As Truman worked his way through school, he had learned to cope with the mental jabs from his classmates. Somewhere along the line in his high school tenure, he decided against “fitting in,” and began to study in earnest. His late push toward respectable final evaluations enabled Truman–at his father’s urging–to complete an application for admission into Pinehurst College, a small liberal arts school known for its commitment to academic excellence. Another major plus–it wasn’t far away, so he could commute daily from safety of his parents’ home.
After a short wait, and much to his surprise, Pinehurst accepted Chris Truman and he accepted his fate. Life would never be the same, even if–as a young adult–the poet continued to fight the many demons from his youth. Bullying stays in one’s head regardless of the bully’s physical absence from his victim’s life. As adults, we fight battles whose roots can be traced from infancy–we re-live our childhood traumas well into old age. Even the heaviest subconscious trash floats to the top of our vast emotional oceans eventually.
Though he didn’t know what to expect, from day one in his post-secondary career, Chris Truman was desperate to make his name known. He demanded attention–from his professors, his classmates, his family–and achieving the ultimate perfection of a 4.0 grade-point average, he assumed, would garner him a bounty of recognition. The Void that permeated his entire being yearned to be filled–not from within but from without. Truman’s bruised self-esteem, hopelessly dependent upon others, needed constant care. Never mind that the light of one’s true self-worth emanates from the inside–the poet was desperate to learn from other people the length and breadth of his importance in academia. A simple degree in English Literature and Composition wouldn’t be enough–Chris Truman had to finish perfect.
The 4.0 became his obsession. He chased it. He ached for it. He lost sight of himself because of it. Pinehurst College, with its emphasis on do-it-yourself, liberal learning, became for Truman a place of great distress, for it was there that his desire for approval ran wild. In class after class, he strived not for knowledge in itself but knowledge as a means to earning another “A-plus.”
By his third year at PC, he was completely out of touch with his intentions in attending the school in the first place. Truman, in following his father, had thought himself fit to teach literature and writing to fertile high school minds. But his daunting pursuit of perfection prevented him from procuring such a lofty profession. He was a full-time student (and part-time Gem Foods Store stock boy) who wished nothing more than to conquer college–what might lie beyond his studies was of little concern to the scholar.
This lack in foresight would, after capturing the elusive 4.0, render the orderly-conscious Truman a total mess–spiritually, emotionally, physically, and financially. True education failed to commence until the moment he received his diploma in May 2002. The phrase Summa Cum Laude–emblazoned beneath his name–would haunt Chris Truman forever. No degree in abstraction could halt the impending doom of concrete reality bearing down his back. In less than a year, the very instrument that facilitated the 4.0–his mind–was about to implode.