Sunday, February 19, 2012

Finding Me

It's a funny thing. I remember parts of my childhood, but not all of it.  There are some seemingly meaningless moments that I'll never forget (like visiting the folks down the alley who had turtles in a big tank) and years that I can't really remember any specific things from.

It would be interesting to be able to compile all the things I do remember, to see what that looked like. Where are the gaps? When are they? WHY are they? What is missing?

When I look back at my early childhood, the bits I remember are kind of adorable. A lot of stuff to do with various animals. Like the time I was at a neighbor's house, and we were on her porch killing cockroaches. This was in the south, so I mean they were some gnarly big cockroaches! Big enough to need to whack with a hammer. Not the tiny little "roaches" seen around here, that aren't really even big enough to bother with.

I remember this one day, we were on the porch, and waiting for the cockroaches to come out so we could whack 'em. One did. So I did. BLAM! Right on his poor little roachy head. Squished him nearly flat.

And then was overcome with guilt. I bet you saw that coming.
The rest of the memory involves me trying to nurse the roach back to health. I made him a little bed on a napkin, and brought him water and food and petted him and sang songs to him and otherwise tried to bring him back to life. It was not to be. As adaptable and good at surviving as cockroaches are, it's not a good bet when what little brains they had are now somewhere outside their heads.

Other memories include finding a turtle and keeping him in my wading pool, or the time I caught the bullfrog right as we were leaving to go somewhere, so I put him in a peanut butter jar, where he filled the WHOLE jar, with his little froggy face pushed up against the side. Or the time my parents found me petting the nice snake on the head and crooning to him... as the cottonmouth was preparing to bite me. Which he did not, I'll have you know. He was a VERY nice snake.

I have a lot of such memories. Snakes, frogs, turtles, kittens, puppies, all sorts of critters and bugs and such. I also remember spending most of my time outside, and much of it alone, wandering the neighborhood, befriending the little old ladies. When we lived "out in the country" I spent most of my time in the woods, or in a tree.

And then...
there was junior high and high school.

I liked school, for the most part, or at least I think I did. Funny thing, though... I don't remember most of it, especially high school. I remember a funny moment here and there, and of course, I remember most of  my time in marching band, since that was the only reason I was really there, as far as I was concerned. But everything else? Not so much.  There is a chunk of time, several years, that doesn't really fit the rest of my life.

It wasn't until later on that I figured that out.
If you took my life up until about the age of fourteen, and then removed a chunk from then to around when my kids were born, and then you sewed the edges together... it would appear to be continuous. Who and how I was before high school, and who and how I was right about when I had my first child, make sense together. But the part in between? Not really. As if I was abducted by aliens or possessed by some creature that made it so I looked like me, but wasn't. Not that it was all terrible; it wasn't. But it was, overall, disconnected in many ways.

For a long time, I thought this was probably a somewhat inevitable thing, that everyone would go through this period of time, in their teen years and into their twenties, when they departed from who they had been. Perhaps it was a search for independence, a breaking away from their parents. Finding themselves. Something like that.

Interestingly, I haven't seen it happen with my kids. Or with other unschooled kids I know. Their lives look mostly continuous.
So now, I have to wonder... is it an AGE thing, or is it a SCHOOL thing?

I had a wonderful early educational experience.
Then I had what was fairly typical at the time. Not horrible, not negative, exactly, but not inspiring, either. Just... bleah. There. Required. Some good things, some good teachers, but a lot of just plain boring. A lot of trying to be... what was expected.
Now I think perhaps it took me a long time to recover from that, to find the thread of ME and put it back together, to become what I had been headed towards very early on, but got sidetracked from.

I say this because the things I do NOW have far more in common with what I did, what I enjoyed, what I wanted to be when I was FIVE than with what I thought I wanted to do when I went off to college.

If only I hadn't had that long detour, who knows what might have happened?
It wasn't even a detour. Detours can be great, taking you a new way, to see things you hadn't noticed or known about before, but ultimately, you find your way back to where you were headed.
What happened is I got LOST. The part of me that was really ME got trampled and buried and stuffed in a box somewhere, and left by the side of the road, on the way to... nowhere. And it was there for a long time. A brief glimpse of sunlight once in a while, but overall... stuck in a box, unable to get out.

Maybe that's what life should be. A series of detours, so you really learn your way around. That way, having been on all different routes instead of only one known one, whatever happens, you don't GET lost, since you've at least seen that way before.

On the bright side, at least I found me.

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