Monday, October 22, 2012

a search for truth

“I'm taking a college course.” That is what I told my high school enrollment counselor as I sat across from her in the tiny, cluttered enrollment office. It was late August and my senior year was about to begin. She was a friendly woman who happened to be the mother of a childhood friend, the matriarch of a family with whom we used to attend church. The thing was, it was a bold-faced lie. I lied to her. I looked her square in the face and lied to her. “Which class are you taking?” Oh dear. I guess I should have thought of that wee little detail. “Uh....English.” Lie number two. The counselor paused. She looked at me questioningly. I held my breath. Uh oh. Why is she looking at me like that? Smile. Just smile. Breathe. If I had only known then what I know now – English, at the college level, isn't called English. It's called Comp or Intro to Lit or World Lit or Advanced Comp or Shakespeare Seminar or Feminism in American Lit or Buddhism in American Lit...basically, it's called anything but English. She looked back down at her papers and continued to fill in my schedule for the year. She chose to believe me. It was probably the whole “went to church together” thing that allowed her to give me the benefit of the doubt. She should have trusted her gut. I still have absolutely no idea what possessed me, in that moment, to fabricate such a story. I did not walk into her office with a plan to try for a “get out of school free” card. But as we began talking about the year ahead, in a split-second, before I even knew what was out of my mouth, the duplicitous tale was woven. And I can't be certain it was a choice. It was simply a reaction. It could be better characterized as a panic-driven, instantaneous response than a carefully thought out decision. I have vague memories of other kids – the really smart kids – leaving high school early to drive to the community college nearby and participate in legitimately-enrolled-in classes. I, on the other hand, had no interest in earning college credit while I was in high school. Because I was not a smart kid. (Ha! Boy, now that's the truth!) In hindsight it would have been an excellent idea. My focus, though, was to be at school the shortest amount of time and do the least amount of work. Laziness? Maybe. Partly, yes, I do think I was lazy. I was certainly not a disciplined student. I did enough to get by. And, fortunately for me (or UNfortunately, as I look back on it) that wasn't much. Looking deeper, though, I believe my deceitfulness was rooted in self-defense. A protective measure. A fight or flight (in my case: flight) type need to be at home. To be away from school. To be alone. To be away from people. To be in control. To be unencumbered. To be...I don't know. I'm still trying to figure it out. Ultimately, my lie was an escape mechanism. And let me just be honest now, it was not just this one lie. It was lyING. Plural. Multiple. Habitual. My lying became an escape mechanism. One that I have employed far too many times.

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