“You’re not living up to your potential.”

I was going to have to lie.

Family members were traveling to Florida in the heat of June, from all over the country, to hear school administrators call my name and see me cross the stage. At some point, my mother would ask to see my high school diploma.

Then what?

Two months earlier, I stopped going to school. I quit all extra-curricular activities and told shitty teachers to go to hell.

I sat in the guidance office and ignored counselors who pretended to care.

I no longer tolerated classmates who laughed at special needs students, spread rumors and sexually assaulted my friends.

I turned in an assignment about Lord of the Flies without reading the book and won Best Written Word at Senior Send-Off. I accepted that award with a bitter smile and sarcastic speech, then tossed the scholarship and any opportunities that came with it in the trash.

I had a bit of an attitude.

Watching Labyrinth, hanging out with the Harbour Island fudge guy, and listening to True Blue 200 times while driving around town with Cathy was a much better use of my time.

I funneled beers at Beach Week, snuck onto a British Navy ship, and moved into an apartment with two people who would later try to kill me.

I drank beer mixed with lemonade, debated for hours at a local pub with Oliver North supporters, and tried unsuccessfully to avoid people who believed smearing blood on pictures was a proper response to decorating disagreements.

These life lessons were more valuable than memorizing advanced Algebra equations or World War II statistics.

But my mother and family members were expecting a piece of paper with a ribbon around it.

Only a rebellious seventeen year-old, after making several bad choices, would fake a sprained ankle in order to avoid graduation ceremonies.

“It’s impossible to walk with these things,” I explained while hobbling on a friend’s crutches, borrowed that morning in a panic.

Mom called bullshit when my ankle miraculously healed the next day. It took another week of increasingly ridiculous lies before she finally contacted the school and confirmed her suspicions.

There was no diploma.

Haven’t been much of a liar since.