I've read more of What It Is by Lynda Barry, and it continues to be rich with color, texture, and image. As before, she asks the reader question after question in order to get their thoughts flowing and encourage them to think about their past, particularly the childhood years.
There are many, many questions put before the reader, but this week I would like to focus on one in particular:
"When did you first notice you were bad at something?" (page 74)
To be honest I can't recall the exact moment that I felt like I was truly bad at a particular task or skill, but I do recall the first time someone made me feel bad about myself, my abilities.
I was in second grade and we had been assigned a book report, and we could pick a book from the library about an animal. I was in my "I'm gonna be a marine biologist" stage and carefully chose a book about whales.
I worked tirelessly on my paper, and I felt proud to put it in a little blue report cover.
When the teacher handed back the graded papers to everyone I was shocked to find, "Next time don't copy!" scrawled in red across the back page.
It stung more than any other insult had up to that point in my seven years. There was no anger at the assumption or indignation at the accusation. I only felt sadness that I was presumed a liar. I hadn't copied anything. I simply was a good little writer and a good student with a clear understanding of the subject. My teacher, whom I loved, simply couldn't believe that I was capable of what I had achieved. And it hurt.
I had thought that paper was good. I thought it deserved recognition and praise. After that, though I continued to work hard, I never expected to be congratulated on anything I had written. Even through college my A's were always a surprise. When I left an exam confident, I soon became deflated and despondent believing that it was only a matter of time before I was called a fraud or a cheat. Compliments of any sort are hard for me to digest now, and though I may smile and politely thank a person for their kind words, I never truly, really believe them.
I am not blaming my adult lack of confidence completely on my second grade teacher, but her actions, her work of a moment in red ink, did leave a mark on my self esteem. To this day I guard my writing carefully, sharing it only with those who truly love me and will give constructive advice and loving suggestions. This blog was a step that was difficult to take. I am putting my writing out there in the world, and it has been interesting to see the different reactions I've had since creating it. Some friends read it and comment or talk about it with me. Others comment here or email me their thoughts. Most ignore it completely, which hurts more than it should.
Visit Rachel and give her some blog love, my friends.