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Su MeckLiving a Memorable Life

Alumna Su Meck’s Experiences
Subject of New Book

Imagine awakening one day and not recognizing your husband or your two children, and having no memory of your life. This unbelievable-but-true story happened at 22 years old to Su Meck ’11 who suffered a traumatic brain injury when a ceiling fan fell on her head. Published this past February by Simon & Schuster, I Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia documents Meck’s struggle and eventual triumph in relearning how to read, care for her herself and her family, and even graduate from Montgomery College. Written with Washington Post reporter Daniel de Visé, I Forgot to Remember was inspired by de Visé’s front page story celebrating Meck’s 2011 graduation from Montgomery College. Meck transferred to Smith College in Massachusetts and graduated this month.

Following is an excerpt from Chapter 22, “Learning to Fly,” in which Meck describes her experiences at Montgomery College:

Montgomery College saved my life. That probably sounds superdramatic, but it’s the truth. The people at Montgomery College saved me and gave me a life. Yes. That is probably a truer statement. All that, and they taught me how to love learning. And I guess how to learn how to learn—instead of just mimicking. When I was learning everything along with my kids as they went through school, I was mostly copying. Copying is not the same as learning. Not that I didn’t learn stuff from my kids by copying, but the “reason” piece was missing. The “why am I doing this?” part of learning was missing. At Montgomery College, I wasn’t allowed to just copy. I had to show every single step of how I got to the answer of an algebra problem. I had to write an essay explaining why there were advantages in looking at the world through a sociological lens. I had to give an oral presentation about Susan Graham and explain what the incredible mezzo-soprano contributed to the world of opera. I had to think about and come up with ideas on my own.

…The learning I was able to figure out how to do at Montgomery College had everything to do with me. Not in a gross, selfish way, but in a this-professor-is-here-teaching-his-class-today-and-I-am-a-student-here-to-learn way. And that was new. I was the student who was sitting in that class. I was writing down things in my notebook that I thought were important. Nobody was telling me exactly what to write down. If I wanted something clarified, I had to speak up and ask the professor a question. If I didn’t ask, I might never know the answer. I couldn’t depend on other people in the class to have the exact same questions I had. This may all sound very trivial and basic, but to me it was huge! I was not only learning subject content, whether it be algebra, music history, sociology, or environmental biology, I was also learning to speak up for myself. Nobody was at college with me, talking for me, answering for me, studying for me, writing for me, doing for me. I did stuff by myself. And I learned I was pretty darn good at this whole learning business. Once I started learning, I just wanted to know more, and more, and more.

…Tests made me nervous because I was always worried I wouldn’t be able to read or write somehow on the day one was given. Writing papers made me nervous because I still felt like such an amateur when writing them, and I didn’t really know what I was doing. Everyone just assumed that I knew how to research a topic. I didn’t. Kassidy [my daughter] held my hand and walked me baby step by baby step through those first few papers. I learned about the Writing, Reading, and Language Center in the basement of the library right before I graduated. Oh, well.

 

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