Lake Shore Drive: Elementary school


“Lake Shore Drive: Lower School” is the first in a series on the myth of the majority.

A quick math on the back of the envelope implies that I have crossed Lake Shore Drive at least 6,000 times in this lifetime, possibly more, all in the name of K-12 education. Encoded in the ridges and potholes of Chicago’s asphalt, it’s a certain percentage of my life. And certainly, there are stories from before I entered kindergarten, because I often went to school with my parents to pick up my older sister. Then the first day of school arrived: September 8, 2006. Step into a world of possibilities at Francis W. Parker School, where we do “everything to help” and “nothing to hinder”. After a literal step into Mrs. Judd’s classroom, I found two strangers named Thomas and Etienne near the southeast window. There I sat quietly for hours playing Barrel of Monkeys with them, far too scared to approach anyone else.

This first image signifies the start of my growth process, and now I find myself as a student dangerously close to considering where I am going to take my life next. Adolescence is prolonged in modern civilization, and in some cultures it is very possible that I live alone with a wife and children. But instead, I curbed my biological imperative to study computer science and develop a network of lifelong contacts and experiences. Later this year, I will complete my 20th year of life, and that amazes me. Of course, the arrow of time is moving forward, but am I growing? What does it mean? Is “growing up” just an innuendo to become mature and hardened by the world? Hardened to go stoically through the “hardships” of First World life, spreading the human species and bringing talents to society before rocking and kicking the bucket?

Every now and then, I study this photo of my sister and I smiling on the front steps of the house before getting ready to board the huge titanium gray Volvo XC60 down Lake Shore Drive on the first day of school. September 8, 2006. In this memory, with my sky blue plaid shirt, dark cargo pants, and a small “Transformers” backpack that was probably empty if not filled with Hot Wheels cars, it looked like the soles of my shoes could go. barely grip the concrete and as if I were seconds away from levitating the ground. And that’s what haunts me – the lightness of childhood and the rawness that has faded over the years. It doesn’t matter if a person initially wants to be a pilot, an astronaut, or a NASCAR actor – apparently – because those aspirations are replaced by a pragmatic, pressured perspective that is dictated by schoolwork whose immediate significance is distant and whose work is useful for anyone. However, just because this model is so prevalent does not mean that we have to accept it if there is a legitimate reason to take another route.

Now in my first year as a student, it has become more evident that I am leaving behind who I was, and I’m not sure who I am. Not that I could recognize my past either: a normal kid who kept dreaming of watching “SpongeBob”, playing on the Wii, and discovering new Christmas music on 93.3 FM every holiday season. Now I’m a cranky guy who just dreams, on occasion, of the forests of the Pacific Northwest, the Riemann Hypothesis, and that girl I never asked for at prom.

It pains me to wonder if there was ever something that could have been done to keep this boy from being ruined by the world. But at least there was that time to savor before I was socialized to suppress my dreams and act and speak according to who I’m meant to be rather than the person I want to be. Every little dip of Lake Shore Drive provides a glimpse into how I fell apart, a role play of how an arrogant child lost all of their perceptions of humanity and the universe that was shattered over the course of of a long series of calculations. Some people call it growing up. Where did it all go? My analytical mind considers the laws of conservation. My childhood must be somewhere, right? There must be the very atoms responsible for my childhood. Where are they?

Eventually, I grew old enough to recognize the irony that Chicagoans sometimes shorten Lake Shore Drive by the acronym it shares with acid, a hallucinogenic drug, because it’s a trip you have to. be sober. You have a straight line with a long inward curve that we better buy an all-wheel drive car, followed by another straight line that leads through the streets to Circle Drive just past the entrance to the school. Of course, theory is always easier than practice. No one taught me how to navigate slippery black ice or repaint the car after being bombarded with municipal rock salt.

Sometimes all we could do was stay home to stay safe, like January 31, 2011. My family was fortunate enough to come back to the neighborhood before the blizzard threw the uppercut down. Local television was littered with “Day After Tomorrow” -type footage of Lake Shore Drive’s disarray: abandoned cars trapped under massive snowbanks and hapless Chicagoans starting to seek safety after 12 hours of toil with rear wheel drive and “all season” tires. They thought they had seen the worst, but no. Forty degrees below with a wind chill was just the warm-up. When it looked like the visibility couldn’t get any worse, the moon changed its mind and abandoned the city to rise at first light instead. Class was canceled, day in and day out, and every time my mom got another voicemail from Associate Principal Jones, my sister and I knew.

Of course, with the adaptations we’ve made to distance learning, we couldn’t get away with it today. There was beauty in the snowy day – a day abandoned from all the obligations it had begun with. So often we have to give ourselves periods of rest to stay healthy, but when another force demands it, it seems more liberating. It reminds me of the feeling of watching the waves crash against the coast of Lake Michigan. Well, on second thought, those waves were once beautiful, sure, but I’m afraid the banality of thousands of trips has brought out the majesty of nature. Sometimes I wonder if growing up is exactly that: living a period of fascination that ends up losing its novelty before there is only one person left who must give in to the route that society offers them.


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