped—inwardly. Georgie could never mentally escape from those tormentors—their negativity, false truths and discouraging advice suffocated her emotionally, psychologically, and, most importantly, futuristically. She may want to work as a grammar teacher to a whole new class, but Georgie could never vanquish the reality that she will always be Georgie Porgy the Grammar Nerd. The one who never looked past—who couldn’t look past—a grammar textbook or the decision to correct someone’s poor speech. Grammar Nazi was forever embedded on Georgie’s forehead.
“Well, considering you’re such an expert on grammar, maybe you could teach spelling and punctuation, too!” Jennifer advised.
Georgie sighed. “Maybe. I just don’t want to show off. I mean, I’ll teach a bunch of middle or high school kids, but I don’t …” She sighed and shrugged lamely. “I don’t know.”
She looked at Jennifer, who was looking up at what was apparently a clock because she said, “I have to go. I’ll be late for my next class.” As she packed up, Jennifer told Georgie to at least think about what she said. “No— consider whether I’m right or they’re right.”
After Jennifer walked towards the double doors and then out into the split hallway, Georgie twisted around. The clock now read 1:15 pm. She looked back at her syllabus to a class she knew had 1:20 pm or a little thereafter written alongside it.
1:55 pm-3:10 pm. Teaching Grammar. Dr. … Georgie drew away from her professor’s name and reluctantly looked back at her homework. It had to do with teaching middle schoolers how to fix grammar mistakes.
1. How does Johnny, a seventh grader, produce a correct sentence with the following: Me and Annie went the store because we needs a many things’?
Annie and I went the store because we need many things.
2. How does Johnny rewrite this sentence: Should we goes becauses we haves to does that?
Should we go because we have to do that?
She then gazed antipathetically at the rest of the questions. Georgie then folded her grayish blue sweater arms in front of her and lay her head down, her sandy brown hair spilling out onto the table and cascading down the edge a little bit.As she rested, Georgie let her feelings of disinterest in school, her expertise in grammar and overall self talk her into quitting Hood completely.
If you’re so reluctant to work with grammar, then drop out of college. It’d be so much better working at a job you love than some career you don’t actually want anymore. Just because you’re an expert on something doesn’t mean you want it. Think about …
But those feelings and inner thoughts didn’t help. Georgie shifted herself like she was uncomfortable with her position and shut everything out right now. All she did was let the keyboard mice click, keyboards clack and footsteps pound on the hardwood floor…
When Georgie woke up, she blinked sleepily and then noted the clock. It glared down 1:25 pm. She then exhaled deeply and continued the two-page worksheet, flipping the top over after finally scribbling down the answer to #10.
Although she was doing her work, Georgie tackled it with the same gusto as back in middle school—she put pen to paper, etching out those sentences as neatly as possible. When she had scrawled out her last sentences—Ten men don’t go to the school because they are wealthy and Also, I ate my monkey because it said Chocolate Chip on its beard—Georgie shuffled her papers, stuck them a little messily in her unzipped neon orange backpack and imitated Jennifer in leaving the library. She looked at the clock again and then at something else more interesting. There, showing off on the side of a library shelf, was seemingly painted a laminated portrait of stars—all red, white and blue—shooting out all over the place. Georgie’s first inclination was to attack with It’s not Fourth of July. Two months after that, Mr. Poster. However, as she looked at it, taking in the stars all around, she let herself calm down and memorize the star’s positions. Only when Georgie counted those blazingly wild stars seeming to scream her name did the freshman decide to walk out of the library ahead of her with a little self-confidence and resilience.
That night, one of Georgie’s roommates asked if she’d like to go with a couple of friends and her out for ice cream.
“No,” Georgie answered, shaking her now ponytail-less hair. “I need to work.”
“It’s not like you’re just here to work.” Rachel shrugged her shoulders. “You seem kind of down. Is everything all right?”
“Yeah.” Georgie looked up from squishing her cheeks against her hands and mercilessly crushing her bed with her elbows and looked over. “Sure—I’ll just work on others’ grammar!” She then plopped herself back into her former position, and Rachel took that as a sign she didn’t want anyone to interfere with her.
So she just shrugged again, wished Georgie good luck on her homework, shoved her feet into her boots, whisked her scarf off of the wooden coat hanger, clomped down the sycamore floor and creaked the door open. “Hope you feel better. I thought ice cream might work…”
And Rachel swung the door wide and then let it shut close.
Bye. Georgie answered. Hope that ice cream doesn’t melt. She studied her homework, and then an idea popped into her head. Maybe if I drop out of here and enter community college instead, I’ll be happier. No more roommates. No more fuss with this kind of work. I’ll take a new major. After all, I’m only a freshman.
Georgie rolled over to the edge, sat up and then dropped down, wishing she could just drop out of college just like that. But since she first had to let the dean of her department, Mr. Hensee, know, she saw, as she typed into Hood’s website’s Search bar, Georgie decided to put that on the backburner.
Like all my classes, roommates, even former major. She talked to herself as she scribbled out an email to him.
Dear Mr. Hensee,
My name is Georgie Catherine Gems. I would like you to know that I am no longer interested in attending this college as a current student. I would like to resign from this college, as I believe it is in my best interest to replace a four-year degree with a two-year degree at my local community college back in Mount Vernon, Washington State.
I am not interested in pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in English with a Teacher’s Licensure anymore. I think that four years of college would be seen as a waste rather than a two-year degree and then a job as a substitute teacher at my local middle and high schools.
Georgie read it, read it again and then made some grammatical corrections and added a line or two specifying why she cared little about her future. Or so she thought the dean might read her letter like that, and changed some of the wording. After rereading it, Georgie finally clicked Send and waited.
A few minutes ticked by, and she decided to call her mother. But when she picked up her iPhone that rested on one of her neon-colored binders, a Shhhhhhh! like someone’s mouth when they’re saying shush without u and teeth together selfishly yanked Georgie away from her phone and towards her computer again.
Just then, a door behind her whined open, and Georgie turned around to robotically greet Rachel.
“Hey,” Rachel slammed the door and strutted into the homely, decorated room. “How’s it going?” Then she blinked, stopping by her red and purple tie-dye bed and wrapping her scarf from around her neck. “Georgie, I thought you were doing homework! Not on the computer.”
“I’m thinking of dropping out.” Georgie answered glumly. “I hate it here. Just sent an email to the dean.” She checked her email. “And here he is, answering it!” Georgie opened it and then hit Reply and then began typing away as if Rachel were still at her ice-cream-with-friends party.
“Oh!” Rachel tossed her scarf nonchalantly onto her bed. Then she pushed herself onto it, still quizzing Georgie. “So you’re not doing the homework you said you’d do?”
“No,” Georgie threw out tightly, pausing and facing Rachel. “I changed my mind. I’m dropping out of this school! I don’t want to waste another second here. I’m going to transfer to Skagit Valley College and work as a substitute teacher while I attend and then after I graduate. I’m in college for that, not a Bachelor’s Degree.”
Rachel raised and lowered her eyebrows. “I hope you’re making the right decision. I mean, my grandparents quit, but they regretted it their whole lives. They couldn’t get to the job they wanted because they dropped out of a four-year college—”
“Rachel.” Georgie answered in a you-don’t-understand tone. “You don’t know what it’s like to be an expert in something you kind of wish you didn’t seemingly show off because you were teased for it. You don’t know what it’s like serving as the victim all through high school because you were so grammar smart. In middle school because you became this subject’s expert and made everyone think you needed to get a top hat with the nickname, Grammar Checker, circling it. Because of this, I didn’t have any friends growing up…”
Rachel was shaking her head when Georgie let her voice fall.
“Me neither. I didn’t really pair up with anyone, either. I was always the misfit who never could or did understand. I was never accepted, all because of my disinterest in everyone else’s weirdness, quirkiness and just outright drama.”
But Georgie bulked. “Were you bullied mercilessly, relentlessly, antagonistically? Were you made fun of, had your homework snatched from you and flushed down the toilet or thrown into the cafeteria trashcan and then stuffed in the stupid trashcan itself for six years straight just because you were an expert in something that maybe just turned you out to be a geek?!”
Rachel’s eyes went wide, and she gaped, horrified, at Georgie. “N-no! I had nothing done to me like that. I’m,” she jumped down and wrapped a warm arm around Georgie’s shoulders while Georgie rattled off her nicknames. “I know one thing, Georgie—I’ll never call you Georgie Porgy or Grammar Lee! I’m so sorry you had to endure that. But all that crap doesn’t have to haunt you, nor does it have to define your future.”
Georgie craned her neck back over to her computer, but showing up at the Dean’s office tomorrow with the letter of resignation she was going to have to type up late into the night wasn’t going to wipe her past away. It wasn’t going to make her a real expert. It would only send her down the same road of regret her roommate’s grandparents had chosen instead. And then to a job she would hate and, worst, co-workers who could possibly abuse her, too.
Rachel let go of Georgie, stepped back towards and then got onto her own bed. Falling back on it, Rachel encouraged Georgie.
“Don’t give up, Georgie! Don’t give up on your ability to show the world how much of an expert you can be in your new future job as a middle and high school teacher!” Rachel pushed herself joyfully up and looked at her scarf. “I hung my scarf, but don’t hang yourself!”
Georgie shot Rachel’s scarf a glazed look. She knew Rachel was only trying to help, but she didn’t really understand the discouragement her bullies inculcated in her. As Rachel’s zipper caught Georgie’s ear, she just blocked it out with the desire to want to be alone. That’s why she had no desire to be here—mainly because Georgie wanted to be alone to organize her thoughts, her life. She didn’t want anyone to opinionate on the past. The past was what it was. There was no going back and converting the bad guys to the good guys of friendship and loyalty.
She just wanted to figure it out herself. Without anyone’s help. Because it wasn’t help. It was mere words that could never comfort the wounded. All they did was wash Georgie with “I feel” and “I hope” mantra that never soothed. It just hurt more. Because no one understood.
The next day, Georgie printed her resignation letter, walked her 5’ 3” self to Mr. Hensee’s office and handed it to him after sitting herself down in one of his stereotypical brown and brass button-dotted chairs positioned right in front of his marble stone counter of a desk. For anyone looking for a college worker who didn’t have the usual wooden desk in front of him daily, Mr. Hensee was the man to find and, more importantly, talk to.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” He asked, looking up at her from behind his white-framed glasses. He sat up straight in his plushy, satin-red chair and exercised authoritative patience. “You absolutely sure?”
“Yes, Mr. Hensee. I want to resign from this school and go to community college. I won’t have roommates.”
I won’t have four years of regret. Georgie thought, then telling Mr. Hensee this fact.
The slightly elderly man sighed, his white mustache seeming to agree with him as it frowned, too. He leaned back a little, looked it over, read it and then read it again. Taking his glasses off, Mr. Hensee raised his eyebrows and then exclaimed, “I highly recommend you saving yourself—right now.”
Stupefying Georgie a bit, he threw the paper on the desk like he cared little for it, and jabbed his thigh with his wrinkly pointer finger. “I do not suggest you just quit. Give it a few more semesters.” He ended more encouragingly.
“Sir,” Georgie just dove into the water. “I need to go home!”
With the snow falling outside her classroom window, Georgie smiled.
No more roommates. No four wasted years. She was safe now. She was also relieved. To have transitioned to such a burden as Hood College to an open-air refresher as Skagit Valley College in her home of Washington State, Georgie felt like she could do no better job. She almost patted herself on the back with her hand she actually used to raise it to answer Professor Cohen’s question.
“The organism belongs in the Kingdom class because it is an animal.” Remembering her tan and white Selkirk Rex at home helped Georgie. Unlike the discouragement she carried around for weeks back at Hood College. But she was home now, in her community college. She even had made some friends at her school. They were pretty good, except one of them was antisocial. But overall, Tina, the girl with highlights looped her arm with Georgie’s and Ryan, the tech-savvy kid, helped her with her computer homework at Georgie’s or her home.
So what was Rachel even talking about? Georgie wondered as she packed her binder and pencil up to go to her next class. Besides, I drive to school and then to my substitute teacher job whenever I don’t have classes. It’s not like I have to see fifteen million people around me all the time. Just my friends, work, school and me as well as Buttons, my cat. We get along just fine! And, most importantly, I love my major. Environmental Biology with a minor in Computer Science is something I should have considered first before even applying to that four-year school.
Georgie clomped outside the Science building, loving the sound of boots hitting sidewalk rather than hardwood Sycamore floor just as snow was starting to fall down onto the ground.
Also, Georgie thought, reflecting on her new life, I won’t have evil words and attacks falling on to me now or when I’m a substitute teacher. I’ll have snow—light, fresh, new, friendly, cold—but not too cold—snow drizzling down and hitting everything in sight.
As Georgie repositioned herself in her desk at an older-looking classroom with some of the wood chipped off and desks slightly cracked and seats discolored, she thought of good things to add to this discouraging place: I’m in a classroom I love. I have a professor who I may need to listen hard to but still teaches well and I have friends to look forward to hanging out with on the weekends. I know why I switched.
Because Skagit Valley College, though a two-year college, surely transitioned me from a nightmare to a desire come true!