I’m a big freak. I’m taller than everyone my age… And no, I’m not very good at sports. I’m not even good at school, and I have to go to special tutoring because it takes me longer than my friends to actually get it. I’m basically a big loser.
Sometimes I wish I could ride shotgun with you and your dog in your truck and just be a cool person for a day.
NINTH GRADE SUCKS
DEAR NINTH GRADE:
It’s early morning. I am sitting in my truck. I woke up before the sunrise on accident—sometimes that happens when you get older.
About my truck: I promise you, it’s NOT a “cool” person’s truck. And its owner isn’t “cool,” either.
My vehicle is a hog pen. Ellie Mae, the coonhound, has ruined it. Think: ripped upholstery, slobber on windshield, coffee stains, rotten apple cores, fruit flies.
Right now, it’s still dark outdoors. My first routine pit-stop is a convenience store. The place is empty this early.
Justine, at the counter, knows me. She knows I’m here to buy coffee and a newspaper.
Some days, I buy scratch-off tickets, too. Today is one such day. I buy two $10,000,000 Florida Cash scratch-offs. I whisper the Serenity Prayer, and scratch.
Justine laughs. “My daddy ALWAYS said lottery tickets are a tax on stupid people.”
Justine talks too much.
I ask about her kid. Her teenage son lives in North Alabama with his father. She never sees him. The kid is a cracker-jack third-baseman. She misses her boy.
I’m driving again. The sun is behind the trees. The sky is orange and purple. I’m heading to a spot on the Choctawhatchee Bay that I don’t think anyone knows exists.
But I’m wrong. People must know about it. Because when I arrive, I see an abandoned plastic chair in my headlights. There are empty beer cans scattered in the sand.
Ellie lights out for the bay. I sit in the plastic chair while she swims.
And I read the paper—which is a larger waste of money than lottery tickets. Once, there was a time when clever columnists ruled daily newsprint. Those days are gone.
Later, we eat breakfast at the Chik-fil-A drive-thru. All employees know Ellie and make a fuss over her. They are kind people. Kindness is everywhere, you know. You just have to know where to look.
When I was your age, I felt like you. I was an academic failure, and I didn’t think people liked me.
But I was wrong about myself. And if you ask me, you are, too.
I don’t care how tall you are. And I don’t believe life is about math quizzes or homecoming contests. Good grades are nice, but they’re just letters from the alphabet.
Do you want to know what means something to me? I’ll tell you.
Sunrises. Tom-Thumb coffee. Lottery tickets. Dilapidated trucks, breakfast with friends, hugs from a kid, the bay of my youth, old newspapers, and letters from strangers.
Gas-station clerks also mean something to me.
And so do you. In fact, you mean a lot. You’re the ONLY person who has ever wanted to step foot in my truck. And for that, Ellie and I thank you.
This passenger seat has your name on it.
Diane Enloe - September 14, 2017 1:31 pm
Love this….and all your writings! This is what this 73 yr old grandmother looks forward to reading every day! Why don’t you get your pretty wife to take a picture if you and Ellie in your truck?!! That would bring lots of smiles….. especially to this face!! ☺️
Donald Dye - September 14, 2017 1:38 pm
keep writing about life, yours is not so different from many others but you help us see the real worth…….
Carol Nimrod - September 14, 2017 5:25 pm
You are right! I guess that might be the key to Sean’s writing success. Thanks.
teachenglish67 - September 14, 2017 1:38 pm
I’m sure your comments to that young fella helped him. You seem to know exactly what to say or the words are divinely directed to the right person(s). I can identify with the young fella. Kids want to be different, but the same. It’s an oxymoronic situation those teen years.
Kellie Moore - September 14, 2017 1:40 pm
Thank you for your wonderful stories everyday they mean so much to me.
Tounia Herrington - September 14, 2017 1:51 pm
A beautiful reminder about kindness. Thank you!
Darlene Price - September 14, 2017 1:58 pm
I’m simply amazed with the style of your post! I always know there will be something wonderful at least in one of my emails a day! This world needs that…something wonderful! Thank you!
Connie Ryland - September 14, 2017 2:05 pm
You just make my heart smile.
Deena Grimsley - September 14, 2017 6:49 pm
He makes men smile too,Connie, every single day.
Jack Quanstrum - September 14, 2017 2:11 pm
Big smile on my face this morning Sean as I read your post. Thank God if you realize what’s important to you. And you do. I hope the ninth grader will to. I spent a good part of my life looking for acceptance to. But that’s.a lost cause. Now I am very comfortable in my own skin and really appreciate the simple things in life that I come in contact with. Something on the order of your shared likings. Of course alot of mine are different than yours. But the idea is the same. Thank you, for being yourself Sean. For beings ones self is truly where Peace and acceptance lay. Shalom!
muthahun - September 14, 2017 3:27 pm
In a world where simple kindness means so much, our schools are often a hotbed of unkindness… cliques, competition, standards which validate those at the top of the bell curve and crush those at the bottom. Sometimes I wish that the “To Sir, With Love” principles would come back in fashion.
TN Lizzie - September 14, 2017 5:17 pm
Sean, Please promise to post a picture of that kid in your truck?
I have a 9th grader of my own. I’m gonna have her ride shotgun in my mom-van, drive her to a shady creek, and sort’a fish as I read these 2 letters to her. We’ll stop at a Pilot Station on the way home. I’ll get coffee and she’ll get a 36 ounce mixture of every drink in the fountain (light ice). She’s a cool person in my book, and I want to make sure she knows that.
TN Lizzie - September 14, 2017 5:22 pm
Oops. They have 32 ounce cups.
Pamela McEachern - September 14, 2017 7:04 pm
I finally ay my age believe the s!mple things you are saying are the most inportant. But….please give this sweet lanky kid a ride in that special truck with you and Ellie May, what a story of his lifetime that wouls be. Love and blessings to you Sean, you and your ‘s are so special to us all. Po
Karen - September 14, 2017 7:36 pm
So many young men and women feel like this young man. 9th grade it awkward. He is very smart and has not found his way or what he is to do in life. I applaud your kindness, everyone needs a mentor in life and your a good one. Salty and down to earth. Speak the truth and tell it the way it is. Life is a world of learning not just school. I was a fair student and learned more than I could ever imagined once I was out. Keep your head up young man, you are smart and will go far. You can and you will, do not let anyone tell you differently.
Marty from Alabama - September 14, 2017 7:42 pm
I’m not Clint Eastwood. For one thing, I’m a female and I don’t know how to shoot a gun. I digress. But I’m Clint, because I’ve just got to say: “You made my day.” May God bless you, and Ellie Mae, all your days.
Janet Lee - September 14, 2017 9:16 pm
I love it!!! Just that simple!!! 🙂
Phyllis - September 15, 2017 12:28 am
You are such a descriptive writer..you “get it” about the important things in life
Kim O Washington - September 15, 2017 1:12 am
It all boils down to the simple things that defines us and make us happy. Sometimes we are just to busy doing nothing to notice. Thank you for the reminder that we are what we choose to be and that is ok.
Michael Hawke - September 15, 2017 2:00 am
You have a way of making things better. Thank you.
Teri Freeman Butler - September 15, 2017 5:03 am
Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Sean Dietrich, I love you. No, I’ve never met you and I’m doubtful that I ever will. But daily, you let me see into your heart and soul and I’m a better and happier person for it. You always offer us hope, honesty and kindness…I’m forever grateful.
Perri Geaux Tigers Williamson - September 15, 2017 9:09 am
“Kindness is everywhere, you know. You just have to know where to look.”–and kindness can change the world!
Lucretia Jones - September 15, 2017 12:55 pm
Sean, and Nineth Grade Sucks special you both are, unique and the only ones in the world. An honor it is to know you. The “having joy” is there, ponder, seek, and when we have found “it”, knock “and “it” shall be opened unto us. Love and prayers, Lucretia.
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Carol Uhlhorn - October 25, 2017 3:25 pm
Tall kid, EVERYTHING about 9th grade stinks! Like the rest of us, you’ll slog your way through it.
My daughter was the tallest in her class too…six feet tall and 87 pounds. She wasn’t athletically gifted either. Now she’s got a Master’s degree, a husband and two kids. She smiles all the time. She has a lot to be grateful for! So do I.
Life turns out okay if you keep making the effort. Make a few good friends. Be honest and loyal to noble causes. When you look back in twenty years, you will love the kid you used to be.
Laura Goslee - October 25, 2017 3:49 pm
Thank you for inviting this young one to the seat next to you Sean. Even if it does nor happen the gesture is a hug like no other. Many if us will carry that hug into loving and being loved today. Thank you.
There is so much in life…so much more than what I thought was important in 9th grade. It is not an easy time when it seems everyone is judging us, even our own self, with such criticalness. I hope you can see beyond all of that, to the glimpse of good stuff to come Sean speaks of in all of his writing.. being a part of loving, kindness and hope in this world is the best! I pray for Your heart to be blessed with peace today for you are wonderfully made.
Gus - October 27, 2017 2:07 pm
Truck sounds wonderful. I’d never own a vehicle or a piece of furniture where my dog wasn’t welcome. I’m envious if your days. Mine are usually filled with hard work, which I’m blessed to have. Put your fingers in Ellie’s ears and scratch the sides of her brain. Tell her that’s from Gus the painter.
Gage Durbin - September 24, 2018 2:20 pm
thank you for your kind words.i can relate to that kid i am the same way tall suck at sports and no one likes me.but what you said gives me hope!!!