Monday, June 09, 2003

I can't sleep right now because I've got some things to get off my chest.

I was cursed from birth with intelligence. Unfortunately for me, the way the public school systems dealt with fast learners in the baby boom generation was to simply advance them a grade or two ahead of schedule. I spent six weeks in first grade before they determined that I was reading at a Junior High level, and wanted to advance me to third grade. They should have taken a close look at my feet. I probably didn't have my shoes tied that day. Tying my shoes was the one thing I had trouble learning in Kindergarden. I remember having to bring a shoelace home as "homework". Towards late Spring, I managed to figure it out, but that didn't mean I was practiced enough to get it done right in the rush to school every morning.

My shoelaces should have been an indication that I was going to be a little socially retarded.
If I'm thankful to my parents for one thing (other than keeping a roof over my head, and letting me set up this little basement apartment with it's own art studio) it's that they balked when the School administrators wanted to move me to Third grade. They did allow the school to move me into Second grade, though. Grade school wasn't so bad. At that young age, my being a year younger didn't make me too much smaller than the others. And I was more than their match in the classwork. I found friends in the other class nerds, and shared in their encounters with the class bullies. I even found girls in the class to have "crushes" on.

I really didn't have problems until Jr. High. That's when they start to separate the smarter kids into the more academic programs. So I began to lose touch with the few more normally-adjusted kids that I had befriended in grade school, and began to be associated more with the nerds and geeks. As puberty struck, and the difference in age between me and the other kids in my class became more evident, every gym class became a trauma. It was constantly the one course that kept me off the honor rolls, because i was expected to compete with kids who were all bigger and physically stronger than me. And that group showering thing is a real pain when you're the last boy in the class to get pubes. I still had my friends in the nerd group, and I had a lot more crushes, because the girls were really bacoming interesting to look at, but at the school dances, and skating parties, I would feel a tremendous insecurity.

9th grade was the worst for me. My best friend since Second grade, Mark, and I, because of the demands of our other class schedule, they said, were placed in the Gym and Shop schedule with the Special Ed class. Hey, we were solid C+ gym students, but putting the two smartest boys in the class in with the Special Ed kids was a devastating blow to a young ego. Sure, some of the kids were really retarded, and needed much supervision in physical activity and tool-handling, but most of the boys in this class were good athletes, just slow learners, or kids that didn't test well at all. And they took every frustration out on the two "Einsteins". I was thankful that Industrial Arts was only a required course until 9th grade. In 10th grade I was able to fit into a gym class with normal students. But the damage was done. I look back now and ask why I didn't take any Art classes in High School.
I think a fear of getting stuck in an Art class with the special ed students kept me from taking any. (Art wasn't a requirement in our school system after 8th grade) Instead I loaded up on every honors level course I could fit. I isolated myself among the smart kids. Today, I look at my yearbook, and I really only recognise about 40 of the 250 kids in my graduating class.
I had a social life in High School, but it was centered around School functions. I got heavily into Band and Drama and the AFS. I usually had a meeting or a practice 5 nights a week.
That and homework, and a full slate of TV, I had little life outside of school.

The kids my age in the neighborhood either went to the Catholic schools, or were jocks, or both. So i didn't really get along with them. I did get along with the kids who were two years younger than me and about three years behind me in school. For some reason, this group in my neighborhood were smarter than their older brothers, and more into the things I enjoyed, like Comics and TV, and Board Games. I think back then I established a pattern of identifying more with kids younger than me that i still follow today. Arrested development, I guess.

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