Mary Ann Ellis

In the early 70s I accepted a job in Vidalia teaching eighth grade. Granted, the situation was a strange one; they hired me to teach math and Georgia history, but I am certified in French and English. My math skills were pretty good back in high school, so teaching math didn’t scare me much. History, now that was a different matter indeed. Let it suffice to say that I studied much more than my students did that year. I also learned a most valuable lesson, namely that I’d never teach eighth grade again unless we were destitute and hungry. You see, eighth-graders are certain that they know about everything there is to know. The epiphany comes when they get to high school and find themselves at the bottom of the totem pole again. Such is human nature.  

Mankind has known for ages that for most people, wisdom comes with age. Some, on the other hand, could never live long enough to be wise. However, most of us learn as we age and gain experience. I finished out the 60s at the University of Georgia, a glorious time to be alive.  College campuses across the country were stirred up over the Vietnam War. Marches, sit-ins, and demonstrations filled every waking minute. Dress codes moved from rigid to nonexistent.  We ironed our hair before leaving the dorms in the mornings and left our clothes wrinkled. And every single one of us knew exactly how to solve the world’s problems, especially the war. We knew it all, but nobody asked us. Not one solitary politician came knocking on the door of Room 318 in Church Hall to seek my advice. What a waste!

I did and said some pretty stupid things while I matriculated at UGA. To my knowledge, my immaturity and impulsiveness never hurt anyone, but I’ve come a long, long way since then.  Some of the things I did back then I would never even consider now. For example, my roommate and I decided to visit her brother who was a student at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. We left Athens in the middle of the night to drive to Augusta. We didn’t call, and cell phones didn’t even exist back then. When we got there, Henry was not home. We didn’t know anyone else, so we had to turn around and drive right back to Athens, bemoaning our bad luck all the way. I learned many things totally unrelated to the three Rs during my college career.  

Let me go so far as to say that I’m not the same person I was back then. Life has taught me even more lessons, some of them really hard ones. I would never want to be judged by my college escapades. Heavens, no! Rather, take a look at me now. I’ve changed tremendously since then.  I’ve grown intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Don’t we all grow as we age? Can’t we improve? Can’t we have second chances and be forgiven for some of the foolish errors of our pasts? Ever?  

Many of our politicians don’t seem to think so. When high school or college yearbooks come out to testify to our youthful character or lack thereof, that process itself testifies to the politicians’ ignorance. I suspect that they too were far from their present state of perfection back in their college days. It is possible that even they may have changed in the last 40 years.  

Consider the governor of Virginia, for example. He did some stupid things back in college, but what kind of governor has he been since his election? I hear he’s done a good job, and if so, I believe his good record should count for something. So many of our political leaders on both sides of the aisle have lost all their common sense—if they ever had any, that is. Is there anything we the people can do, or are we already loaded into that proverbial handbasket?