Like many kids, elementary, middle and high school weren't exactly magical, poignant or cause for any sort of celebration. You too? Keep reading. From the beginning, my parents had cause for concern that I definitely had some work to do considering my Kindergarten report card. Sharing: Excellent. Raising hand: Satisfactory. Using a Scissors: Needs improvement. Gluing: Needs improvement. Napping: Needs improvement. Handwriting: Needs improvement. From then on, I accepted the fact that I probably wasn't going to be the least bit crafty or ever be able to sleep on command. Yet, as I had no choice, I persevered onto first grade.
Through elementary school and beyond, gluing, napping and using a scissors correctly were some of the least of my worries. I put on some extra pounds, became more reserved, figured out I sometimes didn't do well with authority and didn't yet refine the finer points of 'acting like a girl.' Why was it that I was the one of the only girls to get detention so often? Did I really have to slam that boy up against a tree third grade because he said I was bigger than he was? Did I really have to throw the basketball at my coach, not really on purpose, and laugh when she punished me? Could my classmate have been a bit more subtle when I showed up to a dance with braided hair when she said, "Wow, Valerie, you finally look like a girl." ?
Perhaps my biggest academic and developmental flaw was/is my inability to listen. This became very apparent when I would never know what sentence to start on when it was my turn to read or which prayer to say when it was my bead of the rosary. Much of this resulted in me frantically looking at my neighbor, using context clues or something I would like to call prayer roulette (PRO TIP, more often than not, you're good to guess a Holy Mary). Not listening carried into negative feedback at parent teacher conferences and got me benched in basketball games. My perceived, consistent inability to pay attention during morning prayer also tarnished my detention-free senior year. Why was listening so hard? Because my mind raced with ideas all the time. Most likely, I was probably thinking analytically about so many other possibilities. 'Not listening' or not looking like you're listening is probably the best way to get written off by any sort of authority figure.
The noes I heard added to my overall early disillusionment. First in sports, then in most social pursuits and finally in the only thing I thought actually lifted me out of mediocrity...English. Writing. That was my thing, the only thing I fell back on time after time of other rejections. After not being approved to take a higher level English course junior year, I had no idea how to define myself (it was a really small town). As it so happened, the English teacher left that year, so I took the class and 'proved her wrong' by getting all As. After that I moved onto college where I also got As on every single paper, taught high school creative writing classes and encouraged students to find their voice through writing. As I walked up the aisle in the National Hockey Center to receive my college diploma, an unidentified SCSU bro stopped me, "Hey, you're the girl who wrote for The Chronicle... your editorials were really great."
How was I able to go from chubby, shy, kid who couldn't listen to being a functional adult? The people who believed in me, saw something in me and took chances on me. That and I was deathly afraid of disappointing my parents, so I had to get it together. There are many kids who hear more noes than me, face more serious learning/behavioral roadblocks than I did and don't have parents that help set them back on track continually. The only way to really unlock someone's potential is to take a risk on them. Don't hold them to their gluing, bad handwriting or something you perceive about them, get to know their stories. More importantly, ask the right questions. Pay it forward by taking the time to make someone else feel their self-worth and everything that makes them more than mediocre. You'll create a better world for them and you'll probably benefit yourself many times over.
For those who did this for me, I owe you a ton.