I remember very few things from high school.  High school wasn't an especially great time for me, and I've tried to retain only the best stuff.  You know, stories about the crazy English teacher who had a cleft palate and who danced around the room singing a poem about necrophilia. And the creepy chemistry teacher who once got mugged in New York or some other big city (this was Charlotte, y'all) and he offered the guys his wallet, his watch, and everything else if they would just let him keep his UNC class ring (can't blame him!! Go Heels!!).  And the Spanish teacher who made us do all kinds of skits and plays.   And the history teacher who played the Stones and the Spoonfuls and other glories of the 60s during our tests....we never did figure out his political affiliation - we all just suspected that it is not exactly mainstream.  I was in IB, which meant that I had approx. 18 classmates for most of high school, and I'm sure every single one of them could figure out the folks I've named.

There are some lesser-known or lesser-remembered things, though.  Like, for example, my high school boyfriend, who kissed like a fish.  And the creepy guy who was a friend-of-a-friend who hovered behind me making threatening sexual comments while I was walking down the hall (he was expelled shortly thereafter, because he was smart enough to do this to a couple of girls, and within earshot of a male teacher).   And the girl who died in a car wreck at the end of senior year, resulting in the implosion of the first real network of friends that I'd been able to develop in my four years there.  Having a meltdown in the middle of Calc II at the whisper of "Sarah Lawrence" when no one else in the room even knew her was not my shining moment.  Oh, or the time freshman year when I turned in my 6-page SINGLE spaced paper.  In my defense, nowhere in the directions did it say 'double spaced' and I had not been in the public school system long enough to assume double spacing in a writing assignment.

One of my fondest memories from high school was our 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Hagler.  She called us all her cherubs and she was the sweetest thing.   That 6-page paper?  Yup, first major writing assignment for her.  One of the things she taught us was that there are 2 kinds of students - those who know what to do with a door, and those who don't.  What I mean is this:  she was giving us an open-ended assignment.  And then she explained that some of us could take it and run.  She could say to these students, "there's a door," and they would know exactly what to do.  There were others of us, though, who would hear the words "there's a door," and would be stumped.  We would need instruction.  

I am firmly implanted in the camp of the latter, in case you were wondering.

One of the other things Mrs. Hagler gave me was the Desiderata.  I'd never seen or heard of it before, but she had it on a giant poster in her classroom and I read it all the time.  At one point, I had it memorized, just because I'd read it so much.  I was reminded of the Desiderata not long ago, so I thought I would share it with all of you.  

Merry Christmas.


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

--- Max Ehrmann, 1927-

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