Administrative Notes and an Editorial Comment, 8/23/21

As noted in the day’s previous entry from Athena, today’s post from her marks her last contribution to the site for a bit, as she starts up school again and focuses on classes. I am, of course, 100% in support of this plan, but it does mean a few changes around here, which I will detail now.

First and most obviously, Whatever is going to go back to being largely handled by me, all the time. Some of this is back end stuff, which you won’t necessarily notice — for example, I will again be posting the Big Idea pieces, which Athena had been handling during her tenure (I had invited her to continue posting them, just for fun, but she declined). It also means that aside from the Big Idea, everything here will be generated by me.

Which is a little sad for me! I’ve enjoyed the variety that Athena’s pieces added to the site — it made the site more “Whatever-y,” if you will. That said, it reminds me that the site ethos is to offer up a wide range of topics and thoughts on them, some serious and some not, and I think going forward I’m going to keep that ethos a little more present in mind as I write and present material. How will that manifest itself? We’ll see, and we’ll see probably after Labor Day, since I’m still on my “Take August Easy and Don’t Do Too Much” plan, which I think has been an excellent plan for me, by the way. I do have ideas, however.

As the site is going back to being mostly me, I’ll be dropping the side photo for now; it’s not needed to differentiate posts between authors, and you all already know what I look like, I suspect. If you have any confusion on the score, the byline is still at the top of each post.

Athena mentions in her piece that after a month or two back in school she’ll reassess how much (if any) time she wants to devote to Whatever. Again, I’m 100% in support of this. School takes precedence and Whatever, by design, is a side hustle (it’s my side hustle, after all, and has been for going on 23 years). Right now there is no concrete plan for her future contributions; they may happen, or not, depending on her time, circumstances and inclinations. No plan, but what Athena has is an open door to post when and if she feels like it, on whatever it is she is thinking about. If she wants to, she can and may! If not, she won’t and that’s fine, too. She’s not banished, she just has other things to do. To reflect this new status, Athena’s masthead designation has changed from “writer/editor” to “contributor.”

(I’ve also changed the picture of the two of us that shows up on the front page of the site, to suggest that Athena may still be present on the site from time to time, just, you know, looming. Don’t worry, I cleared its use with her.)

So those are the administrative notes for the site at the moment. With those taken care of, let me talk briefly as an editor and a father about having Athena be part of the site.

Clearly I knew Athena would be taking a break from the site to focus on going back to school, and inasmuch as we have weekly staff meetings to plot out what’s going up on the site, I knew she would be writing a “farewell” piece as her last regularly scheduled post. I didn’t know what the specific content of it would be prior to her submitting it, or that she would talk about her time at Miami University and her thoughts about it.

I have nothing to add about her time at Miami; that’s her story to tell and it’s not my place, nor do I have an interest, to drop in my two cents there. I will say that we supported her taking time off, first to recalibrate, and then, when COVID hit, because trying to focus on education in the middle of a pandemic for which there was no vaccine wasn’t going to go great for most people in general (this suspicion has, I should say, been borne out). I’ll also say that when it looked like Athena would have an extended hiatus to her formal education, I asked her to come work for me on Whatever.

Three reasons for this: One, because a year-plus of unstructured down time is not a great idea for anyone, and the other job options in the area available to her were mostly retail, which again in a pandemic had their own issues, exposure-wise. Two, having her work on Whatever would let me focus on my own writing a little more while the site was tended to, which was an actual benefit to me, and worth paying her for. Three, because Athena is a legitimately good writer, and here was a chance to give her the time and opportunity to work on her craft on a regular basis, with someone who actually had editorial and journalistic experience. The nature of Whatever is loose (write on whatever subject interests you), but writing regularly and competently takes discipline and skill.

Of those three reasons, number two was the least successful; even with Athena taking over administrative tasks on Whatever I had a bad focus year in 2020, and the only mitigating comment here is that just about everyone else in the world felt similarly. Otherwise, I think Athena’s year on staff at Whatever was a success. The growth of her unique and specific voice as a writer is measurable over that time, as is the confidence in which she approached the topics she addressed. I am biased, of course. But I am not that biased. Athena is a good writer and she got better in her year here.

It’s not the year she or frankly any of us were expecting, but it did not go idly by. And the result was her honing a life skill that will be useful to her out in the world. I’m proud of that, and, obviously, very proud of her.

Which is a thing I feel I should say publicly: I’m proud of my kid. Life is a complicated and messy thing, and rare is the person whose life goes exactly to plan (and to whose plan? Theirs? Or someone else’s?), if they even have a plan at all. Some things are in our control and some things aren’t. I finished college in four years, right after I finished high school. Krissy got her college degree at 35, after years of fitting in classes where she could. Athena will do her thing, and it will take the time it takes. I’m not too worried about that. In the meantime Athena is a good and decent person, one of my favorite people to talk to and snark with, someone whose presence in the world makes me happy every day. And also, a hell of a good writer, and getting better as she goes along.

Again: the last year was not the year she or any of us were expecting. But I wouldn’t trade this last year of working with her for anything. For me, it was a joy, and I will never not look back on it as one of the best of times. Given the time in which it happened and everything that surrounded it, that’s saying something. It was a privilege to be her editor, and is a privilege to continue to be her father.

— JS

Athena Scalzi

The Truth About My Time At Miami University And Why This Is My Last Post (For Now)

Hello, everyone, and welcome to what will be (spoiler) my last post for a while.

There have been several times I have wanted to talk about my time at Miami University on here, but I have such complicated feelings towards the whole thing that I always shy away from it. I don’t just avoid talking about it on here, though, I avoid conversating about it in person, too.

I dread when people inevitably ask me about it. I abhor any mention of my path to higher education. I detest any conversation about college. But as I said, it’s inevitable, right? I’m a college-aged kid, of course people are going to ask me if I’m in school. And if they know I’m in school, then of course they’re going to ask how it’s going. People ask because they’re curious, or because they care. No one ever asks with ill intent or malice, so why is it so upsetting when people bring it up to me? I can’t be mad at someone for mentioning a topic just because I happen to have a lot of negative emotions surrounding that topic, right? Right.

Long story short: I totally failed out of Miami.

Long story long: My freshman year at Miami, I started out with six classes. And for the first couple weeks, I went to every class, and did all the assignments. And then after those first few weeks, I thought to myself, what if I just didn’t? And so began my long, long period of never going to class and never doing any schoolwork. Semester after semester.

Why go to my 8am class when I could just sleep instead? Why go to my noon class when I could grab lunch with a friend instead? Why do an assignment on a Friday night when I could be having a movie night with my dorm pals instead? Why do any of it when I could just do something else, something infinitely more fun, instead?

Obviously, this mentality led to some problems. Put that on top of the mentality of “well if I just don’t look at my grades, they don’t exist”, and soon enough you’ll have an entire semester of straight Fs. It happens very quickly, and once it does, it is quite literally impossible to fix.

So, every semester, once I hit that point of no return, where I knew no amount of trying hard the remainder of the semester could fix what I’d done up to that point, I considered it a loss and told myself I’d try again next semester, but since this one was a total loss, I didn’t have to do anything for the rest of it since it would all be for nothing anyway.

After the first semester of straight Fs, Miami gave me an “academic warning”, which basically meant if my next semester was below a 2.0 GPA, I’d get put on “academic probation”. I also had to take an online course about why failing is bad, and how to avoid failing. It was honestly kind of humiliating.

Funny enough, I actually passed one class that semester with a B, but the rest were Fs, and Miami put me on “academic probation”, which is like “academic warning” but more serious. Basically, if I got less than a 2.0 the following semester, I’d get “academic suspension” and be kicked out for two semesters.

At this point, I had almost no credits to show for my freshman year. So I decided to take two summer classes. They were online, and I took one in June and one in July. I passed both, one with a 92% and one with a 102%. Things were looking up! So I started sophomore year off optimistic. I was in a new dorm that was directly in the center of campus, so all my classes were a one minute walk away, unlike my previous dorm which was on the outskirts of campus and gave me all the more reason not to go to class.

That semester, instead of an online course about not failing, I had to take an in-person class about not failing! That was just great. So nice to be surrounded by fellow failures. I don’t think it really did much for me because I ended up failing that semester too! And Miami was ready to kick me to the curb.

Obviously, not a great situation, so I had the genius idea to blame everything on my disability. Poor narcoleptic girl, falling asleep in every class, falling asleep every time she cracked open a textbook to do any studying, falling asleep every time she opened her laptop to write a paper. Truly tragic.

I have struggled with my narcolepsy for years, in many ways, but college made me realize how debilitating it truly is. I am still trying to figure out “did my disability actually disable me, or am I being overdramatic? Am I falsely blaming my disability when the true problem is me, and my disability is just an easy cover-up?” You know, I don’t really know. It’s a mix of a lot of things.

I genuinely did fall asleep in every class, which in turn made me not want to go because that shit is fucking embarrassing. But I also didn’t go because I didn’t feel like it. And I really couldn’t make it through a paragraph in a textbook without nodding off. But I also didn’t really open my textbooks very often to begin with. It was truly a co-morbidity.

So, yeah, I told Miami, “wait, don’t be mad at lil’ ol’ me, my brain is broken!” It took several doctors notes, and several forms, but I got Miami to erase my entire freshman year. All those Fs, just wiped away, and I was back on academic warning for the semester I had just goofed. However, I didn’t have to retake the courses about not failing, so that was cool.

Moving forward to spring semester of sophomore year, I was now registered with the disability services, so I could request accommodations from my professors. But what was there to request? There’s not really anything to be done about my problem. Like, yeah, if a professor happened to see me sleeping in class, they could wake me up or something, but what else is there to do? And how can I expect my professor to even notice me sleeping when there’s dozens of other kids in class?

In the end, nothing changed, and I failed again. This time around, there was much less “I would rather hang out with my friends than do homework!” and much more “I can’t bring myself to get out of bed until the sun has gone down, and I haven’t showered in three days”. So that was a lot of fun.

Once again, I got put on academic probation. I decided my best course of action was to take online courses over the summer again, since it went so well last time. I took three, all at the same time, and it did not go well. But I couldn’t risk failing them all, so I dropped all three of them. Total loss, yet again.

Finally, my junior year (though I wasn’t technically a junior in credits since I have like none)! I was still on academic warning, but I was determined that this year would be different. I was in therapy, I was in a nice dorm, I was feeling good! The first two or three weeks were great, and I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing. But then assignments got harder, and I had to do more reading, more work, and my god I just simply did not feel like it. So I didn’t! Needless to say, I got straight Fs yet again.

Time for academic suspension, wheeee! Academic suspension, by the way, is where they don’t let you come back for two semesters. If you were to come back after that and fail again, you would get academic dismissal, which means you come back never. (However, you are allowed to petition for readmission after two full years has passed.)

I went with the classic, “you can’t fire me! I quit!” And I dropped the fuck out. I’m not good enough for Miami, ey? Well, maybe they’re not good enough for me! Yeah, take that!

So, I did not return to Miami for Spring Semester 2020. Fuck school, I thought, I’ll get a job! So I became a hostess at Applebee’s. Wheeee. After three weeks, I called it quits because that fucking sucked. I decided to try out a local restaurant/bakery instead! Also sucked. So I quit.

And then COVID happened! Boy oh boy did I pick a good time NOT to go to school. All my friends, along with literally every other student in the world, had to pack up and head home not even two months into the semester. And they spent the rest of their semester online. So, I didn’t miss out on much.

But I figured I’d return in the fall of 2020, once this whole pandemic thing had ended. Obviously, the pandemic thing was very much not over by that point, so I held off on going back, and started writing for the blog instead, because I was literally doing nothing else with my time.

Fast forward a year, and now I’m going to my first day of college in over a year and half. That’s right y’all, I’m enrolled at the local community college, and I’m working towards getting my General Associates In Arts. Assuming I don’t fucking fail again, I should have a degree after two semesters. So by Spring 2022 I should have my little piece of paper.

Why am I getting a general degree instead of focusing on a field? Well, it’s basically because all the classes I did pass over the years don’t really lean in any direction, they’re all pretty scattered, so I can’t really get a degree towards anything in particular.

When I was in high school, I took College Credit Plus courses, which meant that classes I was taking in high school counted as college courses, and gave me credits through Urbana University. Through this program, I got credits for things like anatomy, math, and English.

Then, I went to Edison (the community college I’m going to now) for my senior year of high school so I could graduate a semester early. While I was there, I passed Intro to Psychology, American Sign Language, Human Sexuality, and Composition II.

Going into Miami, I had 36 credit hours from high school alone. At Miami, I passed Children’s Literature (but it got erased), Classical Mythology, Creative Writing, German, Writing For Media, the Academic Probation Class, Ballroom Dancing, and Introduction to Poetry. That gave me 20 credit hours from Miami.

This semester at Edison, I’ll be taking Cell Biology, Race & Ethnicity, Intro to Communications, and Intro to Humanities.

With all that technical info out of the way, let’s talk about my feelings, because that’s always a blast.

I feel kind of excited, I think. The usual “back to school” rush of adrenaline. Got a new backpack so you know I’ll be looking spiffy. But mostly I’m anxious. My fear of failure is as prominent as ever, and I don’t know what I’ll do if I do fail, so I just have to continue on under the assumption that I won’t. Because I’m out of options if I do.

I’m not necessarily looking forward to any of my classes, especially cell biology. I mean, it’s certainly no Ballroom Dancing, but I genuinely feel like I’ll make it through this time. I know I’m capable of passing, I have 56 credit hours to prove it! I just have to pass consistently, and that’s honestly hard for me.

I know that I have to give it my all this semester, and that is why I’ve decided to take a break from writing on here. I have to put all my focus towards my classes. At least in the beginning, anyways. Once I’ve taken a month or two to settle into things, I’ll decide if I feel like I have enough time and/or brain capacity to come back to Whatever. (Though, I’m sure I can manage a monthly snack box review post every now and again!)

With all that being said, it’s been a great year writing on Whatever, and I hope to write for you all again very soon. For now, though, I’m going to go to class.


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