I’ve always been a bad kid. And when I say bad, I don’t mean like Macaualay Culkin in The Good Son, Damien in The Omen, or the little girl in Orphan. I mean bad as in disruptive, innocuously mischievous, foul-mouthed, and (since I learned how babies were really created) dirty-minded. It wasn’t far-fetched for a teacher to hear a crayon hit the wall or a burp when she was writing on the chalk board. It wasn’t uncommon for her to turn around and see me scrambling off the top of my desk. Losing a dare wasn’t an option. It also wasn’t surprising to hear me snickering at “spine” because I confused it with “sperm.” But when I did hear “sperm,” the laughter was uncontainable.
In elementary school, I was the kid that just missed straight A’s by getting a B in listening. In retrospect, I think it was a plot by the man to keep me off the high honor roll at P.S. 20. We won’t talk about that U I used to get for conduct and how I set the record for the smartest kid to ever get sent to the principal’s office no less than 30 times between kindergarten and 6th grade. Somehow I still managed to get out of there with the highest grades in the school. Shout out to the parental units.
The misbehavior continued into middle school, but not without evolving. One time during
band camp computer lab, we were asked to write a short story on any topic. I chose to write about an evil ruler named Lord Kumquat that resided on the planet “Splurge of Hi-C.” It was a well-written piece that came out just how I wanted on that paper where you had to fold and tear the edges off each side. I remember hanging it up in the hallway along with the rest of my classmates’ works, seeing people crowd around mine and laugh, then getting summoned to Sister Kate’s, the moo-moo principal’s, office during my next class for interrogation on my advanced usage of double-entendres. I’d visit her office several times over the course of those 2 years and receive a myriad of punishments including in-school suspension for teaming up with Anthony, a partner in crime, to throw snowballs at a rival school bus.
**Sidenote: I think that many of the unfortunate occurrences that have happened to me over the years can be traced back to this suspension. During this punishment, I had to come in and clean the church that was adjacent to the school. Anthony and I went into the area where the priest kept the wine and communion bread and had a little feast. I’m pretty sure God has been punishing me sporadically for years for going into his cookie jar and liquor cabinet.**
Add on to the suspension the unpleanstries of the loss of my scholarship to Bishop Maginn High School — which turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me — and my expulsion from middle school right before 8th grade graduation. The last memory I have of my time at St. James is Sister Kate telling me that I’d never amount to anything. I hope Jesus makes her wait.
I expected high school to be the time where I really matured…but I was still bad — signifcantly less bad but still bad nonetheless. Good grades would continue in parallel with advanced levels of foolery. By the time I was a senior at my catholic all-boy military high school, I ranked 4th in my class and oversaw half the students as part of the JROTC program. Yes, you read right. I said a catholic military high school. But yo, can you imagine a mischievous black kid leading 150 white kids at a parade? I was Lt. Colonel Barack up in that b*tch. And without my experience there, I don’t think I’d have gone to Cornell. If I ended up at Maginn, I’m pretty sure I’d have went somewhere less savory.
During pre-freshman orientation up in Ithaca, the instructor told us to take a quick break. I stood up and started doing jumping jacks. That was probably the 2nd or 3rd to last time I’d blatantly “act up” in class. I started to prefer sleep instead.
Over the course of those 4 years, I’d continue to make inappropriate comments (outside class), use AOL Instant messenger as a viral sounding board, chase chicks, join questionable but hilarious Facebook groups, and submit group projects with team names like “Team Blastoff.” Just before college graduation, I asked one of my boys “Do you ever think we’ll ever actually be mature?” His response was simple:
“I don’t know man. I think this is just who we are.”
That was 2005 and this is 2011. People still call me silly and I can still be caught doing foolish things like walking sideways, making innuendos, and getting into confrontations with mannequins. My friend said this is who we are, so I guess this is just who I am. The biggest difference is I’ve learned when to turn it on and off, up and down. I guess that’s the maturity part that I’ve been wondering about all these years. I’ll never shed who I am, but some layers just aren’t meant for everybody.
In closing, I’ll say this. Maturity doesn’t have to mean the end of fun and the beginning of seriousness about everything in life. You don’t have to lose the most enjoyable aspects of your existence to present the image of being an adult that has his or her sh*t together. You just need to be aware. And to me, that’s like 90% of the battle.
But honestly though, maturity is overrated.