Question 139 of 365: What are we throwing out of basement windows?

I threw two brand new Spanish/English dictioonaries out of the basement classroom window. It was Spanish class and I was trying to get into trouble. I had done other things, like pull down the world map every day I came into class for a week, or distracting each of my friends by talking over the teacher. It was so bad that I was put in the back of the classroom and told to read or draw, anything to not work on the last nerves of my teacher.

But, I threw books out of the classroom window. It wasn’t high up and I had no intention of watching them drop. I just wanted them to soak up the snow on the ground outside and I wanted the teacher not to have access to them. I was that vindictive and irregular. After two weeks of being out in the elements, I pulled the books back into the classroom and I put them on display in the back, flaying out the pages that were rippled from the immense amount of moisture that they had consumed. I got thrown out of class for that one. We may have even met in the principal’s office for it too. They may have talked about how I wasn’t reaching my potential and how I still had a chance to pass the class if I turned around my behavior.

I had no intention of doing that, though. I was throwing books out of basement windows. I wanted to fail. I wanted it so bad that the last quarter of the course earned me a 4.7 percent. This is a grade that you have to try for. There are more free points than that in the average middle school exam. I used a protractor to make designs on my quizzes. I read Jurrasic Park. There is something to be said for this kind of relentless wish to sabotage everything. Nothing good, really, but surely something to be said. It was a time that made sense only because I thought I knew just how little Middle School counted in life. I thought in was gaming the system in order to create a shortcut. I’m not sure what to, but the shortcut was at least going to be easier than doing everything that I was told.

So, I threw books out of a basement window. At the moment, I cant really think of anything more futile that that. The problem is that I may still be doing it.

This level of sabotage is really only reserved for those who know what they are doing, and I do. I am trowing the resources at my disposal out of the window just to see what the effect will be. I throw away tons of business cards that I get because I can’t be bothered to send a follow up email. I put off actual work because I convince myself that answering introspective questions is more important. I work on because I know that I will get too many things done, too quickly on my laptop. I sometimes ask questions in emails rather than going and investigating the problems myself.

I think that the key here is that I am tossing all of these things out of a basement window. There is no risk and It is just too easy. In push out my responsibilities into the wide world and then pull them back in only when they are unrecognizable and unusable. I do this so that I can claim victory over the things that other people have asked of me or the things that I have asked of myself.

In some situations I am still aiming for the 4.7 percent because I know that relying on my actual talents will make it seem as though I actually care. Which, of course, I do. In college I had to take Spanish. I made hundreds of flashcards and memorized all of the tenses of verbs. I owned a number of Spanish/English dictionaries and I consulted them from my fifth floor dorm room, never once considering dropping them out the window. I cared what grade I got and it showed. I was no longer interested in trying to be considered individualistic or eccentric. I was okay with achievement. I’m not there with my current work. I feel as though I am still in middle school with being productive all of the time. I know that I should be able to tell the difference, but I believe that there is just something about the glorious nosedive that is still very appealing to me. I take a bow and ask for forgiveness and then try to pick up the pieces of what was once a great opportunity.

I think I may need someone to notice that I am doing these things. After all, isn’t middle school all about getting attention. Maybe that is what this book is all about, too: the quest for attention so that I can fail at the other things I am doing. Perhaps it is the appearance of work, like reading Jurrasic Park, that allows me to pass on by without having to really worry too much what is expected of me.

Or, perhaps I am just trying to annoy the status quo into changing. It is equally likely that all of this attention getting is my way of saying that I crave the changes in my environment that will allow me to grow. Even more like my college Spanish classes, perhaps it is that the stakes need to be raised and the environment shifted just enough to make it worthwhile to try. Am I working toward 4.7% because no one has given me a reason to do otherwise?

In a word, yes.

In two words, yes but…

Yes, but there is no graduation standing in between my life now and my life a year from now. There are no major events that will allow me to make concrete changes. It is, and will ever be, my choice to either make flashcards and prepare for what is to come or sit in the back of the room and send out my resources into the elements.

Posted via email from The Throughput

0 Comments

  1. Kyle Addington

    Ben I have followed your blog for awhile now and I wanted to drop a line and mention how much I am liking your writing since the start of the year. The topics and ideas you are working through give me reason to pause and consider my own situations. So, while I might not comment often know that I am participating. Thanks for putting your thoughts out there.

  2. jacquelinecahill

    “It was so bad that I was put in the back of the classroom and told to read or draw, anything to not work on the last nerves of my teacher. ” Embarrassing, disappointing, and frankly disgusting…I HATE it when people call themselves educators and do this.

    “There is something to be said for this kind of relentless wish to sabotage everything. Nothing good, really, but surely something to be said. It was a time that made sense only because I thought I knew just how little Middle School counted in life.” I challenge this thought…nothing to be said…not too many people would commit this action if there wasn't something to be said. In my opinion, it is sad it had to go this far for an educator who had built a relationship with you at this point (aka and was respected in your middle school eyes) could converse with you as to why (you seem to have though middle school was pointless) and problem-solve from there depending on your interests, goals, abilities, etc. I think there is a lot be said if you feel your education is pointless regardless of the age of the student.

    “I put off actual work because I convince myself that answering introspective questions is more important.” I hear you!

    “I sometimes ask questions in emails rather than going and investigating the problems myself.” Isn't this considered effective teaching in some situations? I think so, and I know there is research to support it but it isn't at the tip of my tongue at midnight…so irrelevant.

    “Or, perhaps I am just trying to annoy the status quo into changing. It is equally likely that all of this attention getting is my way of saying that I crave the changes in my environment that will allow me to grow. Even more like my college Spanish classes, perhaps it is that the stakes need to be raised and the environment shifted just enough to make it worthwhile to try. Am I working toward 4.7% because no one has given me a reason to do otherwise” I am going out on an edge here…I might be overstepping my bounds or toeing the ledge but frankly I do that quite frequently…I consider you my colleague, mentor and most importantly friend…so here it goes…I see a reoccurring theme here…I know you do too…my questions are as follows (not necessarily for you to answer…know these could be personal…but to ponder): What is the exact theme in your eyes? Why is it occurring? What does a profession mean to you? What does your current profession mean to you? What are your goals professionally? How is your current profession getting you there? What does your whole picture look like, where are you in it now, and how can you improve it (aka your profession with your passion and your family and your family responsibilities etc). This is definitely a journey of growth for you at this point…its spring…happy growing!

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