this month's collab for Interpretations: message in a bottle.
I Never Played Well With Others
i was going thru my baby book recently, and found a letter tucked in the back. it's a note to my parents, from Mrs. Lind, my kindergarten teacher. i was 5 years old. it looks like the letter was stapled to something else, perhaps a report card (altho i can't imagine getting a report card - what would they grade you on? Sandbox 101?). i'm not sure what inspired my mom to keep this. but it made for interesting reading.
Mrs. Lind wrote this out on that starter school paper, the kind with dashed lines halfway between the solid lines to remind you where lower case should start and stop. it's all ragged down one side, and at first i thought she must have torn it out of a notebook. but then i remembered - that paper was always much wider than tall, wasn't it? she must have put a ruler down to tear it in half, so she could write short sweet notes for each student. her cursive is handbook Palmer, the kind of writing you never see anymore.
Elizabeth has been a real joy to me. I never cease to be amazed at her abilities. She is very much ahead of so many and should be an excellent student in school. I hope that you will insist that she not be held back in the areas she is so good in. There is so much extra she could accomplish if the opportunites are there. She is apt to get a little careless if not challenged enough as I'm sure you've noticed with some of the easier things we've done. She also plays well with the other children and is a good leader. Best of everything to a sweet little girl.
such a short note. so much analysis on my part.
i called my mom, to read this to her, and to run a few memories by her. kindergarten, in my head, was in a white clapboard church building with a huge lawn. we held Easter egg hunts there. there were at least two rooms, one for activities, and i think we had naps in the other room. there were little cubes along one wall, two high, where we could tuck our coats and boots. the only activity i remember is some group pantomime or charades, and i distinctly remember trying to act out making a bed. i also clearly recall the performance anxiety. at five years old, i was already obsessed with doing things perfectly, particularly when all eyes were watching.
my parents did take her advice about pushing me to heart, in a good way. apparently, i was already reading at a seventh grade level. rather precocious, now that i think about it. but at the time, it didn't don on me that it was anything spectacular. i just liked to read. a lot. i later ended up taking Latin, in i think 3rd or 4th grade, possibly one of the better things that ever happened. i was fascinated by the idea that words were made up out of bits of other words. learning roots and prefixes and suffixes was fun, and i got in the habit of taking words apart. it took a lot of fear out of meeting new words, because i'd already know something about some part of the word. even if i didn't know exactly what it meant, i could often guess the idea behind it.
the thing about being a leader... yes, i suppose that's true, to some extent. but there's a facile nature to her words. and i think, from a kid's point of view, it's never that easy. i fall into that role, but i don't enjoy it. i don't feel as if i have some gift for communication, that i can naturally find the common focus of a group and make it all work. i always feel that i'm on the outside, on the fringes of any group, peers or otherwise. i don't fit in easily. i never understand why people do listen to me, or put me in that role. it's uncomfortable to be in the spotlight. and yet, there she was, saying that i was a good leader. it's become a part of who i am, but i wonder if she hadn't seen that, and encouraged others to perceive me that way, if that would still be true.
i found this at a point where i was having a sort of crisis of confidence at work, and it struck me that so many things never really change. we think we grow up and learn and evolve, becoming different people along the way. but some core things stay the same.
what hit me the most about this was the fact that she nailed one of my biggest weaknesses, to this day, at five years old. 'She is apt to get a little careless if not challenged enough.' oh, how true. careless, or just plain lazy. if there's no challenge in something, i'm apt to put it off, or ignore it all together. i'll skate as much as i can; if it's that easy, it can't be all that important, right? and that's where i've been with work. i've been doing this job, and doing it well, for long enough that i know exactly where i can cut corners. and that bothers me.
to compound things even further, once i get in that mode, i shy away from true challenges. case in point are several projects at work. i could get the easy stuff out of the way, and tackle the more interesting things. but there are no deadlines for those, at least not imminent ones. so i let the procrastination build a sense of urgency about the smaller things, and then beg off the learning opportunities because i have so much work piled up on my desk.
i paint myself into a corner by doing this. when i think about where i could be if i just pushed myself a little harder, it makes me sad and tired. there are so many chances out there that i'm just not gunning for. and i think, hey, as an adult, i should be able to take advantage of all this, i should be able to get myself to a better place professionally. reading that note, from my kindergarten teacher, i realized that on some level, i'm still hoping for someone to push me along.