Preschool. One of the earliest memories I have. I was at my preschool, one of the ones where the parents stay to and engage in activities with their children. Sounds positive, right? Well, my mom was given the task of the “parent” as my father was working double full time in his own business, which was faring well. I have only three memories of the place: an orange and yellow painting, just brushstrokes on a poster really; my mom complaining about how she had to stay there and one other. We were standing outside. There was a planter, I believe it was a semicircle. Many flowers were in it and us children were excited in the prospect of getting our hands dirty. My mom was standing nearby, possibly with a group of parents. Out came the flowers, perfectly placed, waiting to be planted. With little shovels children placed the cube like bunches of dirt into pre-duggen holes. I was standing there with the rest of them. I was different, although I probably didn’t know it yet. I tore the flowers out of the dirt. I felt the roots coming out that had just began to sink in. What I remember most are the children around me. Their expressions were ones of despair, madness, maybe a little bit of fear. I had destroyed their activity, hard work, I had failed to conform. My mom pulled me away from the planter, said some gentle reprimanding words. The other children teased and thought nothing of it. Tears running down my face, my boring brown hair, in a bob. My little white Italian suit with the cherries on it.
Another preschool. Going home. My mom had come to pick me up in our beaten Neon. I was crying, upset that I had lost my gold (once again Italian) ladybug ring. I had just gotten a booster seat. I don’t remember anything about the kids at that school, though looking back at it, I did have some friends. Now it comes to me! We were running through a field. It was fairly barren except for a playhouse with some haystacks on one end. It seemed like acres to me. We were playing there, carefree when I happened to say the word “birthday” To them it sounded like birdday. What really upset me is that they did not mean to tease, which I’m sure some others did, but instead they truly did not understand. I remember wanting to cry.
Excuse me if I skip around. I’m just trying to get my thoughts out, the resentments of my early childhood. Sixth grade I believe. Speech therapy office. Wendy was her name and it also happened to be her house. she had two kids a younger boy and girl a couple years younger than I was. I remember I started going there when I was very young. What scares me is that I can not remember when these visits started. You know, she made it fun enough. With mandms, little prizes, and toys to make up stories about. As I got older though she told me to make “conversation” about my life, school, friends, ect. Well I confided in her, I told her of my life, what it lacked and what I had too much of. This was an unhealthy relationship I suppose. I always winced when checks were handed over, but never questioned it. I wish that my parents had done more explaining at times. We were talking one time about my best friend, Anna, and I’s “secret club” I asked her if she could keep a secret and she said and I quote”don’t tell me anything you wouldn’t tell your parents.” One day I snapped. I called her stupid and said that speech therapy was useless and stupid. If I knew swear words at the time I would have called her a fucking bitch and told her to die in hell, but I’m sure I would get grounded for that. In hindsight there are no words for how bad of an experience it was for me. It all ties back into preschool, and how I said that people couldn’t understand me. Really my problem was being different, which the world told me meant WRONG, WORTHLESS. I was a very disturbed child, as I discovered recently from analyzing my thoughts, reflected on what I have perceived the world as for the majority of my life. I would have better benefited from a real shrink.
Another memory that I will never forget. My dad was breaking the news that we would have to go to LA to the childrens hospital for a checkup. I thought nothing of it although I didn’t like the drive. I had been going there all my life several times a year. I had already had several major surgeries and we knew the whole staff of surgeons by first name. I asked, “When is Luca going to have to start going to these things, I’m sure he’ll enjoy them!” I was being sarcastic by the way, because the wait took forever. The look on my fathers face, that of extreme sorrow, and what I knew deep down made me realize that he would never have to go through that probing, endless swarm of doctors, who made me talk, god forbid. Reminded me that I talked differently. I COULD HAVE DEVELOPED NORMALLY EVEN IF I HAD A LISP. JUST LIKE PEOPLE IN A WHEEL CHAIR. THEY DON’T THINK ANYTHING OF IT. I COULD HAVE LESS PROBLEMS ON THE INSIDE IF MY PARENTS HADN'T TRIED SO HARD TO FIX THE ONES ON THE OUTSIDE.I cried in bed that night. And when ever I thought of that for the next few months I felt like crying. Ya so you could say I’m a little resentful.
There are a lot of things that contributed to the human I am today. Slightly funny, quiet, shy, introverted,very awkward, insecure, doubting. However, also analytical, smart, respectful, humble, insightful, kind, incredibly perspective. My parents were only trying to help, but speech therapy was not the best option. Truthfully in high school people aren’t going to tease you if you sound a little different if they are decent, self respecting people. What really damaged me is how I perceive myself. I don’t believe there is an easy fix, if there is one at all. Going through so much to improve my speech made it matter to me much more than was healthy for a young girl. I have joyous memories of me not thinking of it every minute in some form of another. I interacted with people as complete equals. I didn’t really known what I “was” until sixth or seventh grade.
My dad was taking me to buy an new jacket. Oh!, this is one memory it was particularly painful to visit. I was 12 it was sometime in the middle of winter and we were entering a big parking complex downtown. We had left the house to get me a new jacket, as stated above. I don't know what started the argument, well, it was more like me pitying myself and my father not taking it any longer. It is too painful to get into the details. I cried at night for months.
As I am jotting down memories of the past years I’m trying to identify that turning point, that switch from a fairly normal, slightly shy daughter of foreigners, to a girl which I am ashamed to have been and too be. don’t get me wrong, life isn’t fair, I wound up with a birth defect, whatever, but it didn’t have to destroy my childhood like this. I MUST find out why it ended up like this. The reason why I am unhappy with my life is 90% physiological. And THAT sir, is NOT FAIR!
Although I can't pinpoint the exact year that "the switch" happened I do remember some select memories from "before". For example in 5th grade. Ms. Beraldo's Advanced English Class. We were doing popcorn reading of some short story in some English textbook. In case you don’t know what popcorn reading is, its when each person reads one paragraph and then another jumps in. The details are irrelevant. I remember looking at the paragraphs and counting the paragraphs to see which was longer. I would always go for the longest paragraphs as I enjoyed reading and loved the flow of language on my young tongue. But, you see, it was not always that way.
In kindergarten I was placed in a English as second language class" because my parents had made the naive mistake of listing my first language as Italian, which it was at the time. I knew English perfectly well, but I guess because of my speech issue I wasn't able to pass the test required to bypass the program immediately. Well, needless to say, my parents didn't make the same mistake with my brother, seven years later. These few months set my back in my reading and writing skills that later became a problem.
Finally, two years later, these problems became apparent. They took the form of Ms. Earl's second grade class. Although I don't remember what the issue was, I remember I was once sent to a "slow readers" class, and my parents quickly went beserk, not at their beloved child, but at the administration and Ms. Earl herself. It took hard work determination to get me at a second grade level. I was not lazy, like many other children my age, but just unable. I could barely formulate normal speech with my tounge let alone have to read and deeply comprehend the material! Oh and did I mention I was only four when I started kindergarten? I remember late nights and crying. My fathers harsh tongue and iron determination were not suited for teaching 7 year olds. Don't get me wrong, most parents wouldn't be strong enough to go through the constant harassing with nothing in return. He had a 24/7 job, but I always came first. I didn't express any form of gratitude until a few years after the ordeal. I am forever grateful. Those couple years probablly changed the type of person I am today. Intelligence, perspective, and otherwise.
Now I consider myself "smart" I guess. I just finished my first semester of high school with straight a+ in all honors classes. My favorite class is computer programming. I had the misfortune to have two incredibly brilliant friends, they were always considered genioues and I wasn't. However, this lead me to be self motivated and never need any encouragement to surpass limits in anything school related or similar. I've never been the best at anything. If I had been then maybe I would have never felt worthless at all.
Another memory that makes me chuckle takes place in Ms. Robinson's 4th grade class. I don't remember exactly what the topic of discussion, but looking back, the only one that makes sense is Dr. Martin Luther King's Day. I remember being glad that I was white and not poor. I can still feel that rush of pure gratfullness going through me. Then I felt a twang of unfairness go through me. I was a girl and for some reason I thought that was a dismerit. It befuddles me how I did not consider my fairly serious defect even though I has been teased because of it before. Oh! How I wish I could have gone back to that time of innocence!
And today... In French class at CC. I was asking for clarification on some confusing conjugation. Five times I was forced to ask that damn question, with all eyes on me. A few girls even smiled reassuringly. Finally I said "never mind" and looked away. My cheeks red and throat burning.
1st grade. Speech therapy office. Once again she was more like a therapist. There was a chart on the wall that she constantly referred to. It was a kite, with several stages of achievement of speech. I remember looking at that and nodding. I was halfway there, almost to the ribbons of the kite. I didn't know what I was shooting for, how long it would take to get there, or if I ever would. All I knew is it was something to shoot for, something good, maybe life changing.
All my life I have been in and out of doctors offices. You name it, I've been there. Eye specialist, ear specialist COUNTLESS of times, pediatritian, allergy specialist, plastic surgeon. And this is not even mentioning those dreaded UCLA visits I brushed upon earlier. The ear specialist in particular was gruesome. Old people grumbling around, beeping noises in ears. That sound proof room that I was afraid to even breathe in. And even worse, those hearing tests in which I was forced to repeat the words that the doctor said to me... I was entrapped in a soundproof box, which later became a metaphor for my life: everyone looking in, my thoughts surrounding me, and I saw what was going on around me, more clearly than my peers, but was never part of it. Anyway, I digress.... It was so quiet it there, I could hear my heart thumping and the more I tried to silence it the louder it got.
As you probably guessed my thoughts were not the most orthodox as a child. In fact I would even go as far to say that they were disturbingly peculiar. I have always reflected on my mortality, as I'm sure many children do. I believe this started when I was about 6 or 7. The first time that I remember of is at my old house. I could never picture myself growing up. Having a family. Being a mother. I always thought I would die in some tragic car accident before adulthood, with only my direct family and few friends at my funeral. I believe this was my first grade way of shutting of my problems. Of never having to not feel loved. Sometimes I think my whole life is just a badly written tragedy novel. I would lie there and imagine dying. I would think of a time where my active, always racing mind would no longer be around to comment. I didn’t think of myself as a whole: my brain and body joined as one. I lived in my mind and my thoughts; constantly changing and adapting to new stimuli. I never forgot. My first grade mind couldn’t fathom a world without myself in it. Almost a decade later, I still can’t completely wrap my brain around it.
Around the same time I started having dreams about rape. I was strapped to a bed, naked. He would tickle me, torture me. He would slowly peel off layers of my skin, one by one with a knife. A shivering feeling went down my spine. I was enjoying it. At the end of these dreams I would die. I was sad to be dead, if that makes any sense to you, not because of the pain, but because it was over.
2nd grade? Third grade? I was in art class I was sitting at a table with two guys. We were drawing pictures for some drug free art competition. They were both drawing rainbows, copying each step to make sure they were flawless, identical. I engaged with them questioning them about their drawings. I was fascinated by their pursuit for perfection. I had always thought that art was an expression of feeling. I never thought it had rules. I remember looking at mine and it looking a little less beautiful in my eyes. I was different. I didn’t know what that meant yet.
I have explained to so many people the reason I am different. When I was young it was by pointing to the sharp red scars on my upper lip and gesturing, “When I was little the skin was not there and doctors had to stitch it up”. Considering how young I was, and that I don’t remember my parents ever explaining it to me directly, that was a pretty good explanation. Now, at the age of 14, I have told countless children, friends, people at school who look at me weird and I get to the point that I just can’t stand it anymore. I don’t wish I had a different life. Undoubtedly it would be better, but I wouldn’t be myself, and the life I would be living would not be my own.
Life is just about perspective if you think about it. I'm sure you have heard the phrases "life is what you make of it", "your control your happiness" and "attitude determines success and happiness" or similar motivators designed to boost people out of tough times and convince them that they themselves are to blame for their problems. I wish to argue a slightly different argument. I don't believe that we should be blamed for our outlook on the world. Often it is accurate and we shouldn't modify who we are to supposedly become "happier". In reality that would effectively be lying to ourselves. It is comparable to stimulants such as cocaine and ecstasy. We are trying to make a situation seem different than it actually is and ignore our better judgement. To me, that doesn't necessarily seem like a good thing. And, continuing with the drug metaphor, there are legitimate reasons to take medical marijuana, for people who are suffering so badly that the negative effects of the drug are irrelevant. However, as you know, it is commonly misused. Attitude is the same thing. Some people are just fatally pessimistic and their outlook on life is just suicidal. If they want to live that way, fine, who am I to tell them they are wrong. The have a point life does suck and it isn't fair. But, if they wish these people can change their attitude, and if they wish, and only if they wish, find something to live for. For the rest of us, those who have come back from war mentally scared, broke up with their boyfriend, are virgins at 40, found out their baby will be disfigured, the list goes on forever; wouldn't changing our attitude just postpone the inevitable realizing that we still have those very real problems? Eventually every drug addict gets off a high. And what do they do? They get on another postponing the inevitable. Finding out that they are the same person or even a worse one. Everytime they do this the high gets less, and as soon as you get off it you feel even worse than you were feeling before. By ignoring your problems and trying to be "positive" you would just be deluding yourself; not allowing yourself to ponder and analyze the very root of your unhappiness. Now, realize that I am not asking you to go in a corner and cry about how you would rather be dead. Actually, you can, but don't expect it to make you feel any better.
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