Chapter 3 - School
The yellow paint on the cement slowly peeling, giving up after years of heat, cold, rain and snow. The edges of the building picking its spots and slightly crumbling, knowing that with the great haste of its creation the only option is to crumble with equal haste. The double doors protected by metal and shatter resistant glass propel their way forward. For thirty years these doors at the same time every day but by different hands push out towards the street giving way to the young. And we young use and abuse these door, ever forgetting their importance and value. The security they offer when we are scared, the hand they offer when we are sad and the outlet for our anger when we just need to exert our power and will I, on such a day when the doors were forgotten, walk amongst the crowd, wondering why is it that I must study math and science with my head buried in frustration and angst, the books being held together in a cloth bag slung with great force across my back as I step past the doors and into the sun. Snow crunches as each footstep makes its way to another, thoughts of another failed test and another failed hope. The problem I convince myself is with the teacher and believe that he has failed us and forgot to teach us what was covered in the test. Looking back on these moments, one has the ability to recognize the failures of the argument but in that moment one can only believe that all other views are wrong. Teens have little self awareness and those that do are often ridiculed but I was never one to really have any to begin with. I followed the pack, though never was I a total believer but I followed all the same, worried that one day someone would notice that I was different and start to make fun of me, so I hid and I hid in plain sight by trying to emulate those that would attack.
The test that brought on the angst was a mathematics one. Today there is no doubt I have forgotten the contents of that test and most likely have never used the math that was on it, it has stuck with me all of these many years later for the pain and the one moment of self realization that it caused . I continue walking towards home, though the sun was bright and the weather warmer than it had been, the snow still crunched as I walked. The lonely steps made all the lonelier as the other kids played in the snow, smoking stolen cigarettes and swearing at each other as a way bonding and emulating the older cooler kids,never realizing that older kids were just doing the same. Crunched in the middle of the math textbook was that failed test, one that required a parents signature as a way of ensuring that there will be yelling, tears and no doubt a bunch of anger. As the blocks came and went and fewer students followed the same path they made this morning in the snow on their way to school, my stomach grew with weary and nerves. My parents were like most only wanting the best and while their words could cut through the thickest of skins that I could shield, they never aimed to hurt but I couldn't help but feel like I was letting them down. It was never that I wasn't smart enough, it was simply that I didn't care. There was no reason to. I believed that the teachers barely knew who I was, let alone actually cared, convinced that the reason for the tests, homework and hours upon hours of extra help they gave and offered was simply because that was their job. Daily this recurring nightmare begin at 8 and ended at 3:30 and during these, what I thought was the best hours of the day was wasted sitting on cold metal chairs slightly stained green from paint that was applied at some point in the distant past, and the wooden table that became a place for drool and carving of initials was covered in some smooth lack to prevent scratches. Irony or maybe called something else, I never really paid attention in class. I knew what I wanted, I knew that I couldn't be a doctor or a lawyer and the passion I had as kid for hockey was subsiding being replaced with the equally unattainable dream of becoming an actor, producer or some other position in Hollywood. Some could make it but I grew up in a small town, in the middle of Canada. Chances of being the next Tom Hanks were low.
The tears erupted when the door closed, quickly the tears merged with the anger, I grab the handle to the door and pulled. I pull not towards me, as one would to close the door but upwards as an attempt to break the door and in turn release all of this frustration that had been building. My parents took the news as well as they could and signed the test with a disappointing silence. They began to question me further, why hadn't I studied, where is your homework, my frustration grew. I promised a change in behavior and slow walked to my room. The door held as I gave my best effort to pry it up towards the heavens. Calming down and wiping the tears of disgust from my eyes, I opened my book bag and looked at my math textbook. Three hours of homework was in store for me but only after I finished watching the hockey game, it was after all my beloved Canucks. I closed the book bag and turned on the TV. The homework soon became a distant thought, as the game was tense, with the Canucks winning but only in overtime.
Arriving at my desk, I look at the illustration that were on display on the tabletop. Linden Rules, This Sucks, She's Hot. Childish displays of boredom carved in an increasingly simplistic manner. The teachers announces that we are going to cover the previous days homework. I open my notebook, noticing that the elves didn't finish, I sweep my arm over the pages and start to jot down numbers. As the teacher passes from one student to another ensuring that they did in fact do the homework he approaches my side of the classroom me and calls out suggesting that I have the signed test ready for him. Like a mad dasher, I finish with the numbers and fetch the test. Stress is building in my stomach,
disappointment fills me and I can't even look as he approaches. He grabs the test and looks to see if I filled in the homework. He steps forward and continues on to the front of the class.
We go through the homework, each student answering or doing their best. Sweat breaches my brow. I strain to see the students paper in front of me but it's going to fast and my nerves are to high. He calls for an answer from the student in front, my ears become blocked with anticipation, the student answers and the teacher comments asking if we all understood. I breathe deeply, trying my best to think of what to say. I had deceived the teacher and was on the verge of being discovered when he passed over me calling the student behind me. Relief flooded through my veins. I had been saved the humiliation of being discovered, he simply didn't see me, providing further proof that I was almost invisible. I look up feeling something was right I catch his eye and more importantly his gaze. And in this moment, I discover that I wasn't invisible and the teacher hadn't forgotten me but rather knew that I hadn't finished my homework and that there was no point in asking me. I felt alone and humiliated. I wish that this feeling changed me and made me a better student but it didn't but I did realize that I was never going to grow up to be an academic because while it I didn't enjoy these moments of humiliation, I never cared enough about school to change. I knew my parents and teachers only wanted the best for me but I simply didn't see it. Naivety. Mistakes. Limits. These described me in my teenager years. Boundaries that I would set upon myself, some of which I could over in my older years and some I couldn't. I soon developed a heated dislike of all sorts of rules believing that if I didn't follow them, then the didn't exist. This served me well as a Chef.