I’m going to school for creative writing. Poetry, actually. Why? Don’t ask me that. Growing up I was always in a reading program. Why? Well, my parents are Hispanic and I guess the school just assumed that they only spoke Spanish, therefore making me illiterate. That’s my only guess. Could be other reasons, but who really knows. After constantly being taken out of class to be timed on how fast I can read the dumbest short story, anything that involved reading or writing kind of freaked me the-fuck-out.
Fast forward to high school; I’m obligated to take something called a “placement test” to see what level of classes would fit best for me! Oh yes, nobody loves a good standardized test more than I do. Especially one that's timed and that includes stories and questions that make no fucking sense. Well, in my eyes they didn’t. After I was done taking that test, I really did think it was easy and thought I did well. I later found out I would best fit in college prep classes. Now, in my little mind that meant, “Wow Cianna, college prep classes... classes to prepare you for college... sounds hard... but you did that, sis.” Oh lord, how I was wrong.
Not to sound like I’m some genius because I am the furthest thing from one, but my freshman year of high school was probably the easiest thing I was ever involved in. Despite theology because I mean… I don’t have to go into detail; it should be common sense. For some that don’t know, college prep are the easiest classes you can be in—in the Catholic school system's eyes. Now I’m going to mention this one girl I went to school with that had some mental impairments. Don’t get me wrong; she was the sweetest person ever, and so many people took advantage of that just to make fun of her, but she never realized what they were doing due to her disabilities. Her family was Jesus-obsessed, and I guess they didn’t believe in taking her to a doctor. Whatever. What I’m trying to say is that we were in the same classes. All of them. Which really confused me because I had this idea in my mind that I didn’t “need” help in my academics because I don’t have disabilities… You see where I’m coming from? I’m not saying this girl was stupid, and I just didn't think I belonged in classes with her. I was confused because they made me feel like I had some type of learning disability and needed help (like she did), but I was perfectly capable of understanding things on my own.
What I am trying to convey is that clearly reading and writing was something I was considered not to be good at. I mean since I was a young seed, the school system gave me a clear message that I’m illiterate. But it doesn't end there. Everyone’s favorite time of the year came... ACT time. I vividly remember not really knowing what the fuck an “ACT” was and when the practice ones came along… I truly gave no fuck and was filling in whatever bubbles, trying to hurry up so I could take a nap and then go to lunch. Clearly, you can see where my priorities lay. We got the results back about two weeks later and I got a 13… yes, a 13, but I didn’t really care because I still didn’t know what the fuck it was. I remember turning to my super smart friend Jen and asking her what she got: somewhere around 30, I don’t remember exactly, but it was high and definitely in that range. Now let me remind you the highest you can get is 36; you get a 10 just from putting your name on it... and I got a thirteen. Dear lord, I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking, but it probably wasn’t the best of thoughts.
Moving on to when I actually had to take the test, I did not take any classes before to prep for it because I’m lazy, and my priorities lie other places. The night before, my brother was going to a Fall Out Boy concert, and I was supposed to go with. (Don’t judge us... We grew up listening to them, and they are amazing... and Pete Wentz is beautiful, god bless his heart.) But I ended up not going because I thought to study for the ACT the night before was gonna for sure get me a 25. Let me tell you, I opened up the ACT prep book, looked at it, and gave up instantly on studying. So I really did miss out on a concert to see my favorite band from when I was a child to study for something that I didn’t even study for. If that doesn’t say a lot about me then I really don’t know what will.
Now the day of the ACT, I don’t remember exactly what I was feeling or thinking, but I’m pretty sure I was just like, “Whatever; this is like any other test.” Oh lord, how I was wrong again! I do remember looking at the clock when I was doing the reading portion, and I sort of fell asleep because, my god, the readings are so uninteresting; it was like fate that I would fall asleep... like they did this on purpose. I mean, why else? In my mind, the school system was clearly out to get me. But, in retrospect, I woke up and noticed that thirty minutes had passed, and I was still on the third reading out of about six. I’m that type of person to just say “fuck it” when I’m truly done and over with things, and that’s exactly what I did. It was the second to last part of the test, and I really just did not care anymore. I mean, none of it made sense in the first place, so why care anymore?
Don’t get me wrong… the whole test made no sense to me. Don’t even get me started on the math and science portions; I one hundred percent believe they only put those in there to see me fail. But who knows; in reality, I’m just not the most book-smart person. Fast forward to a couple months later, and the results finally came in. I looked and GASPED. Why? you may ask. Well, ever take a test that was so hard it was easy? Or is that just me? My score was a 17... Now, to the people who still have no idea how ACT’s work, an 18 is considered very low but is an average because not everyone is fucking Einstein. With an 18 you can barely get into college, and I got a 17. My anxiety-ridden mind's first thought was, “let’s pretend this never happened and let's not tell anyone."
I didn't tell my parents until I was forced to, I hid it for months like I was some witch back in the Salem witch trial era, convinced that, if I told anyone, I was OVER, and they were going to lynch me for my crimes. My parents obviously made a big deal because... Do I even have to explain? My mom hired this tutor from the south side, and we met at a library. This man made me take a practice ACT with the idea I was magically just going to gain standardized testing knowledge and know what I’m doing. Now the practice ACT is not as long as the real test; it’s about 60 questions. I vividly remember when I was done taking the test, my tutor and I went over it together and I got primarily everything wrong besides four or five questions. You ever look at someone, and you can feel them judging you... like really judging you? I never felt that much judgment in someone's eyes before in my life, and, like any normal human being, that turned me off to this person very quickly.
After that great time, we met up with my mom, and, I kid you not, this man told my mother, “Your daughter should not take the ACT again (I was taking it again in about a week), because she will fail and never get into a school." He, later on, went to tell her how I got only four questions right. Now just imagine someone telling your mom that with you right next to her. I don’t remember exactly what I was feeling, but I know I was feeling fucking stupid, useless, going nowhere with my life, a failure—shall I go on? I took the test a week later and got a 16.
Convinced that I was going nowhere in life due to these numbers, I sort of gave up. I mean, who wouldn’t? Ever since I was little, I felt like a failure due to academics, and now that I’m older I still have to go through this and feel like this? It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I learned to love reading and writing due to my English teacher who made me feel like I was am Einstein. She gave me hope, something my parents and teachers never gave me. She made me excited to learn about Macbeth and The Canterbury Tales. She even lent me her book, Dante's Inferno, because it somewhat interested me. She pressured me in the best way possible to submit my rated R/XXX poetry to my catholic school's writing club.
I know I don’t have the best education in grammar and spelling or really anything. I know I’m not the best writer/poet to exist. Sometimes when I still read out loud I do sound illiterate, and my words don’t flow smoothly, and at times I can’t make sense of the things in my head, and when I speak it sounds like I never had an education, and I do say “like” a lot, which makes me sound like a stupid valley girl at times. I really don’t know what I was trying to say with all of this—kind of ended up longer than expected.
But what I do know is that writing makes me feel whole, and there aren't many things in my life that make feel that, despite how I got there... Keep the things that make you whole close always, and don’t let anyone tell you any different.