We Don’t Need No Education
“I’m the only one here. I’m the only one here. I’m the only one here.”
As I sat with my head in the toilet, I repeated the only words that made sense to me. Echoing back in the bowl, they didn’t provide much solace. They continued to ring in my head as I wiped my mouth, flushed the toilet, and stumbled out of the bathroom into eighth-grade math. It was the first day of the worst year of my life.
Home was bad enough. My father suffered a brain injury when I was nine, rendering his short-term memory into that of a baby playing peek-a-boo and his already short temper into an inevitable time bomb. My mother has been and always will be a drug addict at heart; her time in prison and three near-fatal overdoses will remain etched in my memory forever. With all this, I needed a place to regularly escape to, but it was school that I loathed the most.
Being constantly picked on for being overweight, Jewish, and dumb, I fell into a clinical depression before Halloween of my eighth-grade year. Jew and fat jokes are one thing — typical bully fodder, unfortunately — but it was being maligned for my inability to display formal intelligence that really pushed me into the abyss. I got straight Cs while my blue-eyed, physically fit peers got As and Bs.
I hit rock bottom after dinner on a Monday. My dad and I had gone out to a deli that night, and as he helped me carry my schoolbag into my mom’s house after the meal, I asked him the question that I had no idea would ultimately catapult me to success and self-reconciliation. “Dad, am I smart?” He dropped my bag in the middle of the carport, embraced me, and openly wept. “Of course you are,” he said. “Of course you are.” I didn’t cry; I just stared at the fireflies flickering in the garden.
“Ethan, you’re one of the greatest students Roeper has ever had.”
I stopped dead. It was Reanne, the high school’s psychologist/guidance counselor. She was quickly retreating to her office, but I had to get a word in. “Don’t say that!” I yelled. “It’ll go to my head!” I continued down the hallway, grinning wider than usual.
The faculty at The Roeper School saw in me potential that no one else had. Somehow they knew there was an inquisitive, empathic individual hiding beneath the sarcastic parochial school kid in an extra-large Hawaiian shirt. Before long, he emerged. Within months of arriving there in 2011 as a freshman, I metamorphosed into someone my former self couldn’t have even dreamed of becoming. In the blink of an eye I had shed sixty pounds and made more friends than I had had in my entire life up to that point. I started performing better in virtually all subjects. I began to get involved in communities within Roeper and beyond. I laughed. I cried. I became human again.
Roeper isn’t perfect, and neither am I; we are both perpetual works in progress. Roeper is always looking to improve the actualization of its lofty goals of preparing the future generation for the unknown — the only unknown school-wide hide-and-go-seek prepares us for is who may be sneaking around the corner — and I will always struggle with managing my many anxieties and insecurities. But maybe that is what has made us such a perfect match: we wear our idiosyncrasies on our sleeves. I openly profess that I can be stubborn, jealous, or otherwise histrionic in the face of life’s many uphill battles, and Roeper accepts that like a parent who fosters the promising characteristics of their child while winnowing away the negative ones. Now I articulate my arguments without being condescending. I express my love without being overbearing. I face my challenges with joy.
Ethan Rosenberg, Class of 2015