I have had the good luck to have an excellent education. I wasn’t the smartest kid in my high school by any means, but I did well enough that I got a scholarship to Colorado Woman’s College from which I transferred to the University of Colorado in Boulder. I was doubly lucky because my dad was a deceased veteran (he saw no action in WW II, death was from other causes) and so, as his dependent, I got a stipend from the VA. I would rather have had my dad, but… While there, I discovered a consuming project that led me to want to go to grad school so I could write the thesis. I did that.
To do that meant I had to read a lot — that was fine. I’d already read a lot. Any kid who reads travels through time, awakens the imagination and learns words. I like words (encouraged by both parents who loved poetry) and so as time went on though I didn’t score well on spelling tests I knocked the boat out of the water on vocabulary tests, including the SAT.
In graduate school I learned — among some other stuff — that 1) I loved teaching writing and 2) I’m not an academic type. I didn’t pursue a PhD. I had little respect for my professors — only two out of the whole lot of them — and I didn’t want to make my life meetings with these strange people. It wasn’t me. I did my thesis and went in search of gainful employment as a secretary then a paralegal then I went to China to teach. Yeah.
In the fullness of time, I discovered I write historical fiction. THAT requires superlative research skills which I had learned during my short career as an academic.
So here I am in the San Luis Valley of Colorado where graduating high school is still a pretty big deal for a kid — AS IT SHOULD BE!!!!
Yesterday at physical therapy there was a lot of general talking (it’s a friendly place) and the old boy who was a DJ in Denver made the comment (after I said, “I didn’t really fit in academia” to my therapist when he asked me how I liked grad school) “You sure sound like one. You speak their language.”
I wanted to punch him, but he was already pretty fucked up, and it would have been wrong.
“It’s a language,” I said. “Anyone can learn any language.”
So what the fuck is it, the flashing light that says, “ACADEMIC!!!” when I open my mouth. I don’t know. My therapist took me into another room, and we proceeded with the work we had to do. But I could see that he knew I was irked.
So here we are all sensitive to skin color, body size, gender identity, but a smart person who has gone to school and put in the work and the discipline, that’s a stigma?
It’s not the first time in my life that’s happened. It’s just the loudest.