A brief moment of self-indulgence, if I may…
My wife asked me to look through some of my old medical records, to see if my growth pattern matched that of my son. (I was always little, as is he.) When I started digging through my old records, I found a gold mine of old test scores, report cards, and teacher comments from when I was between seven and twelve years old. And it’s unbelievable.
I always knew I aggravated my parents – nary a weekend was spent without being grounded in high school. But I was always smart – I destroyed every standardized test they put in my way from the age of five until I took my SATs (we didn’t take the ACT in Virginia, where I went to high school.) In 5th grade, I made it to the state spelling bee (competing against kids that were, in some cases, two years older), and almost made it to the national bee in Washington, D.C. (When I missed a word, it resulted in me ripping my contestant number card in half, throwing it on the stage, and storming off in tears. I think my parents let me get all the way to the parking lot before they finally got out of their seats to come get me, thinking people wouldn’t know I was their kid if they waited a couple of minutes.)
But my grades were another matter. Let’s just say… I was a little disinterested in schoolwork. And reading first hand accounts about exactly how lazy I was is chilling. And gives me a new perspective on how frustrated my parents must have been. For instance, I was seven years old when a teacher wrote this about me:
“Chris has an inquiring mind. He is extremely verbal and can communicate on an adult level. Though he is an avid reader, he becomes impatient with tasks that require him to do research. He enjoys assignments which challenge his creative abilities in the arts. I believe with maturation, he will be able to attend to tasks which require academic input at a higher level of thinking.” – Mrs. Toma, 1980
Even spookier is how teachers essentially foretold what I would be doing now, at age 36. It\’s almost as if my life were pre-programmed at age 8:
“Christian is an extraordinarily witty and creative child. His abilities of elaboration, fluency, and flexibility apply to his performances in figural tasks and in verbal tasks. Christian however does not work up to his ability because he lacks self-discipline. Frequent incomplete assignments result from his inability to concentrate and persist on tasks that do not interest him. Christian\’s behavior is also very dependent on the reaction of others. Christian needs regular stimulation of his creative abilities and positive structuring of his intellectual program.” – Nancy Gerke. June 1981
In 5th grade, my favorite teacher was Mr. Kliener. He was a cool guy – yet secretly, that bastard was stabbing me in the back with his letters to my parents. I was 9 years old when he wrote this:
“Chris is extremely bright, creative, and energetic. He is in the ACE (gifted) program. He constantly needs to be challenged and channeled. In writing, he is inventive, creative, but unsound mechanically. He is outstanding on the computer and has one at home. He enjoys creative dramatics as he enjoys having an audience for his antics. Any B’s on his record probably would have been A’s were it not for unproductive behavior. Chris loves brain teasers, puzzles, and word play. He is excellent in Art. Please consider for placement in any enrichment programs available. Thank you.” – David Kleiner, March 1983
Exhuming my childhood may not have been such a good idea. For one, it makes me want to call my parents immediately and apologize for what a disappointment I was for them. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to have a kid who clearly has a high intellectual ceiling, but throws it all away. (If I were an 8 year old today, chances of me being diagnosed as ADD are about 98%.) They saw a future doctor or a lawyer, while I clearly had other options in mind.
Plus, there’s the whole issue about whether my life has been predestined all along. In my life, have the decisions that I’ve made actually made any difference? Or was I always going to end up right where I am now, writing goofball blog posts and political commentary? It’s a little harrowing to think that somehow, your life just followed a blueprint, rather than your choices making it what it is. Given what was written about me, I have a hard time distinguishing 8 year old Chris from 36 year old Chris. Have all my life’s experiences meant nothing?