First let me begin by saying that anyone who knows me will know that this is not a blog about self-pity. I’m beyond everything I write about. This is a post to show that even those for which little is expected can achieve happiness, can strive for more. Sure you might not always get it, or ever get it, but never let someone tell you that you won’t amount to anything more than they think you will.
I am on page thirty-seven of Brave New World. I recalled before I had read a portion of it in my exams in high school. Interesting they never told you what it was about but they expected essay responses to the questions on it. It was a test perhaps to reveal your true nature through your answers. A test to see if you were a conformist or an anarchist, an Alpha or an Epsilon. A believer or a trouble maker. I am certain I was the doting conformist as expected.
I did not have a clue, back then, what the story or passage was about. In my streamed general knowledge, it was arguably above my caste. There are key moments you remember in life, one of mine was my pre-destined generalization. In public school I had been tested, streamed, baked and set on a shelf with the other general loaves. If I had any aspiration it was not to be explored.
In high school I was good with computer programs. I had sixteen basic programs written before we even started to learn Basic programming in class. My teacher said “Go get yourself into the Advanced course”. So I went to the Vice Principal and told him what my teacher had said. “Oh, she thinks so” or the like, “well, it can not be” basically my General direction did not allow for something as hopeful as an Advanced class. Nope.
Thinking back, I remember in public (elementary) school how I did not complete my Turtle graphics program. I did, but I was absent or sick or late and my project of several hundred painstakingly calculated steps was rejected.
I remember every one of the teachers who discouraged me. I remember every few of the teachers who encouraged me.
“He is a C minus student” they no doubt said of me in the teachers lounge “we must not let him get his hopes up, he is doomed to fail”, they would laugh knowingly yet knowing nothing.
I barely got into high school (secondary) in my home town, half a percent lower and I would have been cast down to the hell of society – the school in the ‘other’ town. “Only basic students go there, well, and those actually from the town and area, but that was expected and therefore ‘normal’.”
I was one of the ‘rare ones’ in fact my grade nine mathematics teacher had never seen another student go from thirty percent in the first term to sixty-five percent in the second. The greatest percentage leap he had ever seen, and so he noted to all of my class. Achievement or past failure, not sure which. It definitely was not his doing, I worked hard to pull off that gain. It did not matter of course I still failed only achieving a forty-five or so. I achieved a place in summer school that year too much to the disappointment of my parents.
My father received the less than favoured task of driving me, before work, to a nearby village to catch the bus ride to the city. I had never taken a bus to school in my life, it was not an experience I needed nor desired but there I was.
Math, science, biology, chemistry, music, art, accounting, even computer I hated them all. Oh and health or physical education or gym or phys-ed or whatever they wanted to call it, I hated it too. I like Creative Writing, and History, and Geography, nothing really to build a future on mind you.
I can read and understand Shakespeare, recite it – no, but ‘get it’ – yes, but I was not allowed to know it, only Advanced students could know and take it ‘there is a lot of standing before the class and giving oral presentations and memory work and reciting’ they looked at me “you know you do not like public speaking”.
I remember speaking once, or twice before an audience. I ran for council in public school and high school – what a joke “you know only the popular kids ever win right?”. Yes, I knew, but I ran regardless. A classmate called me brave and said that students respected me for trying. “I did not know you were running” my mother said as I returned home in my suit of defeat. Well, no, you did not, nor would I tell you and face additional discouragement – not that there would be from my mother, I had just grown to expect it in general from people, after all C minus students are not student leaders. It didn’t stop me from speaking in front of two audiences of over two hundred people when I ran for municipal office about twenty years later.
“There is nothing wrong with working in a factory”. Factory workers, garbage man, grocery store clerk, menial, routine, great work for C minus minds. “Your father worked in a factory and supported all of us, supported You” my mother said angrily as if I was ungrateful? “We wanted more, expected more, gave you opportunity, supported you… not with your marriage mind you, or leaving college, or choice of career, or moving to the US, but we supported you just the same”.
Quote for quote, probably definitely not, but it was thirteen years ago after all since that last hell-raising argument with my mother, since I last raised my voice in anger and anguish. And then ten years later she was gone.
I barely remember those ten years, except when I owned my store.
What did a C minus student do in his life? Well, by the end of high school I was doing better than when I entered. I was a fluke, an anomaly, so rare and so unlike me that it could be mentioned only separate from my name. I graduated with a seventy-five percent rounded average, from a sixty rounded to a seventy-five in four years and a long hot summer. I think I even qualified for honour roll that year, but since I dragged my feet on half a credit and they stretched my year by a couple weeks I guess they forgot to notice. I think they raised the honour roll by five or ten percent after that, after all we can not have too many dumb average students think they might have achieved something special – they might demand more of us and then where would we be?
Does it matter in the end? No, not really.
Does it change anything? One would say ‘definitely not’ but even by talking about it, or writing about it in this case, have things not already begun to change? Accepting my fate would have certainly meant my life would have been different and possibly the one hundred and forty five experiences (more on that another time), so far, I have had in my life may never have occurred.
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