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Chronically Lazy Student vs. Chronically Ill Student

I’ve sort of always come off as a “lazy” kid. In fact the day I was born, my heart kept stopping because my umbilical cord was too short. My Dad always says it was my first act of laziness.

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“Eh, how long does this really need to be?”

I grew up with a special fondness for sleeping in late and reading books in bed all day. In school I did a lot more drawing than I did notetaking, and subject that didn’t hold my interest (like math) quickly fell into a constant stream of C’s on my otherwise good-looking report card. Why?

Well, I was lazy. Smart sure, but uninterested. It was a huge headache for my parents to watch me write my own novels and draw my own comic books and even excel at extracurricular like dance and theater, yet also watch me dissolve into tears halfway through a math problem.

And I want to make it clear that it was pretty much true laziness. With endometriosis, symptoms start around puberty and I had the good graces to be a late bloomer. I didn’t have a period until I was 16 years old. At 17, I started complaining about more pain than I thought I should be in (but I didn’t really know, since I was new to the whole womanhood game). Occasionally went to a doctor about it. Ended up satisfied to learn it wasn’t anything serious, then went back to ignoring it. Finally when I was 18 and out of high school, I had my first run to the ER with real severe pain, and that was the start of my road to discovering endometriosis. The moral of the story is that until I was 17, there was no one to blame for my laziness but myself.

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In college, I was simultaneously learning to be fully responsible for my schoolwork with no pushing from parents or teachers while figuring out how this whole chronic pain thing worked. Consequently, I was always wondering if I was really too sick to do certain things, or if I was being my notoriously lazy self.

By this time I’d stopped thinking of myself as really lazy. Really “lazy” implied that I never worked hard, and that just wasn’t true. I had always worked hard diligently and persistently if it was on something that I had decided I wanted to do because I liked it. I went from being the worst person in my colorguard at the beginning of the year to being the youngest person to become colorguard captain in the history of my high school. I wrote my first full-length screenplay during my senior year of high school. I read the entire Harry Potter series and Lord of the Rings series multiple times before I finished junior high. I read a large, heavy tome about King Arthur when I was just 7 years old. Dad always says it was amazing because the book was as big as I was.

So, I was selectively lazy. And I could live with that. But then things would happen where I would squint at the blurred lines between being really lazy and being too sick to do something. When I failed at an assignment or missed a deadline, I’d wonder ok, was I really too sick or was I being too lazy?

And if I couldn’t figure it out, then of course my teachers couldn’t.

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When I failed math twice in college – yeah, that was mostly me being lazy.

But when I failed my French placement exam, I was so sick the day of the test that my husband had to carry me back to the car afterwards. I barely remember actually taking it. So I was probably too sick for that, really. Not that I’ve ever been very strong in French.

See? I’m pretty used to blaming myself for these things. Everyone always has, including me.

Then there was this one class – Storytelling. I shared one of the stories I wrote for that class here. Storytelling is something I am not lazy about. I force myself to write as often as possible, and I’ve trained myself to write even when I’m not feeling particularly “inspired.” If I could be a professional storyteller, I would. For now, I settle for writing screenplays and this blog at night when I’m not at my day job.

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So no. I wouldn’t do poorly in this class because of laziness. In fact, I was a special student – this was a graduate level class that I begged to be let in to. The class was an online course, and since I worked for the online course department in college, I had worked with this professor and gotten to know her and she said I should take it, regardless of my undergrad standing.

So why would I do all that and then just be like “meh, I’m just not going to turn anything in.”

The professor who runs the course rarely actually interacted with me. As is oftentimes the case, she provided the material while all communication and grading was done through teacher aids. And after a few missed deadlines, they were quick to label me as lazy.

“There’s a reason this is a graduate class – we don’t have time to deal with lazy undergrads. Either start working or drop out.”

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Ouch.

I was enraged for a few days, but quickly fell back into doubting myself. How many teachers had rightfully labeled me as lazy? This is an online course – it’s easy to ignore. Was I being lazy?

So I never did anything about it. I did the best work I could and ended up passing the class just fine, I’m pretty sure I wound up with a B or something. Not bad at all. Sure, I missed some assignments completely, but since I got As on everything I got in it turned out okay.

Perfect scores and missing assignments does, I suppose, look like laziness. It even looks like laziness to me.

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So nowadays I have spells of chronic tardiness to work and sometimes the house just goes all to hell because housework falls behind. And I still spend a lot of time wondering when I’m being lazy and when I’m really sick.

The world may never know.

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About rachelmeeks

My name is Rachel Meeks. I have endometriosis, an incurable pain condition, IBS, a digestive illness, and PCOS, which causes irregular periods and infertility. After keeping my illnesses a secret, I started to get upset about how my fellow sick people were being mistreated because of ignorance. I knew that I'd need to stand up, make some noise, wear my heart on my sleeve, and admit that I am not well to make a difference.

4 responses to “Chronically Lazy Student vs. Chronically Ill Student

  1. This would be “fun” to sit around with a group of interested (meaning non-judgmental, open-minded, curious) people and just talk on this. Hear ideas and stories. Why sometimes overcoming the pain can be done and other times it can’t. Why it feels selective. Why we expect people to do all things at all times. Is it bad if a person doesn’t And so on and so forth.

  2. Morgan McDorman ⋅

    I am so proud of you for everything you accomplished at school. The struggle of any college student is hard enough as it is but throw a chronic invisible illness in there and no one understands how difficult that can be. Way to go girl, love ya!

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