When I so blithely made up my mind, a few weeks ago, to post daily, I had not yet started my winter semester.
Having made that piteous excuse for negligence, let me tell you the truth:
I have been undecided about publishing this week’s Flashback at all. Twenty years ago, my sorry adolescent self was having a few of those life-altering experiences that come out of the pen horribly raw and yet somehow terribly true.
It’s a series of entries you hope nobody ever reads, and at the same time you recognize that those specific experiences have shaped you profoundly. You recognize that they cannot be wiped from the record even should you shred the hard copy.
January 15-21, 1991
First, let us skip over the entry in which I vividly describe the birthday party where I laughed a mixture of chocolate pudding, orange soda, and tomatoes out my nose.
I don’t count that as a life altering experience.
Also, the deep, psychological profiles of my parents.
There was the entry made the day I watched my seminary teacher’s eye surgery. I was riveted. The idea that doctors could cut open such a small organ, vacuum out what was rightfully there, put in a spring, fill it back up with artificial goo, and then stitch it shut with a needle the size of an eyelash. While he was conscious, no less! Amazing. I announced that I was going to get my PhD in medicine… and maybe also run an orphanage in Europe somewhere for kids that needed both medical attention and a home. I pictured an extremely large, dysfunctional family apparently.
I also thought about going into theater. Really. (I know, I wouldn’t believe it either if it weren’t there in my own hand writing.)
There is the entry in which I was completely surprised by a group of my friends who noticed that I rarely brought a lunch to school and offered to take turns bringing me one. I was touched, but shamed, too. In some primal part of my being a smolder of resentment started against this group of girls who had only been trying to help. “I don’t want any special treatment or to be an exception”, I wrote. “Can’t they let me be a normal grade nine student trying to pass school and life in general? Leave my background, my home there, I want to be me, not a charity case.”
I was happy to sit there and socialize at lunch time whether or not I had food to eat; I was capable of compartmentalizing my hungry home life from my social life. I certainly wasn’t going to bring in a bowl of boiled wheat or beans for lunch, so if there wasn’t portable food, I didn’t worry about it. Nor did I, however, think about how it felt for those girls to be sitting there eating with someone who wasn’t. Looking back, I realize how awkward that must have been for them.
I think this was the point at which I began to seek more and more excuses to be busy at lunchtime. I remember when my responsibility with the Yearbook committee was over, and there wasn’t any extra work to do in any classes I could think up, I used to read a book in a bathroom stall there just off the main gym; it was the oldest, nastiest bathroom, and therefore the least frequented by anyone I knew.
Jane Eyre and the like got me through a lot of lunch hours.
Then… there is the entry. The one in which I appologize profusely and at length not only for feeling my own feelings, but for expressing them. I was cursed then, and still am now, with the ability to see the inherent goodness in even the most despicable type people. People anyone else would have written off, walked away from and damned straight to dark fiery places outside the known universe. I could see why they did the things they did, pitied them for everything that might have ever made them the way they were, and felt horribly guilty for not sincerely liking them.
A few days earlier I had opened up to an adult I should have been able to trust and shared with them some of the deeper musings of my soul. And thought I’d had a breakthrough conversation–they listened to me! They understood what I said! They cared!
Only, they didn’t. Turns out they listened so constructively in order to prompt more information from me to support their theories of my mental instability–which they then discussed with any number of other people in my life–which, of course, came back to me as an unrecognizable mish-mash. The betrayal of confidence and the character smearing wasn’t the worst part; in some deep, horrified place, I asked, am I really as evil as she makes me out to be?
Yup, that’s all I’m going to say about that one. The original might be headed for the shredder…