I lived in a hazy, half-sleeping state for most of the week, my sleep cycle disrupted by midnight shifts on the weekends, occasional all-night essay writing binges, nights up talking to friends, days waking up early for classes.  Some days I didn’t sleep, others I collapsed for twelve hours.  Time had no meaning, there were only classes or appointments each day that were checkmarks on a schedule.  I was acing most of my classes, from sheer intellectual ability.  I certainly wasn’t trying hard.  That was the joke.

            I lost all respect for the educational system in my philosophy class.  The professor handed back our mid-term exams, essays on various subjects that had been written in class a week or two before.  I barely remembered it.  I turned over the exam to see my mark.  Staring back at me, it read “100 percent.  Please see me after class.”  I wondered what he wanted.  Did he think I cheated?  Was it possible to cheat on a philosophy exam?

            I sat in my desk, my thoughts clicking around in my head like a field of crickets, relentlessly chirping.  To block them out, I kept tapping my pen against my knee, concentrating on the beat and sensation.  I tried to get a grip on my anxiety.  What did he want?  I couldn’t guess, and that uncertainty let my thoughts spin.

            The professor wandered over once everyone else had left.  I had stayed in my seat, waiting for the crowd to clear.  This class was one I actually liked, somewhat.  The students were idiots, but the professor knew his material and had a subtle sense of humour.  Every day he would poke his head into class, seeming absent-minded, and ask if this was Philosophical Classics?  We would agree, and he would wander over to the podium, make odd chitchat for a few minutes about his life, some strange observations, ask if anyone had seen any good movies.  Some students wondered if he was senile.  Then he would wade into the lecture, precise, detailed, picking up where we left off last week, and only I knew that he was playing a joke.  He enjoyed being eccentric, and wanted to see how much we bought into it.

            Now, he walked towards me, lanky, plodding, his face that of a friendly grandfather.  He sat down in the desk next to me.

            “Thanks for staying.”

            “No problem, sir.”  I said, always respectful.

            “I wanted to talk to you about your grade.”  He began, and I wondered if this would be the first time I am ever accused of cheating.  I really had no idea why he wanted to talk to me.  “It’s incredible.  In thirty years of teaching, I have never given anyone that grade.  So, I guess what I’m saying is… keep up the good work.”

            He genuinely wants me to excel.  He sees potential.  I thank him quietly and go on about my day.  It feels strange.  On the one hand, I think I should feel honoured, to be the highlight of someone’s teaching career, to impress a brilliant man.  But all I feel is the death of my interest in education.  If no one else has ever earned the same level of achievement, then it says less about him as a teacher and more about me as a student.  Many teachers in high school had told me that I was a shining moment in their career, a rare prodigy.  Now, I felt more alone than ever.  I had not struggled for any of it.  It was easy.  I began to believe one of two things must be true:  either I was made for more than this, or the world was empty and offered me no hope.

            I began to wonder what it felt like to lose your soul.

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