40 Lessons in 40 Years: Entry 12

I don’t know how I know what I know.

As “the smart kid,” I was known to be found by my siblings, at random times between 1st and 4th grade, sitting in my bedroom, listening to Tchaikovsky, and reading the encyclopedia.

In the fifth grade, during some sort of class trivia contest, I kept getting answers to things right, to the point that it became almost comical to some of my classmates.

“How do you even know something like that?” one of my more extroverted friends exclaimed after I easily answered some obscure trivia question.

And that’s just it: I didn’t know how I knew. Chances are, I still don’t.

40 Lessons in 40 Years: Entry 11

Cool kids mess up, too.

One of my classmates was the super cool, down to earth nice guy, good at anything athletic and liked by everyone in the fourth grade.

During a thorough and detailed lecture by a substitute teacher filling in for Mr. Dunlap, the cool kid classmate whispered something loudly to someone sitting nearby.

“Please, young man, pay attention to the lecture,” the substitute said, drawing everyone’s attention to him.

Wow, I thought. The substitute teacher doesn’t know he’s the cool kid.

40 Lessons in 40 Years: Entry 10

Productivity tools are great for procrastination.

I’ve got a bunch of wicked smaht siblings, but I was always “the smart one” because I got good grades at school. At the time, personal computers were becoming more popular, and all the adults were saying things like, “you need to have him do something in computers.

Grandma took me to a computer resale store in Champaign to make sure she had my “expertise” (youth) in choosing a computer, one that I would be able to come over to her house to use for developing my computer hacking skills.

The Mac II C that we bought had a few games on it, like Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? and some dumb lemon stand game.

I got a good early start on my procrastination career by 1990 or so. I’m still trying to get caught up.

40 Lessons in 40 Years: Entry 9

Sex is sexy.

Dad had “the talk” with me by the time I was 8 or 9 years old. Actually, it’s hard to even call it “the talk” because it was more like a series of talks, all mostly centered on how shameful and sinful sex is, except in the rarest of instances in which both participants are at the very height of their spiritual and emotional health and well-being.

One day in the second grade, one of my classmates said something alluding to “how babies are made.” A girl a couple seats up from me looked back and whispered loudly, “It’s SEX!” She and a few other students giggled.

40 Lessons in 40 Years: Entry 8

Never pass up an opportunity to use the restroom.

Mrs. Goins was one of the tough 1st grade teachers. How is that even a thing?

One day, we were taking a math quiz (in the first grade… how is that even a thing?? Okay, I’ll stop…), and I had to pee. I raised my hand to ask to go to the restroom.

“As soon as you finish your quiz,” she said.

A few minutes later, a small puddle had formed under my chair.

40 Lessons in 40 Years: Entry 7

Sometimes, your ride will be late.

The work situation my mom had when I was in kindergarten apparently made my rides to and from school somewhat tricky. The kindergarteners went to school for half a day, while 1st graders (my older sister) and above (my older brother) were in school for a full day. I believe I was in the afternoon class, as I recall being dropped off at the school early one day and the kids in the class were all the wrong kids. The teacher told my babysitter that I couldn’t come early, that I would have to wait. (Coincidentally, her name was Mrs. Earley.)

One day, the person who was supposed to pick me up didn’t show up when school was over. All I remember is that an older kid (someone I didn’t really know, but probably a 2nd or 3rd grader) offered to wait with me. My teacher said okay, and I waited outside with that kid. I guess I was eventually picked up… Otherwise, I’m not sure how I got here today.

40 Lessons in 40 Years: Entry 5

Education is a right and a responsibility.

Before I started kindergarten, my older sister Rose tried helping me learn to read. The thing I remember most about the experience was the feeling of being overwhelmed. How can I get from being someone who doesn’t know how to read to being someone who does? I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I didn’t know how to stop not knowing.

Confusing, right?

40 Lessons in 40 Years: Entry 4

Marriage isn’t forever.

They say that business about “til death do us part” a lot, but it’s not really true. Mom and Dad went their separate ways when I was too young to even understand what was happening.

Dad cried when he told me “good-bye” before moving to California, and I cried, too. Not because I knew what was going on, but because I felt like it was what I was supposed to do.