Somewhere out there is a locker. In it is a jean jacket, a copy of Cat’s Cradle, a paper-bag covered textbook which was never opened, and a slip of paper. On that slip of paper is the code which opens the lock holding the items hostage.
Memories like this one further validate my need to carry everything on my person.
But I digress. Back to my locker. In theory, of course. I’ll never go back. And anyway, I can’t.
Leaving the code inside the locker was a rookie mistake. I went to the office and said I needed a new locker. I said that I had not been assigned a locker the week before. The staff was flustered, as they always were when I abused the system to cover my mistakes; after all, they were certain that the locker assignment had happened, as planned, a week prior.
Are you certain, dear?
Here’s the thing: I changed high schools nine times and in the one and a half years I attended high school in total, I learned little in the way of curriculum. The changes did provide me with loads of experience in Office Speak. I was fluent. I could talk my way into, out of, and around any high school front office.
This was cake.
After a few bewildered and impatient moments during which we both looked at each other, the form, each other, the form, the truth, the clock… she acquiesced, mainly to get me out of there, and she gave me a new locker.
I was never worried.
Before I left, she showed me a map of lockers and hallways which made the school look like a primary game of Tetris and I tried, very hard, to look like I got it all while secretly sweating. I knew I’d remember the color blocks and the exits, clearly labeled as they were, but…. Dear God, what was it with all of those tiny numbers? There were so, so many of them. Laughing and pointing, reminding me that only a fool leaves her locker code inside the locker.
Off I went. Blue 32 steps, red 14 steps, yellow staircase no need to count, past the funny-looking Dalmatian portrait, and… 6574, 6573, 6572, 6571… almost there. No, wait. The numbers are going down. I turned around. 6572, 6573, 6574, 6575, Biology 301, Mr. Hastings. 6589, 6590, 6591. Wait, what?!
I crossed the hall, looking for the missing numbers, checked the map, and then –suddenly- I was in the 6300s. I was lost and tired and the bell decided right at that moment that it would add some humor to the situation. Doors opened, kids rushed out of classrooms, and my sense of space was invaded by noise and chaos. There would be no numbers found that day.
Maybe the next school would use a better system? Maybe it could fix this.
I realized that I had better hurry and beat the truancy officer. I ran towards the exit sign –green- my favorite color on the map! I pushed hard and the door flew open sending a rush of cold air into my soul. It snatched the slip of paper from my hand. Up, up, up it flew. It floated a moment and then rushed towards the ground and landed in my path. I rushed to pick it up.
Locker Number: 7566
Not even close. Ah well, maybe lucky school number ten will fix it. Fix this.
Recently I had a conversation with an amazing group of parents trying their best at this parenting-the-gifted-child thing we keep talking about. They expressed the anxiety, the extreme anxiety, we have all experienced along the way. We all fret over the what-if-they-do’s as much as we fret over the what-if-they-don’t’s. We compare their journeys to our own and to other children’s even though we know we shouldn’t.
What’s the worst that could happen, we wondered?
I expressed it was on this very blog that I, for the first time in my life, shared the stories of my high school experience, of dropping out, getting a GED, and hiding disabilities –and abilities- for years upon years.
A friend smiled and said, “Look at you now! See, it doesn’t even matter!”
This is a sentiment I would have loved to hear 25 years ago. Now, however, I realize it does matter. It matters a lot. I thought the degrees and the successes were top. They were my sundae, my toppings, my icing, and my cherry. I thought they made me who I had become and by sheer effort of forceful ignoring the bad stuff my childhood would just — disappear.
Nothing disappears. Especially for the gifted person who has the gift of memory.
People ask me if the stories I tell are true. Absolutely. My Nagymama was a real light, a beautiful light, who unintentionally tripped into a bad decade and dealt with it the only way a brilliant mind can. Billy was a real kid, a great kid, a truly gifted kid who fought a battle against ignorance, poverty, and abuse, and lost. Cassie was a real friend, a great friend, a truly messed up, addicted, and disillusioned kind of friend, who I secretly hoped would read my blog and email me, “Is that you!?” Yes, yes it is.
This story is real. Very real. There is a lucky jean jacket wearing winner of a Vonnegut book somewhere in this universe. The real… the real about being gifted and learning disabled is that even if you don’t know about either one… you still know. You just do. And it doesn’t always make it feel any better.
Sometimes it just feels like bits and pieces of memory locked away with their codes in places you will never find. You can easily feel lost. You can easily learn to pretend. But it’s real.
My failures are real. My failures matter. They matter to all of those kids who we have a responsibility to change the method of testing to identify. They matter because they were not really failures at all and I believe the parents who are anxiously raising their twice-exceptional kids and the kids who are daily struggling with their own truths need to hear that failure is just a comparison to an antiquated notion of success.
I will keep telling my stories and I will never again hide those things which went wrong. I will work hard to make it real, to make it raw, and to make it matter.
That’s how we’ll fix this.