Do you remember that one book?

Do you remember that one book? That book–you know the one. The book that started it all for you. Maybe it was a thesaurus. Maybe it was a book on dinosaurs. Perhaps it was a book about musical instruments or art or how to build things. There is probably a special book in your life, though, that you can remember if you think very hard. It would have been in your youth that you picked up this book and the whole world made sense to you. For a moment, you thought you could do something–maybe anything–in that book. Then someone stole it from you. Not the book. You may still have the book. I know I do. No, that thing that someone stole from you was your imagination–your creativity. They slowly conditioned you to believe that you could not do anything, much less all the things that were in that book, that book that you probably still have. Mine was a red zoology hardback published in 1956. I drew amoebas and paramecia and all kinds of microorganisms after I learned to draw the inside of a jellybean. They were all anatomically correct. I even made an amoeba Christmas ornament out of that flour, salt, and water dough with food coloring in it for my parents in second grade, which resulted in a parent-teacher conference and comments such as, “Refuses to follow directions, difficult child, and strong-willed.” In those days, those were all terrible things to have said about your child as a parent. Let me tell you about the instructions that I received for that particular project. We, as a class, were told to make a Christmas ornament that our parents would like to put on their Christmas tree. I loved amoebas–they were the greatest thing in the world!–so who would not love an amoeba to hang on the Christmas tree? My parents were going to love this! I set out to make each part an identifiable color of dough so that the anatomy could be clearly seen and the detail was immaculate (or as immaculate as you could make it given the tools that I had at my disposal). After all of that, you know what? My parents did love that amoeba ornament, and they proudly displayed that ornament on every Christmas tree we ever had from then on. And the zoology book? I still have it. I will never let go of it.

I realized then, though, in second grade, that not all adults had my best interests in mind, especially educators. I would only find a handful of educators in the rest of my initial 12 educational years that would foster my imagination and give me license with my creativity. One was a history teacher and one was an art teacher. Thankfully, the principal was tolerant of my “wild” ideas as well. I was a loner in school–outcast, bullied, and generally made to feel unwelcome in life. That did not keep me from becoming Valedictorian of my high school class, however, even though I was not even trying to do anything except survive. I remember my Valedictorian address very well. It did not mention great memories of classmates that I loved. It did not mention the best football players, the prom, or homecoming. It did not mention sports. It did not mention anything about the class that I was graduating from. Instead, it was more of a commencement speech proper, talking about the future, our potential, our individuality, and our new beginnings. I should have been wearing the garb and hood of a Ph.D. alumnus instead of a simple black high school graduation gown while giving that speech because that was the type of speech that it was. And it was a speech. The administration had wanted a typed, properly formatted copy of everything I was going to say two weeks prior to the graduation ceremony so that they could approve it. I told them that if they wanted me to speak, then I was going to speak, and that anyone could read off of a piece of paper. When they threatened to take away my opportunity to give a Valedictorian address, I shrugged and told them it was up to them. I owed so few of them anything. They decided to let me speak without any prior knowledge of what I was going to say, with the threat that the moment that I got out of line, they would physically yank me off of that stage. I got a standing ovation from the entire crowd following my speech. Hopefully they were not embarrassed by that . . .

I served in the military and came back with an Honorable Discharge under Medical Conditions for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, having served in the Desert as a machine-gunner. My dream? To become a psychiatrist and work for the VA to help other Veterans like myself. It would never materialize, and that was heartbreaking. I still have not gotten over that, but I have decided to move on and try to leave the heartbreak behind. I am a rock climber, now, and enrolled to begin a Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing Program through Southern New Hampshire University online on 22 June 2020, which I hope to turn into a Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing after a few terms because they initially rejected me for that program, citing that I did not have the academic or work background for the MFA at present. That will change. Evidently, I need to provide them with the links to both my Writing.Com profile portfolio and my climbing blog to show them that I am indeed the prolific writer that I claimed I was. Beyond that, I do not know what other work I am supposed to do prior to learning how to do said work. It is the trap of academia and the oldest excuse in the book: not enough experience because you don’t have the education to get the experience to get the education you need for the experience. I find that to be a tiresome and rather lame tautology.

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