LAW OFFICE MONAST
www.monastlaw.com | 614-334-4649 | 5000 Arlington Centre Blvd. Bldg 2, Suite 2117, Upper Arlington, OH 43220-2913
GETTING IT TOGETHER EPIPHANIES FROM MY SCHOOL YEARS
A s a young kid, I struggled in school. Hard to believe now, but I was deeply shy back then, and my family moving around the country didn’t make it any easier on me. One summer, when my dad got transferred, we moved from our home in Joplin, Missouri, to Charleston, South Carolina, trading one kind of humid heat for another. I spent a muggy season there and my first few days of junior high (school was in a double-wide trailer with a huge floor fan that provided the illusion of cooling) trying to settle into a place where the mosquito is the state bird and the “water-bugs” are big enough to lasso. Alas, South Carolina was not to be. The minute the moving bill was paid, my dad got transferred again, this time to Upper Arlington, Ohio. As a sensitive, unsure 13-year- old, I was uprooted for the second time in three months, plopped into a fresh set of circumstances, and sent off to figure it out. Those first few months in Upper Arlington were not my favorite. The kids around town all seemed to be in one big clique. If your family hadn’t spent their entire lives there, you were an outsider. And I had a thick southern accent, for which I was teased mercilessly. Luckily, over the months, I developed a close-knit gang of good buddies, including Eric Dougherty, the globe-trotting friend I wrote about last April. In our central-Ohio version of “The Goonies,” I weathered the storm of early adolescence with my pals, riding our bikes around town, shooting pool in the basement, and swimming at the local pools. As we moved on to high school together, I got involved with the theater program, performing in “The Crucible” and “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” among others. I joined the debate team, relishing the opportunity to flex my burgeoning argumentation skills. (Note: You married folks will understand when I say I still can’t compete with my wife in this area.) We’d go to tournaments all over the state, arguing over the death penalty or similar topics. But with school, I clearly “wasn’t applying myself,” as they say. C’s and B’s were the norm for me, but I wasn’t bothered. I occupied myself instead with working after class to earn money and camping and hiking with my crew.
It wasn’t until my senior year, when my family hosted an exchange student
from Madrid, that I got my act together and buckled down.
Rafael Martinez Riaza, aka the Antonio Banderas of Upper Arlington High School
Rafael Martinez Riaza became a good friend, and he was a great guy — but even more importantly, he was an excellent student. The youngest of seven, I’d never had someone so close in age to compete
with academically. So, that’s what we did, pinging off one another and working harder than I’m sure either of us ever had in school.
And go figure — I suddenly realized that I was actually good at studying! When it came time to take the ACT, I blew it out of the water, to my own and everyone else’s surprise. I got into the honors economics program at Ohio State, and from then on, I dove headlong into every new educational pursuit with gusto. Learning new stuff became (gasp) fun! It’s funny to look back at that shy, 13-year-old kid with a southern drawl and think about where he’d end up decades later. If you told him he’d eventually become an attorney who enjoys talking to new folks every single day, I’m guessing he wouldn’t have believed you. I’m glad I broke out of my shell and figured out I could do more than I thought. I think that’s a pattern we get to repeat our entire lives. As Andy Dufresne said to Red in “The Shawshank Redemption,”“I guess it comes down to a simple choice: Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
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