Photo by Kait Ripley (amateur photographer)
When I get an assignment back with excellent marks on it, I want to cry. I feel I don’t deserve it. Though, I feel at this point in my college career I only expect to get good grades. I have always tried my best, as hard as I can, yet I feel it is not good enough, and when I receive good marks I find it unbelievable. One time I turned in something and got a D- on it. I thanked the teacher in office hours for being objective, and I deserved it—still I aced the class. When I put out shit and still turn it in as my best, I get better marks than expected, better marks than in High School (which I should have failed out of). It is as if the rule books were thrown out for something more important than just a piece of paper. I am graded, I feel, on the art of just showing up.
For the past couple of weeks, months, years I have learned something, and throughout my college career this lesson has followed me. This lesson has been that showing up is more important than being a complete genius and acing the class via a test, or a project, or great work, or ass-kissery. It means more to the class as a whole, and to every single teacher, that you are in each class every day, no matter what. There are a million and five excuses a person could use, or employ: I could say anything—I am a doctor, you are sick; my dog died, my grandma died, my dad died (which did happen); my car broke down, my cat pissed on my homework, my bike got ran over; the bus was late; I am deathly ill, but why waste everyone’s time? Why waste your time? I know better, most people should, you know better.
When one person misses class the whole class misses that one person. Not like, “oh, sad, I miss that person,” but like, “fuck that person is not here, I am aware of their void.” The class loses that interaction, the missing hand raised, the unasked tangential question, the discussion that never happened. The previous list comes from easy excuses, lazy decisions to miss that one moment, it all matters in the long run. For example, you wouldn’t ask the bartender for a beer, pay for it—tip, and then not drink your refreshing beverage, would you? So, why would you register for classes, apply financial aid, deal with advising—pay for it all, and then not go?
If you really want to get an A at any point in your life, career, schooling, just show up (my GPA is 3.627, I am not boasting, I just show up). There are a million people with a million excuses, don’t be one of them, be the other guy. Be unique. Everyone can think of a lame ass excuse, it’s second nature—humans make mistakes, but don’t. Since I quit my shit-job washing dishes, where I was verbally abused, and came to University (in hopes of acquiring dental insurance, exclusively), I made it a point that each and every teacher would see my bright smile, and remember that bright smile when grading. The many times that my peers missed class, that smile would become brighter, more emblazoned in their minds; my teachers would be forced to reckon with it. My grade would inevitably go up, no matter what. They think: Oh, yeah, I remember Terry; big bright smile, ridiculous questions, yeah, I do… I thank my classmates for skipping (really, I do), being cool, or lazy. It really helps me out. And if your professor says they don’t grade on attendance, they are fucking lying.
From my first day of college until now, I can count the seldom days I have missed class and work, and on all of these days someone had a funeral, or a sick loved one to attend to. I won’t miss a day because I don’t want a day to miss me. You want to get ahead, be the person that is always in the same spot asking the same fucking stupid questions, the one that everyone looks at with a sideways glance, disdain, be that person, be brave. Be the person that no one can understand, because when it comes down to the end of the semester someone—the teacher, will most likely remember you for that, your name, your smile, your attentiveness to detail, your question that sparked a conversation, everything, and they will know that. Be part of the community you are in, the academic community, and your grade will work itself out. True story.