It is true that we are who we are and that we are products of our background and environment. It is true to say that much of our hang-ups are linked back to early memories and carry on as a remnant from our childhood.
I often discuss this because this is where my roots begin. This is also where I had to begin the process of unearthing my old truths so that I can unlearn and re-teach myself, as well as replant the new version of who I choose to become.
In my case, I came to my stages of awareness at different moments in time. This was my journey, which might be relatable, or I might be more alone than I think. However, if we relate to the core of the story instead of the outcomes and instances, my belief is that everyone has their thoughts which are in need of reconstructive surgery.
But . . .
Nevertheless, this is me and this is where the roots of my thinking become ingrown or, better yet, this is where the roots of my thinking were less than harvestable due to the fact that the sprouts of my true soul was less than cared for.
I say this because most times, we never question what we think. We have trained biases and assumptions. We have habitual thinking and beliefs based upon experiences and opinions as well as past feelings and interactions with shame.
In most cases, we go along with the ideas we have and we believe that our thoughts are truth. Sometimes, life opens up to show us that what we think and who we think we are is absolutely inaccurate.
I know that the people we have in our lives are put there for a reason. I know this with all of my heart. I know that every experience we go through is necessary for us to evolve into who we become. We are as strong as our truths is what I say.
I know that we all have family and that although our family may (or may not) be dysfunctional at times; and although to each their own, and regardless of the fact that we all have our own family culture; we all have that special aunt or cousin or person in our family that somehow opens our eyes.
I know that had it not been for people like my Aunt Sondra, I would have never so much as thought of evolving beyond the person I was at the time.
And here’s why ~
I was never a good student. Then again, I was never excited to be in a classroom. I had my share of public humiliations at school. I had social challenges and clinical labels placed on my back which, to me, stood out like the last name printed across the shoulders on the back of an athlete’s jersey.
I was terrible at math. I had poor reading comprehension and retention. I stuttered when I read out loud and yes, this was very hard on me. I had bad experiences with teachers who perhaps chose the wrong profession.
Or, maybe the kids wore them down and out of frustration and after being let down or perchance maybe they were jaded and gave up hope – but either way, I had a few physical experiences with teachers as a young teenager.
This did nothing else but make me think that I was stupid.
I know that I was called a joke. I was called a bum. I know that I was told that I would be dead before getting out of high school – and that’s if I ever made it out of high school.
In fact, one teacher told me with vigor that when this happens, he wanted to be there. He wanted to be there to see me on the street so that he could laugh at what I’d become. Either that, or so that he could kick the shit out of me.
I do not defend my attitude or my behavior throughout my time in school. I do not defend the hours of torment that I had spun upon my teachers. I do not deny that if I were made to deal with someone like me – or should I say if I had to deal with that old version of myself, I get it. I’d have probably wanted to kick my own ass too.
Then again, this is part of the job. Part of teaching is understanding the different learning abilities and the different learning patterns of students. I struggled to find that match.
I can say that after a compilation of events and humiliations and after this began to calculate into my belief system, I started to believe in my inabilities more than I believed in my capabilities.
Your belief system is everything. Trust me when I tell you this.
If you believe that you are capable, then you are.
If you believe that you’re a rock star and I mean if you believe this down to the fabric of your very core; if you believe this, then it’s true. Or . . .
If you believe in your abilities then you’ll be able to do whatever you choose to do. However, the pendulum can swing to the opposite side of the spectrum. Therefore, if you believe in your limitations or if you believe in the labels you’ve been given; if you believe that, at best, all you’ll ever be is someone in the underbelly in the cycle of life; then so be it. Your beliefs will come true.
What was I thinking?
I can only answer this question with another question.
Why is this me?
Why do things happen to me?
Do I deserve this?
I used to hear people say the popular saying, “What goes around, comes around.” But then I started to wonder: When is it my turn?
When will the good stuff come around to me?
When will I be able to stand up in front of people and not be intimidated?
When will I be able to read, think or, better yet, when will I be “normal,” if there is such a thing?
I suppose I was happy to be away from school. Maybe school wasn’t for me. Maybe the teachers were right. Maybe I was stupid just like the learning tests said. Or, maybe I just believed in a promoted narrative that did nothing else but degrade me.
I made a promise to my Aunt Sondra that I would go back and get my high school diploma.
I told her that I wouldn’t be able to pass the general equivalency tests.
I told her that I was not good in school,
“I’m going to fail.”
This is why I went into the working world because although I had bosses, I was able to be my own boss. I could produce without worrying about my social status. I could go to work and chances were that no one would ask me to read out loud in front of my co-workers to laugh at me while I stuttered to read “Th-th-tha-the qui-qui-qui–quickkk—br-brown—foxxxx-ja-ja-jumpeddd–ovv-ove-over–the-la-la-laz-lazy dog.
That would never happen to me again.
But a promise is a promise.
I followed up with my promise and went to night school classes to study.
My first interaction was with a woman who was a teacher. To me, she wouldn’t do well.
To me, she sounded too much like someone who watched too many inspirational movies and after -school specials. She told me that I matter and that everyone should have the right to an education.
Then she was a bit too inquisitive into my personal life which, at the time, I saw as more shameful than something I should be proud about. Although I was at a bad place, I adapted in ways that most people don’t. I cleaned up and I showed up.
Many people go their entire lives and never accomplish this.
Eventually, I answered the teacher’s question as to why I never had the chance to finish school with somewhat of an exaggerated and certainly exploited tone of defiance and rage. Her smiling expression changed from encouraging to slightly fearful and certainly awkward.
I asked, “Is there anything else you want to know about me?”
Her line of questioning stopped right there.
What happened next?
I gave up.
I went back to one more class and that was it.
This was not good enough for my Aunt Sondra.
So, I went back and I tried again.
I went to a few study classes and saw no point because (of course) I was going to fail.
I promised I would do the work and take the test. But no one ever said anything about me passing.
“If you fail you fail and then we’ll try again,” said my Aunt Sondra.
To me, this was easy for her to say because I was the one who had to go through the shame and humiliation. Of course, this was the problem with my thinking. I had to deal with the thoughts and ideas that I was “not enough” or that I was “stupid” and “learning disabled.”
I took the test. I did what I promised.
I followed through and for the next few weeks, I punished myself with the failing ideas that none of this was worthwhile; that I was stupid, that all of my old teachers and all of the old narratives in my mind were nothing but true.
Eventually, I started to get back to my old routine.
Life was back to life as usual. I went to work. I did my job. I had no passion for the pace I worked at and there was no future in this for me. But hey, I had a job and I went to work which is exactly what I was told a man is supposed to do. Right?
I almost forgot about the general equivalency exam.
But then . . .
A letter came for me. It was from the department of education.
To be honest, it took me about 45 minutes before I could open it.
I sat down in a reclining chair in my Aunt’s living room.
I was expecting something to read like, “Dear Mr. Kimmel, we regret to inform you that you did not meet the necessary criteria” or something like that.
But no, that was not the case.
I passed. . .
I did it.
And then I cried.
I opened the letter and read every word.
I passed. Can you believe it?
I didn’t even try and I passed.
Why was I crying?
I can tell you this much.
Perhaps this was the first time that I realized that I believed in lies.
I believed in my limitations.
I believed in my thinking and that, therefore, everything I thought about myself is true – until I learned to prove myself wrong.
All of our traumas and experiences from our youth are part of what builds the stage to our later-life. Sometimes, we have to dismantle the structures of our life to recognize that we have exactly what it takes to rebuild and begin a brand new life.
Therefore, in answer to the question of what goes around comes around and to come to the result of the question that goes “when is it my turn?”
The answer is simple – as soon as you give yourself permission to make it your turn and take the chance. Take the dare. Take the pain and take whatever comes because, by all means, please let yourself defy that unnecessary bullshit that’s lied to you about yourself.
That’s when your turn will come around.
I hadn’t spoken to an old friend for close to a decade or almost two. We had talked for a while and then promised to pick up where we left off a day or two later.
He called back and told me about another friend who knew me “back in the day” so-to-speak.
She asked what I was up to and assumed the worst (at least that’s what I guessed).
My old friend explained, “He’s got a lot of letters after his name now.”
I am not a number. I am not an inmate; although, with regards to spending time in jails, I did run a Sunday morning transformational program in a country jail called Breakfast with Benny.
I’m not who I was and I might not be where I want to be – yet!
But I’m not where I was either.
And there’s a reason for this.
Dear Aunt Sondra,
Remember when you said “I knew you could do it?”
I didn’t know it. But thanks to you, look where I am now. . .
I love you,
(Inspired by O.)
I think if you have one kind embracing encouraging person in childhood it helps a lot. Like a little plant we need good nutrition to grow and sadly so often irs absent just due to the nature of how life can be.
Teachers are supposed to nurture kids. This makes me feel so angry and sad.