I attend a small private school in La Jolla, CA. My two older brothers graduated from this same small school and during my oldest brother’s second semester of senior year, my mother received an email from the school. The email informed her that he had exceeded the number of missed days and should his teachers find it necessary he could, possibly, not graduate. My other brother received this same notice his junior year. By the time I became a senior I knew exactly how many days – 12– I could miss before getting the notice. After Christmas break (I forgot I am supposed to say ‘Winter Break’), the second-semester-senior mentality kicks in and most students skip a few classes here and there just because, you know, they’re, “Just not feeling it.” I, on the other hand, planned out my days with a precision I have not recently applied to my school work.
Missed Day 1- Maui
Taking full advantage of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, I head to the airport at o’dark thirty on Friday morning. A friend picks me up at the Kahului airport and we head straight to the west side of the island. I put my bikini on while we drive so I won’t miss a minute of ocean time. We pull into a parking spot and make our way across a jagged expanse of a’a lava – the extra sharp kind that shreds my Haole bare feet. I try to walk lightly, but the serrated rock slices through my skin. With a small grimace I trudge on and find myself on a beautiful point surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. My friend walks to the very edge then vanishes. I follow her path until I see her bobbing in the crystal clear ocean 40+ feet below me. My knees wobble, I take a deep breath, I count to three, I jump, my stomach drops, I scream. I hit the warm water and pop up with a smile on my face and my heart pounding. I climb up the algae covered rock and do it again. Every time my knees wobble, my heart beats fast, and I climb right back up the rock. Better than school? Uh yeah.
Missed Day 2- Maui
The swell comes from the Northwest, and the boat lunges over waves and bounces up and down, over and over again. I sit on the bow holding onto the railing I catch air every time the boat hits a roller. Schools of flying fish skip across the water next to me, and as one island gets smaller another gets larger. A whale breaches about 100 yards away, off the port side, and we quickly swing the boat in the direction of the splash. We full throttle about seventy-five percent of the way there, then cut the engine and drift. Two backs come gracefully to the surface of the water, only a few feet away. A mom and her baby swim alongside the boat then dive deep showing their tails. They disappear and we continue on to a secret snorkeling spot on Molokai. The world is my classroom – too cliché?
Missed Day 3- Big Sur
My father, my mother and myself motor through Los Angeles and then Santa Barbara, we need to outrun the storm. We make it to San Simeon and the elephant seal rookery before the forecasted deluge. As always we marvel at their size and their loudness and their stench. It begins to rain and we run to the car. Our planned hike seems unlikely as the rain and wind smack the car. We move through the forest of tall pines avoiding falling rocks and streams of mud. The weight of the car and my father’s driving stand between us and the angry ocean 300 feet below. My dad, a Hallmark type of guy, cannot stop looking at the water. He poetically comments on the beauty of the California coastline as my mom in a panicked voice says, “Brian look at the road, don’t look at the ocean. We can stop; Wanna look at the view?” We reach the Fernwood Resort shaken and wet and somehow bloody (my mom has cut her hand). My mom and I sit in the lodge – she reads a book and I write a blog for English class. (see Bubbles always Pop) Why would we make this trip, knowing the atmospheric river had decided to become an actual river? Because we are getting a puppy of course!
Plan to Miss Days 4 thru 7- Paris
I participate, often unwillingly, in the National Charity League (NCL). The six-year experience culminates with a ‘presentation’ of the seniors. The girls must wear pre-approved white wedding dresses and parade in front of a thousand or so people while a cheesy voiceover recounts their special moments in NCL. I said ‘no thank you’ so my mom said for the same price we can go to Paris. I went to Paris once, 11 years ago. I remember climbing the Eifel Tower with my family, my dad, nervous of heights, had to stop to have a beer halfway up. My eldest brother, not at all anxious, had a ham and butter sandwich and to this day he still talks about the excellence of that particular meal. I plan on practicing my French and going to see the art I studied in my AP Art History class. I will eat at bistros and walk the Luxemburg Gardens with a baguette under my arm. I will go to a jazz club and the tiny Italian restaurant my parents went to before I was born. I will not wear my first wedding dress until the day I get married. Now my second wedding dress, that’s a different story.
Plan to Miss Day 8- Coachella
As a senior at my school, Coachella represents a rite of passage. To be honest I don’t really like concerts, I had a traumatic experience at an Ice Cube concert at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and swore I would never go to a big concert venue. Fast forward to December when my dad and I had two computers logged onto the Coachella ticket site. His computer got to the purchase point first, and caught up in the moment he bought not one, but two tickets. By the time my computer got to the end of the queue the tickets had sold out – no matter I was going to Coachella! Or at least I had a ticket, I still had to convince my mom that going would be an amazing idea. After much planning, and wheedling, and promising, my mom said I could go – SICK! The lineup came out. My friends messaged me with sentiments of absolute stoke. I, on the other hand, recognized only a few names –‘Meh’ pretty much summed up my feelings about the music portion of the weekend. A weekend with friends, an excuse to dress outlandishly, who needs music?
Plan to Miss Day 9- Surfing State Championships
Who wouldn’t want to skip a Monday and surf in the Scholastic Surfing Association State Championships, even if it is the Monday after your first Coachella experience? I have competed in this contest for the last two years; I know how it goes. I will wake up in the dark, the sand will feel like snow, I will paddle out into a mushy blown out mess with five other very competitive girls. I will catch a wave or two. This year I hope to make it out of my first heat, but really hoping and doing are two entirely different things. I will get a burrito for lunch on the way home and I will consider it a day well spent no matter the outcome.
Plan to Miss Day 10- Senior Skip Day
Ahh, just another school tradition, the senior class skips a random school day and goes to the beach. Not everyone makes it because they haven’t planned as carefully as I, and they have already used up their twelve days. Well I just found out that this ‘skip day’ isn’t actually random, it always happens after AP exams (see below) so the joke’s on me.
Begrudgingly Plan to Miss Days 11-14 AP tests
Yup, my school considers taking AP Exams, at school, in my uniform, as an absence. So I could stay at home and binge watch Handmaid’s Tale or go take a 3-hour exam. Kinda ridiculous if you ask me. I show up for these tests. I show up and I bring a number two pencil and sometimes a calculator but I never study beforehand. I sit in the gym, or the church across the street, or the cafeteria and I do my best but I always leave thinking I have failed. In July when I have completely forgotten the whole experience I get an email telling me I actually did quite well.
It seems I have exceeded my allotment of days. Maybe I can use all the worldly experience I have gained to convince the graduation committee that I truly am qualified to receive a diploma.