When I was in the 7th grade, I made a shocking discovery that changed my life: I could choose to not do my homework.
Yes, the teacher would be disappointed in me. Yes, I would get a zero on the assignment. Yes, if my parents found out, they would be mad. Yes, if I didn’t do my homework repeatedly, my overall grade would tank. Yes, that would make my parents even more mad, and would get me grounded. Yes, I would have to work my ass off for the remainder of the term just to get a passing grade, causing myself (and my parents) much more stress than if I had just done my homework in the first place.
But. If I didn’t do my homework, then I could instead spend that time DOING OTHER THINGS.
It didn’t even matter what those other things were. Sometimes I would just read a different book than was assigned. All I knew was that for right then, in that moment, I was getting away with something. I had spent so much of my life being the quiet girl with the long braid and the big books and now? I was being bad and it felt good.
Somewhere along the way it stopped feeling good, but I was hooked. Once you get a taste of not doing homework, it’s pretty hard to do homework. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I realized my chances of getting into a good school were dwindling rapidly. Luckily, I was able to bump my GPA enough just in time to make it look like I had been cured of my predilection for slacking, and was now a reliable student who saw the innate value of hard, timely, quality work.
Spoiler: I wasn’t cured, not by a long shot. But thankfully my act fooled The College of Wooster, because if I hadn’t packed up my life in the mountains of Vermont and moved to the cornfields of Ohio, I never would’ve met Izabella — or Izzy, as I call her.
(Or my husband, or a bunch of other beautiful people, but let’s just focus on this love story, okay?)
Izzy was from Chicago, a city I hadn’t yet been to, but seemed like New York’s badass little sister. Izzy had an enviable collection of vintage costume jewelry, her eyeliner was somehow both precise but smudged, and her hair likely inspired Zooey Deschanel to cut bangs. Izzy was quiet in a group, but whenever she spoke, people stopped to listen — and were rewarded with acerbic wit. Izzy knew when and where the seniors in our art history class were partying that weekend, because she had been directly invited by the one that intimidated me most.
To put it simply, Izzy was cool. And I, her overeager, provincial, makeup-challenged, frizzy-haired sidekick in the hemp necklace, was stunned to discover that she always did her homework.
Izzy belonged to a poetry club on campus, and wrote evocative haiku. Izzy actually completed all of the reading for the Canterbury Tales class we took together, a feat that still boggles my mind. Izzy did her senior thesis on the films of David Lynch — and was selected by the faculty to present her work in a symposium. Izzy graduated from Wooster with honors (I don’t even know what kind, because the whole “honors” thing has always been a little too abstract for me) and went on to get her JD in intellectual property.
I can’t overstate how important it was to my personal growth to become friends with a badass woman who also prioritized hard work. I still had a few rough patches in college, and I struggle to this day with “doing my homework.” (Hell, just last night I watched Superbowl commercials on YouTube instead of writing this post.) But because of Izzy and the smart, accomplished women I’ve befriended and admired since I met her, I understand now that there is nothing is cooler than a smart woman who proudly works toward her goals.