by Giselle Renarde's Christmas Elf
Even sitting on her mother's couch on Christmas night, Giselle can visualize the bookshelf in her living room. It hasn't changed in years. It's stocked with a good deal of fiction, but far too many university-era reads. Why? Because she revisits them every so often? Nah. She didn't read most of those books in the first place. How she earned herself a degree, she'll never know.
Giselle wasn't always a bad student. In fact, throughout elementary school she was an overachiever. High school? Even better. She left her final year with a 96.8% average... or a 98.6% average. She can't quite remember. Her days since then have represented a slow process of stupification.
Or maybe "slow" is the wrong word. A student's first year at university can be a difficult transition. Giselle went from big fish in a small, coddling high school to an absolute nobody at a prestigious research university.
Major depression hit. She cried every day. She cried all the time. She cried on the subway, in the library, in the bathroom. Nobody ever asked what was wrong. Nobody. Not once.
She sought therapy through the school's mental health initiative. She cried there, too. It didn't really help.
And so four years went by. Giselle attended classes during the day and worked at night to pay tuition, rent, food... books. When she arrived home at her tiny bachelor apartment, usually after midnight, she read her texts and wrote her papers as her little tabby curled up beside her.
She tried hard, but not hard enough to earn the A's she saw in high school. In fact, a B was cause for celebration. Mostly, she struggled to be okay with those dreaded C's. She didn't have time to beat herself up too much.
Last week, Giselle found a quirky Canadian TV show on Netflix. Her sisters had told her "Being Erica," about a girl in her thirties who undergoes an unusual form a time-travel therapy, would appeal to her. And it did. There was an episode where the main character, Erica, expresses concern that she's one of those people who peaked in high school.
Giselle feels that pain.