A note for the kid:
I wrote this a while ago. But the shoe still fits, so . . .
I was around 14 or 15 years-old when a tall, heavy-set teacher, shoved me into the back corner of an empty classroom.
He was out of line but then again, so was I.
Grinding his teeth he said, “Do you wanna know what I’d like to do to you?”
Then he leaned even closer. “I’d kick the living shit out of you right now if I could.”
I was squeezed by his over-sized belly and pushed into the corner between the waist-high counter at the row of tilt-out windows in the classroom. I was pressed against the corner of the dull-colored walls.
We were near the year’s end. We were closing in on finals and me, I was on the verge of being left back again.
“I’d slap the shit out of you!” said the teacher.
He was a bully.
I get that I was difficult.
I get that I was troubled.
Behaviorally, I was a royal pain in the ass
But still, I was just a kid.
He was a man of substantial size and much bigger than me.
He was grown man picking on a little scrawny kid.
I’m not sure what I did to deserve his attention. I might have called him Fred Flintstone, due to his resemblance to the cartoon character.
Or maybe I just screamed, “Wilma!” because he hated that too. Or, maybe I just responded to him and the way he looked at me.
Maybe I knew he hated me. Maybe I knew he hated everything about me. Or maybe I knew what he was thinking even without him saying it. But still, he was a teacher. This was his job.
Maybe, and most likely, my pupils were large and my face was red. It’s probable that tucked into the outside chest pocket of my denim jacket, there was a pack of Marlboro Reds. It is also likely that I was high at the time, scared as ever, and just trying to act like I was unaffected.
Otherwise, there was probably a bowl (or a pipe) in my inside jacket pocket next to a gram-sized bag of weed and a stainless steel, flip-top lighter to spark it up.
More than likely, I wore an obnoxious and anti-authority shirt and my jeans were probably ripped somewhere around the knees.
Quite possibly, I had a brush stuffed in one of my pockets to run through my long greasy hair, and it is more than likely, the combination of psychedelics and the sealable bag of weed had altered my perception.
“I fuckin hate you kids,” the teacher said.
“If I could, I would beat you and send you home crying.”
I was scared at first.
Acting tough and being loud is not the same thing as being tough and being capable.
More than an age difference, the size advantage was in his favor. However, and more accurately, the abuse was already done. I was scared but when I realized he couldn’t hit me, I felt my nerves begin to settle.
I felt the understanding that the over-sized and angry teacher was leashed to his job. He was leashed by the law, and though I may have done something to deserve this, he was only a verbal threat.
When he said, “If I could, I’d beat you and send you home crying,” his voice was lowered and almost growling.
Once I knew he wouldn’t follow through, I looked up through the long bangs that dangled over my bloodshot eyes and said, “But you can’t!” Then I pushed myself out from between the teacher and the wall.
To put an exclamation point on my statement, I shoved several desks around before reaching the doorway and exiting the room.
I recall the lights in the classroom were off. It was mid-may and this was either my first or second time in ninth grade. Whether the teacher hit me or not is irrelevant. Either way, the damage was done.
Storming out of the room I shouted, “Yaba-daba-doo,” and then walked out to disappear in the hallway. God, I hated these days.
I was labeled by our school system and told that I was academically challenged. I was called remedial. I was learning disabled but I was never properly diagnosed.
The numbers in math class were too much. I could not read well and I seldom understood the material in class.
I couldn’t fit
I couldn’t make sense of the work I was doing.
I was frustrated.
I wasn’t emotionally disturbed, which is what I was told.
Feeling stupid is hard on anyone. It was hard for me too.
Plus, I had other difficulties.
I was small for my age. Young looking, like a little boy. I was moving late through puberty and felt inadequate.
This did not mean I had ADD, or ADHD. This didn’t mean I needed medication or therapeutic evaluation. It meant I needed help. It meant I was frustrated. Being told I was stupid was not motivational. I wasn’t stupid. I just needed help.
I was told I would probably pump gas for a living. At best, maybe I could drive a truck. I recall some of my teachers telling me I would probably dig ditches for the rest of my life.
What’s funny about this is some of my friends in Local 79 dig ditches and they pull in a 6-digit income, which is significantly more than a teacher’s salary.
Some of my teachers said if I wasn’t dead or in jail, my best hope is that I’d come into some blue collar job and go home with dirt beneath my fingernails.
It turns out they were right.
If I could talk to my old self or speak to the kid I used to be, I would say, “Don’t listen to them.”
I’d tell my old self, “You’re not who they say you are.”
I’d say, “There’s nothing wrong with you,” but I know the kid I used to be and what my answer would have been.
My old self would have answered, “But I can’t do it!”
“Yes you can.”
My old self would argue, “ But I don’t know how!” and I’d have to tell the old me, “Yes you do.”
If I could talk to that overweight teacher, I’d have defended my old self
If I could, I’d have punished that teacher. I’d have taught him what it means to suffer because suffering is an accurate description of how I felt back then.
A few years back….
I saw an old English teacher of mine.
“It’s good to see you,” he said.
He asked, “What are you doing with yourself these days?”
I told him, “I remember the first time you told me to write a paper.”
I told him, “You gave it back to me and said it wasn’t even English.”
He smiled, almost apologizing, and said, “Did I? I was kinda crazy back then.”
I smiled too
I told him, “What’s funny is I’m a published author now. I do public speaking in schools and large auditoriums. But you, this s still you. And you’re still here too, is that right?
I smirked, “Yeah, it’s good to see you too!”
I walked away but it was nice to watch his smile go away..
So this one is for you, kid….
Never let anyone tell you you’re stupid!
I think deep down, everyone has that little kid in them, bullied or afraid, beaten, or worried they might fail. Tired of trying. Tired of failing. Tired of feeling out of place or out of sorts, uncomfortable and awkward, and always given to the ideas that somehow, we’re less than.
I think deep within us is a tiny cry that lives and weeps and only wishes to feel the simple things like, for example, sun on the face and wind through the hair.
There is a seed buried in the earth of our soul, which is us, which is our life and our purpose and our drive. This is where we root from.
Like any plant, the seed needs to be cared for; it needs to be nurtured, watered, fed, and mixed with all things necessary, like sunlight, temperature, conditions, soil and so on.
All living things have needs, thus, so do we and so does the spirit.
So go ahead, kid.
Go get it . . .
There are those who we encounter that poison the air with their own agenda. Don’t bother with them. Stay away. You’ll meet a lot of these people on the road to nowhere.
There are those who we’ll encounter that will look to absorb the spotlight (just like a weed,) They’ll look for the spotlight or the payoff, but you kid, you have them beat. Trust me you do.
So go ahead.
It’s your turn now
I see them out there:
The snobs, the socially snobbish,
the intellectual snobs, the opinionated
and the holier than thou. . .
But let me ask you something
Are they even real?
Do these people really exist?
Or, are they only real because we feed the weeds instead of nurturing the seeds of our better hopes and dreams?
Son, I have a question for you
Do you know why we plant more than one seed?
It’s because we have to.
This way we have more to grow on. This way we see more fruit for our labor. This way of one plant dies, ewe still have more food to feed our dreams.
I know you have dreams
I do too
We all do
So go ahead, kid
It’s your turn now