When I blog, I feel like I need some sort of clever title or metaphor. That would be because of my mother, who is an absolutely incredible writer. I, on the other hand, could only be called a good communicator. I wish I could come up with some clever deeper meaning in everything and spin a beautiful web that entrances people. My mother can do that.
I’m convinced this is one of the reasons I don’t keep up with my blog. I know it won’t be as insightful or poetic as my mother’s – I’m a to-the-point gal. There’s also the fact that I doubt anyone would want to read what’s going on inside of my head. At times, a blog seems like such a selfish thing.
Of course, I’m a selfish girl – I won’t deny it. I had to become one. I had to learn to care about myself because for a lot of my life no one would. I’m not talking about family – I’ve been incredibly blessed with family and some of the best friends a person could ask for, but for some reason I seem to have more negative in my life than a lot of people. It keeps springing up, too. Every now and then, things seem to be moving up. Then they come crashing down.
This isn’t meant to be a “feeling sorry for myself” post. Just thinking out loud. Maybe someone will benefit from it, maybe not. Maybe I will.
I tell people all the time how I was the ugly duckling growing up. Unfortunately, it’s true. One of these days I’ll post some pics and prove it. Or maybe one of my classmates will comment on this and confirm it.
Growing up, I had the lowest self esteem of anyone I’ve ever known. While I am very much an extravert and was even then, I was terrified to open my mouth because I knew I’d say something stupid. When I did open my mouth, I inevitably got teased for what I said.
And then there was school. School always came naturally to me. I love to learn. I did all of my homework while I was at school, so I never even had to take it home with me. I was one of the smart kids, so naturally I was teased. I was the “brain”, “teacher’s pet”, etc. I never really felt like I belonged anywhere.
Except behind a piano… My mother found a lady who was willing to start a 2 year-old in Suzuki method piano. I took to it like a moth to the flame. I lost myself in it. Mozart, Bach, Beethoven… It was my own world. When what few friends I did have came over to play, I asked them if they wanted to practice piano. Needless to say, those friends didn’t stick around.
When I was about to enter the sixth grade, my parents decided we should move to a small town. We began school at a private school that only had one class for each grade. Before long, it started. I was the butt of pranks, called names, set up on false dates – you name it. I even remember a boy who said he really wanted to “date” me – whatever that is in 6th grade -, but he was embarrassed to be seen with me. He said we could date in secret, but no one could know and he had another girlfriend he was seen with in public.
I went home from school crying everyday. I was miserable. The teachers wouldn’t do anything. I remember one of them even telling me it was to be suspected with kids our age. They acted like it was no big deal.
When Mom and Dad decided enough was enough and moved us back home, the kids in my class made a big to-do of having a celebration. They would come up to me and ask me if I was coming back next year. When I said “no”, they would pump their fists in the air and yell “Yes!”
After a year home in public school, where everything had changed of course, the folks decided my brother and I should attend private school. What an adjustment it was! I went directly into honors algebra having never taken pre-algebra. I worked my behind off to get a C, when I had always received A’s in public school. However, some things didn’t change.
The bullying continued, although it did abate a bit. The worst part was that two teachers got in on the act – two teachers in the arts. That’s right – the arts, my world. These were two people who of all people should have been encouraging me. I’m not going to name names or even departments, but one of these teachers liked to make fun of me in front of the whole class. I remember one time when this person made fun of how I did my hair, and everyone laughed. The other made me cry practically everyday and told me I’d never amount to anything. I was not allowed to take voice lessons for some reason I’ll never understand. Other people were allowed to.
Fortunately, an arts teacher came along who gave me a chance – Dock Anderson. I will never forget that, Dock. You showed me that I did have talent, that I did have some worth, and I believe I am still in music and theatre in large part because of the opportunities you gave me. At that point, I had no confidence in myself. I would never have had the guts to audition for FSU – hell, to audition anywhere.
And there were others. I also want to mention Mr. McCollum, who is unfortunately retiring this year – I say “unfortunately” because it’s a shame other generations won’t get the privilege of working with you. You made quite a difference in my life, sir. You were always someone I could go to and someone I knew believed in me, and you have no idea how much that means to me. Even now when I see you, you make me think I can take on the world.
Two more teachers come to mind – Tom Jackson (who at the time was President of the school) and Madame Jean Olstin, who taught me French and Japanese. Again, both of these teachers had faith in me and boosted my self esteem. When I asked, Mr. Jackson let me into his honors Coming of Age class even though my grades weren’t high enough, and it turned out to be one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. It was such a wonderful class that we were able to talk him into extending it another quarter.
Madame Olstin was one of those teachers that most students were afraid of. She was very strict. I was a little afraid at first, but I came to love the woman so much. I’ll never forget her calling my mother and telling her I was getting a B in AP French, and that was unacceptable. She knew I could do better, even when I didn’t.
I doubt any of these people I mentioned will read this blog, but I hope they know how important they were and still are to my life. I had such a huge problem with depression – I still battle it – and being bullied. These teachers gave me the confidence to eventually go out and grab my dreams. They took the ugly duckling and turned her into a swan.
Please go out and thank your Mr Andersons, Mr McCollums, President Jacksons, and Madame Olstins. With so much negativity in the world, it’s easy to forget those who really show us the light. I’ll never be able to thank them enough.
To those other two teachers and the countless students who made me feel two inches tall, I would love an apology. In fact, I would love a chance to apologize to one man who I made fun of when I was in elementary school. If I can find him, I will. For my part, I can pretty much guarantee I won’t get one from my people. They’ve moved on with life. They’ve tricked themselves into thinking it doesn’t matter, that it was so long ago. The one thing I will say is that I have done much better in life because I am used to struggling. I’m used to having to fight, although I don’t enjoy it. I won’t go so far as to say “thank you” or that I’m happy I went through that, but it does have that one positive side.
This ugly duckling is still transforming into a swan. Day by day. Step by step. I try to be a better person. I try to treat people better than I was treated, to teach my students not to go down that road. I can see signs that swan is coming out. I just wish I had found her earlier. Oh the things she could have done if she had only had the confidence and love in herself.
I have come to prefer to think of her as a phoenix – a phoenix who is rising from the ashes of the past and reaching out for the future. There are so many things I want to do – big and small. I don’t even know where to begin.
Time to make up for lost time.