Sunday, 12 May 2019

Off Topic: I Got Them School Yearbook Blues

Recently, I had a flu vaccination. This isn't exactly exciting, or groundbreaking news, considering that I have my flu jab at the start of every flu season and have done so for years, ever since my horrid experiences with swine flu. But, anyway, one of the consequences of a flu vaccination is that I never quite know how I'm going to feel afterward. Some years I experience no symptoms, other years I feel a bit more tired than usual. One year my muscles became extremely sore and uncomfortable, but hey, it's better than getting the flu, right?

This year I ended up feeling as though I'd been hit by a truck and ended up having to spend a day and a half in bed. And the trouble with this arrangement is that while I'm not busy sleeping or reading (yep, any excuse,) my mind wanders off to some pretty weird places. And on this particular occasion, I found myself remembering a conversation that I'd had, oh, about twenty-eight years ago, when I was in grade four at primary school, about how all the smart kids had been placed in the other grade four class. How it rankled, even all these years later, and despite it being over something that was entirely subjective. And probably not true, considering that one of my grade four teachers had, in fact, also taught both of my brothers and had become something of a family friend, and not only that, but there was about ten other kids in the class with similar links to a teacher that was a longstanding and well respected member of the school community. Anyway, after I started feeling better, I found myself reaching for my old primary school yearbook (or magazine as it was known at our school.) Ha! I'd find out exactly who was in which grade four class and whether there was any truth in those rumours at all.

I opened the school magazine and straight away, I was reminded just how unreliable memory could be. For a start, there were three grade four classes that year, and all of them were split classes. The supposed smart kid class was a grade four and five split class, while the other two were grade three and grade four split classes. It made sense. Our particular grade was always the biggest one in the school thanks to some policy changes that happened when I was in junior primary. Anyway, we were otherwise a small school and trying to accommodate a grade that made up almost a third of the school population often presented the teachers and principal with a challenge. Everyone did their best, but some years there were some pretty odd combinations and split classes. Second, the kids who made the four/five split class weren't necessarily the kids I remembered as the smartest, though many of them were very self-confident and went on to have well-paying careers.

Then I found myself looking at the section of the school magazine devoted to my class. And straight away, I received a rude shock.

None of my work was published in the school magazine. Even though there was an entire section devoted to our class, and that over half of the kids in our class had something published. Why wasn't I in there, I wondered. Why wasn't I published? Wasn't grade four the sacred year of primary school, the one where I realised just how much I enjoyed creative writing? Hadn't I previously had a short story published in the school newsletter. Wasn't I constantly being asked to read out my stories to the class? Why was I excluded?

And why could I not remember feeling hurt or angry about this?

As I sat down to write a sulky blog post about it all, I found myself remembering a conversation I had with one of my class teachers. At the time, I had asked the teacher not to include me. For some reason, I had felt shy, and self conscious about sharing my work. And instead of badgering me, my very cool teacher had respected my wishes.

I cannot recall why I felt so worried about my work at that time, though I do remember it was a very lonely time in my childhood. It wasn't that the kids in my class were mean to me, it was more a case of that particular year, a number of friends had moved away to other schools or had been placed in other classes. And I was this odd kid whose desire to be odd often eclipsed her desire to fit in. Plus I was kind of obsessive about the things I liked. I didn't just want to be a writer, I was convinced that I was going to be the world's best writer one day. Same as I was going to be the world's best actor and have my own TV sitcom. And in between, I was going to tour the world and play my recorder to packed concert halls.

At least I wasn't running short of imagination.

And they're kind of fun memories to have. Even if they weren't the ones I expected when I picked up that damn school yearbook.