At the moment I am reading the memoirs of Biz Stone the guy who co-founded Twitter. It's a bright and interesting read. The thing that stands out about his is his attitude to life. He likes thinking outside the box and making up his own rules. When he was in high school, he realised after two weeks that with his after school Lacrosse practice, plus his part time job, couple with a minor learning disability that if he was to do his nightly homework with any level of diligence that he would only be getting three of four hours sleep. So he made a decision and the next day went in an announced to his teachers a no-homework policy. He explained why and they eventually accepted his reasoning and promises of trying extra hard within class to keep up. Reading this reminded me of my own special deals made during high school.
It was junior year. St. Mary's International School in Tokyo. Day one of physics class, first class of the morning. The teacher was Mr Tong. I was sitting up the back. He was rambling on up front. Within minutes, I zoned out. After a while, I thought: a year of this?? I leafed through the pages of the text book. It looked complex and dry and held no interest for me whatsoever. Tong was a nice enough guy, but he was hard to understand and it was evident that he wasn't going to be bringing this text to life. I made a decision. There was no way I could endure a year of this. And first class of the morning, too. No way.
I hatched a plan. I wrote a letter to the principal explaining that I would be much better off doing extra Japanese language and kanji study in the library during this period and that I would devise a format with the Japanese teacher. I can't recall my reasoning for not needing physics but strongly expressed that more Japanese would be much more beneficial and rewarding for me. He read it, with some skepticism (I was a known scallywag), but eventually agreed that if I made a curriculum of study and got it signed off and checked weekly by the Japanese teacher that I could proceed. I took it to her and presented it with zest and optimism. She signed it and Brother Charles gave me the OK. So, part one was accomplished.
I think I did the first week and got a form signed. Maybe even two. It soon became apparent, though, that I could let it slide. I stopped doing any work and took to just reading magazines in the library. It seemed that both the J teach and Bro had forgotten about it. Eventually, I realised that I could actually come in school a little later, since it was first period. So I started coming in ten, twenty minutes later and going straight to the library. Then I began the ritual of having a cigarette in the toilet by the window. Then my Aussie mate, Gordon, once he found out, would regularly ask for a toilet break from Mr Tong and come in a join me for a few puffs.
It was a successful transition from being stuck in a boring, useless class to having a full period every morning all to myself to relax. It was a triumph.
It nearly all fell to pieces, though, when I asked Gordon if I could borrow the keys to his motorcycle one morning. I had my Japanese bike license by then but was yet to afford a bike of my own. Gordie had helped me learn and was a generous spirit and chucked me the keys. "Get some practice", he said, "just try and be back in time for our smoko time." I was elated. I snuck out of school and into the bike parking area, put on the helmet and started it up. I didn't go too far afield. I did this a few times with great joy, a sense of freedom and success. Much better than being stuck in some dumb class. I had cracked the paradigm. Broken free. In an effort to share my elation with fellow students I drove along a side alley, past the window of the class I knew Gordon was in, three or fours stories up. I tooted the horn. He recognised it and rushed to the window. I went round the block and did it again. He waved. The next round, I beeped more and there were few students. The next one, there was half the class, all waving and cheering. Then, kids from other classes were also rushing to the windows, going ballistic. It was a celebration! One of us was free, had escaped. I was a symbol of liberty and freedom.
Obviously, I hadn't quite thought it through, because when I went past the front of the school on the next round, I was waved down by a very angry teacher. I made up a story about how I was late for school and just beeped once. I apologised for the disruption and promised to head immediately to class (or not-class in my case). I went to the library and sweated it out, hoping the principal would not hear of it and take away my privileges. Luckily, he didn't. All was cool. I kept my first period freedom for the entire year. Initiative was rewarded. Rules are there to be bent and broken. Make your own freedom. Lesson learnt!