As a teacher I think a lot about how the kids I teach will turn out as adults. I wonder how many of the smart kids will give in to peer pressure to be careless with academics. I wonder how many of the part time bullies will turn into full time bullies. I wonder how many will finish high school and how many will go on to college and how many will become doctors and lawyers and astrophysicists. I wonder how many will have teen pregnancies and end up in crack houses living on welfare. People change so much from childhood to adulthood, from young adulthood to old adulthood.
It makes me look at myself too. I try to look back to my own childhood, blurry as it is. Who was I then? Was my childhood indicative of my present, of my future? My memory has never been very accurate, sometimes I wonder if that shapes things too.
I was a short stout child, quiet and reclusive and thoughtful. I was a serious daydreamer. I was a loner and conflicted as to whether or not I enjoyed my solitude. As time passed I ended up with 7 younger siblings. I did a lot to teach them and take care of them, but I was still quiet and reserved and serious. I never felt like an older sibling exactly, though, more like one of a crowd of variously aged children. I think that a lot of my brothers and sisters felt this way too, but I’m not sure why.
We moved a lot when I was a kid. A lot. Between the moves and the remote locations, I became more of a recluse as I grew older. We were all home schooled for a while, then when real school began I had a lot of trouble. Not academically, but socially. I didn’t understand most other kids’ behavior and tendencies, and I quickly came to dislike most of the kids I spent any time with. My siblings and I were always pretty close, but that’s about it. The first time I had a friend who I acknowledged as such was in 8th grade. We were friends for less than a year and when we parted ways, we never spoke again.
High school made me even less social, but I became intrigued by people, and I would just observe. I had two close friends that I thought would last a lifetime. I haven’t spoken to either of them in years. We didn’t have a falling out or anything, we just went our separate ways, again. I feel like my first three years of high school were building up to my senior year. I was involved in a lot of extra curricular stuff, but most of it wasn’t the stuff I wanted to be doing. I finally started to do things and assert my interests. And then about half way through junior year all the skeletons in my family’s closet came out to play, and a year of absolute hell followed.
The year ended with me leaving my friends and family and all my plans and moving in with my dad, who I had barely talked to for what felt like a lifetime. With changing schools my senior year, all my plans and achievements went out the window. I probably fit the textbook description of ‘depression’ in a very teenage way, and I gave up on a lot of things I should have fought for. Then graduation came and college just sort of happened. I needed to get out of my house and my life, so I went to the first place that accepted me. After a senior year right out of hell it was a miracle I got accepted at all.
College came and went too. Today I am a private school teacher in New England. I’ve been to Europe. I’ve lived on my own, bought my own car (twice), and started again to plan for the future. How did that childhood make me this? What even is this?
I’m still quiet. I still stick by myself and watch. I’m still a learner and a teacher. I’m still a family man. I still don’t understand the ‘other kids’ but it doesn’t bother me. I’m still confused by the skeletons that have slunk back into my family’s closet, into my closet.
But now I’m determined, and I’m not a push over. Mostly. I’m ambitious and I don’t want to waste time. I’m looking for something valuable to be passionate about, and give that a go. I’m independent. I think that I’ve changed. I think that all people change. Sometimes that’s good, but mostly it’s a little scary, what with not knowing the future and all.