Things You Should Know

A response to A.M. Homes’s short story, “Things You Should Know”.

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When I was in elementary school, my teachers called me stupid.

It was funny, really. They called me stupid when they knew I was brilliant. They yelled at me when I couldn’t remember how to spell a simple word, then stared at me in disbelief when I solved a middle school level math problem.

They knew I wasn’t stupid, but they couldn’t figure out what I was, so they called me stupid.

I stopped paying attention to them early on. All they did was talk and wave their hands around, and the other kids seemed to think that was great, but I didn’t.


A few times, I tried to pay attention. Then I’d hear something, like the tapping of a pencil.

Tap tap tap…

I’d press myself to listen, to focus.

Tap tap tap tap tap…

I gave up almost immediately. It didn’t seem to be worth the fight.


I missed information all the time. I managed to teach myself the important stuff because it was easy and made sense when the world was quiet, but I missed all the details because it’s hard for a kid to teach herself details.

I couldn’t figure out spelling because there was so much to memorize. I got an F in citizenship because I didn’t pay attention and chose to talk to other students who could pay attention but didn’t want to. I hated science and history because there were a million different pieces and details to them, and I couldn’t keep up.

I loved math and grammar. With those, there was a basic set of rules that seemed to carry through everything, even the weird exceptions. There was no memorization, just basic understanding. And then more complex understanding based on those basics, and it kept growing in complexity.

Yet, it all always seemed so easy to me, especially when the world was quiet.

When there was noise, even math and grammar became difficult.


In fifth grade, I went to a different school.

We didn’t move or anything. I’d just taken a test, and some people who acted like they knew everything determined that I was “smarter” than my age, so they put me in an extended learning program. I switched to a different school in the district that year so I could be in the “smarter” class.

The class helped some and hurt some. It was very free reign, so it didn’t matter so much if I payed attention or not, but I could never figure out what I was supposed to be doing. The teacher only gave information once and then expected us to handle ourselves. I had trouble hearing the information the first time.

But the harder work was wonderful. It wasn’t too hard, not for me, but it was difficult enough to keep my mind entertained for longer periods of time.

Memorization was still an impossible feat.


Halfway through my fifth grade year, my teacher had a meeting with my parents. She suggested that they take me to get tested for attention disorders.

My parents agreed. They were so excited about it, saying that I might finally be able to focus like a normal person.

They never said I’d finally be normal, but somehow, I knew that it was implied.

I went with it, because what kid would complain about missing the first half of the school day for a whole week?


I was diagnosed with ADD.

“Attention deficit disorder,” they told me. “This explains why you’ve never been able to concentrate, why you’ve always been behind in school!”

Actually, I’m ahead, I thought but never dared to speak. I’m in the extended learning program and everything!

Instead, I just smiled and nodded as they explained how I would have to go to the nurse and take medicine. They put emphasis on how I shouldn’t be ashamed.

Well, I wasn’t ashamed. I was annoyed that they thought that I was ashamed, and that they thought I was abnormal enough to need medicine. But I humored them and agreed.


One month.

One month was all it took for me to discover the world I’d been missing.

For a ten years, teachers called me stupid, and I thought they were stupid because obviously I wasn’t stupid.

If someone had just cared enough to actually help me, to notice my issues and use their brain, to solve the equation that was me, I could’ve skipped all that worry.

But no one cared, not until fifth grade.

And after a month of taking the medicine they gave me (one pill in the morning, one pill at lunch), I was starting to realize what I had missed.

I still noticed every bit of motion around me, every sound and every flinch, but I could finally look past it all. I could focus in on one thing in particular, keep track of what I was doing, listen to a teacher as they talked.

The tap tap tap of a pencil still distracted me, but not nearly as much as it once had.

In one month, my world had changed entirely. I suddenly knew things that I’d never realized I didn’t know. I could focus. Instead of a myriad of images, my world could become just one thing.

How could anyone have let me go so long without this?


I stepped up to the front of the room, wincing at the rapping sounds of the paper in my quaking hands.

“My teachers used to call me stupid.” I began.

My teacher coughed and I looked at her. She had always been good to me. She’d never once called me stupid. In fact, she’d told me multiple times that I was one of the most brilliant people she’d ever met.

I met her gawking gaze and offered a small smile. “It’s true. For ten years of my life, teachers called me stupid.”

I turned to look at the rest of my class. “Some of you think I’m stupid, too. Because I’m different. Because I like to work alone, in silence.”

They stared up at me with wide eyes. It was strange, having them stare at me. They never stared at me. They rarely even looked at me. I was out of their realm of understanding. I was never on their list of “Things You Should Know.”

I slowly set my paper down and leant back against the table behind me. My hands no longer shook as I observed the people before me, the ones I had just a moment ago thought knew the world better than me, because they had known it the way I finally knew it for far longer.

Turns out, I had always been one step ahead.

“How many of you know what ADD is?”

In the Matter of a Second: My Brother

A story of trust.

It only takes a moment, a split second decision, to build something… or destroy everything.

When I was young, I had faith in everything and everyone. I trusted unquestioningly, devoted myself to people without a thought.

When I was young, my friends would always be there, my brother would always protect me, my parents would never let me down.

When I was young, I was innocent and naïve, and my smile was never fake.

But now, I have trouble trusting. I never let people see me, not without a fight. They see me through windows, imagining they have a view of everything, but only seeing fragments. They see a completed painting, not realizing it was cut down to fit the frame.

My brother lost my trust first. We moved for the umpteenth time, and I found myself in a new house and a new neighborhood in the middle of the school year. I was shy, so I stuck to my brother as we stood at the bus stop that first morning, believing naïvely that he would never let me down.

It only took a minute for someone to ask if I was his sister. I can understand where the question came from. We were polar opposites. He was tall, had bleach blonde hair, and spoke like he owned the world. I still hadn’t hit my growth spurt, had dark hair, and did my best to hide in my brother’s shadow. Even our eyes were completely different shades of brown.

I started to answer, started to speak a soft but proud “Of course!” when he said, “Her? No, she’s not my sister.”

And my heart shattered. I stared at him with wide eyes, but he didn’t spare me even the smallest glance. He just went on chatting and laughing.

I tried to find a way to trust him again, but he never gave me a chance. Every day that followed, he acted as if I didn’t exist, and they followed along. I gave him plenty of chances at redemption in the following years, but he never took them. He didn’t want them.

And so I stopped trying. Every day that followed, I stood there silently, staring at the street, waiting for the bus that could never come fast enough. He never noticed, never cared.

That day, the first piece of my unwavoring smile became fake.

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Color Guard

A bit about the activity I love and why I love it.

There have been a few times in my posts where I’ve mentioned Color Guard and “my girls”. I am 99% confident that the majority of people who have and will read my blog have no clue what I’m talking about.

I am also 99% confident that almost no one just got my statistics pun.

These are the times when I realize I’m a complete nerd… (Insert deep sigh)

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First off, ignore the scary/crazy/demented look on my face. I was really excited.

Second, I know there’s been a few times when I linked the words “Color Guard” to the wikipedia page for it (which, by the way, makes me laugh. It’s like reading a wikipedia page about high school. It feels like you’re reading about yourself).

My guess is that you didn’t click on it, and if you did, it didn’t help at all.

So, basically, Color Guard is a performing arts activity that some people consider a sport and some don’t, but technically it isn’t because it’s not part of the Olympics or something, but it should be because we run around just as much as, if not more than, any actual sports.

At its most basic level, Guard is that activity where people dance, spin (not twirl) flags, and play with weapons known as rifles and sabres.

At its most complex level, Guard is a hardcore activity where summer vacation becomes 5-12 hours every day spent in the blazing heat trying to put together a show, where winter vacation becomes a couple of weeks spent in a gym sweating and bleeding, where you worry more about getting blood on your uniform than the fact that you’re bleeding, where your greatest wish becomes making it to WGI finals.

Some people barely spare Guard girls (and guys) a passing glance. Some people think we’re crazy. Some people don’t even know who we are.

Truth is, we just love it.

I don’t know what makes other Guard girls stick around, but I stay because I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.

Before Guard, I was the shyest girl you’d ever met. I rarely talked to anyone, and when I did, it was either because they initiated the conversation or I was too tired to realize what I was doing. I stayed quiet in my corner of every class, never did anything to draw attention to myself…

Basically, I was a turtle in a shell, hiding in plain sight.

Then I joined the Guard, and I had no choice but to forget all about my shy nature. The first day I walked into the Band room, this girl I didn’t even know came up to me and started going on and on about how she was one of my brother’s friends and how much she loved him and how much I’d love Guard.

At the time, I was overwhelmed, but I soon got used to it. I became accustomed to instructors coming over to adjust my arms and legs, to random Guard girls coming over to talk to me, to being watched by anyone and everyone.

I remember, at one competition, an upperclassman whom I’d become close to commented on how I’d come out of my shell. I was stunned, but I realized she was right.

From that moment on, I decided I liked not being shy. I didn’t feel the need to draw attention to myself, but I also didn’t feel the need to redirect any attention I recieved. I grew more confident in myself and my abilities, more attentive to detail, more comfortable in my own skin.

I found myself happy, and I knew that I finally belonged.

There are many more lessons I’ve learned, far too many to express in words. Guard is something you can’t truly understand unless you’re a part of it. Performing a show you’ve worked so many grueling hours on… It’s a wonderful feeling.

It hurts to know this is my last season. Once it ends, I’ll be leaving a piece of me behind.

But that time hasn’t come yet, so I’ll enjoy my last season of Guard while it lasts.

I hope this helps you understand, somehow. With the part about “my girls”, I don’t mean that only girls do Guard. It’s just that, in my Guard, we only have girls. I mean, technically we have one girl who’s gender-fluid, but I’ve gotten into the habit of calling them my girls and it’s a bit hard to break.

I don’t know if she/he minds. I think she/he just appreciates that we accept her and make the effort.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say for now. This post was a bit longer than I meant it to be, so.

Until next time!

 

A Doodle for a Cause

My page of doodling for National Doodle Day.

As promised, here is my doodle/page of doodling for National Doodle Day!

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So, I was gonna try just creating one image, but I don’t do well with stuff like that, so I just pulled out a writing pad last period (I had study hall, so I had plenty of time) and started doodling whatever wanted to be doodled.

This was the result.

I honestly don’t know what to make of it all, but… You know. Whatever. It’s the thought the counts.

I managed to turn the letters of my name into monsters of some sort. That made me very happy. I also drew the sun I always made when I was little. And when I say always, I mean always. Every paper from when I was in elementary school had a little sun with sunglasses in the corner.

Yeah, I was cool (not).

I started filling the corner up with flowers, but then they started becoming blurs of dots and squiggles, and I got bored. I ended up making a rendition of the Avengers symbol. My closest friend group kind of has a thing for them.

The heart balloons I sort of decided were my thing a long time ago. If I ever have a logo for anything, that will be it. So please don’t steal it from me or anything.

And the serpent thing’s name is Dan.

The rest has absolutely no rhyme or reason, which I guess is the usual outcome of doodling. Anyway, that’s my doodling for the day! Remember, if you created any doodles today, I’d love to see them!

Celebrate this wonderful day with me!

 

A Happy Place

The place I seek when I need peace.

You’ve all heard the phrase “Find your happy place”. When you search your mind for that place, where do you go? What do you see?

When I search for my happy place, I find a beach.

I know many people probably do the same. Beaches are peaceful, calming, relaxing. Even if you’ve never actually been to the beach, you’ve seen pictures and can at least imagine what it might be like.

However, I seek out a very specific place. I look through my mind and find a beach from my earliest memories, my childhood, my youth, my teenage years. A place that holds my most cherished memories, and a place where I buried my greatest fears in the sand.

Since before I can remember, my parents have been taking my brother and I to Fort Myers Beach. We used to visit at least once a year, usually more, for months at a time. My dad even took me out of school for a week so that he and I could take a much needed vacation. I was in first grade then, but focusing was hard and life was stressful.

I remember, when we were younger, my brother and I would build castles on that beach. I wasn’t any good at it, but he was. He’s always been creative in a way I can never be. He saw the completed project before we’d even started, and all I ever saw were odd, mishappen structures. But then we’d finish, and my heart would be filled with wonder.

I remember my dad getting me up early to walk on that beach with him, because no one else wanted to go and he loves walking on the beach. He would say he especially loves to walk on the beach with me because I’m his little girl, and I’d say I’ll always be his little girl, and he’d give me a knowing smile.

I remember playing in that sand alone because my brother was growing up and thought it too childish for him to play on the beach. I remember the first time he complained about going to the Florida, when he first started hating Fort Myers Beach. He still does.

We haven’t returned to that beach for about two years now. Life has been hectic, and my parents have used any free time to schedule trips to more exciting places, like China and Alaska.

Still, my memories of that beach remain, and I still reminisce in the strange peace I felt every time I went there.

When I find my happy place, I go to that beach. I stare out at the ocean and watch as the water curls under a bright and shining sun. I listen to the rhythmic sounds of the waves breaking on the beach, perfectly in sync with my every breath. I wiggle my toes in the soft sand, feel the tickle as the water barely runs over them. I taste and smell the salt and sunshine on the air.

I know the place by heart, with every sense of my being. When I go there for some peace of mind, I recall the place in perfect detail. The only difference is that I’m alone on the beach. No one is around to disturb my peace. I have the place all to myself.

We all have our own unique happy place. Sometimes there’s a great deal of meaning behind the place, sometimes there’s not. As long as it makes you happy, it doesn’t matter whether there’s a reason or not. It’s your happy place for a reason.

Make it your own.

And may it forever bring you joy.


 

Picture Sources: kayak.com

The Outrigger Beach Resort

HomeAway

(Note: I did not take the pictures myself, but they are all of my beach. I would recognize it anywhere. I’ll try to find some pictures my family has taken and replace these with those, but for now…)