Thursday, April 26, 2007

Eight years to grasp, twenty-eight to appreciate

The third grade was a big year for me. According to my mother, this was the year I “really came out of my shell.” Emphasis on really because unlike the years before, there was no stopping me. Or my mouth. Eight years old and I’d perfected the art of a thick skin and a lot of nerve. This was evident in two areas, in particular. One, I gave speeches at school assemblies and two, my mediocre citizenship grades. Apparently, all the “straight A’s” in the world did not a quiet girl make.
Part of this shell exiting, I think, was that I entered my I don’t have to take crap from anyone phase. (Note: I have yet to leave that phase.) This had a little to do with our super mean third grade teacher, and a lot to do simply with my personality. I can’t really remember a time since the third grade when I did something or believed something or even reacted to something because someone else gave me crap about it. I don’t know what makes me this way. I do know that I’m blessed to have realized this so early, or even at all.
One day, at lunchtime in the third grade, a fourth grader named Tina Wiedlick (yes, that was her real last name and yes, it does sound just like you think) was giving me particularly mean looks across the lunch room. Tina, you see, was upset with me from the day before when I walked home with a girl that used to be her best friend. Tina did not care that it just so happened that her friend and I lived next door to one another nor did she care that IT WAS WHAT OUR MOTHERS TOLD US TO DO. She was mad because she got dumped and, apparently, it was my fault for living next door to the girl that dumped her, even though the house was bought five years before I was even conceived. People, she was ruthless!
Anyhow, that following day at lunch, Tina gave me so many dirty looks that I was sort of wishing I was allowed to flip people off because, my gosh, if there were ever a reason to use your middle finger, this was it! But I didn’t. I didn’t want Mrs. McNeil, the lunchroom monitor, to see me. I would certainly be suspended and therefore ruin my perfect attendance record of the year and completely lose out on the bright yellow ribbon awarded at the end. I had my priorities straight.
As we were filing out of the lunchroom and onto the playground that day, I happened to get in the double line right next to Tina Wiedlick. I looked at her out of the corner of my eye and, I tell you, if there were ever a moment a third grader wished she was a fifth grader, this was it. As we both tried to walk through the single door, I committed the cardinal sin of elementary school and walked in front of someone a grade ahead of me, which means I walked in front of Tina. And then, as if it could get any worse, I bumped her with my elbow. I know!
“Watch it!” Tina yelled.
Sor-ry!” I shouted back. I would not be intimidated.
“You should be!” Tina screamed, six inches from my face.
And here’s where I officially earned my life-long badge of hard-assdom.
“Let me tell you one thing, Tina Wiedlick,” I said, “the only thing I’m one bit of sorry about today is that I looked at your face.”
And I spun around, walked the other way and for the first time in my life, actually felt someone try to kill me with sheer will. I spent the rest of that day certain I was in for it. The worst that happened, though, was Tina running by me after school and calling me a “bitch.” Small price to pay.
I don’t think I’ve allowed anyone or anything to dictate anything in my life since then; at least not by intimidation. The value in that, by the way, is not doing it but rather, knowing you have the choice. Which is why no matter the circumstances, the challenges, or events out of my control, there is one thing I know: I strive to live every day with the same strength I found that day in the third grade. It's not always easy but I do it anyway. For the ones I love, for the things I care about, for the things that matter.
Thanks to all of you for your comments. It is wicked cool that you not only come here but are thoughtful and insightful when you do.


e.b. said...

I was really enjoying the story about your 8 year old self and the great description - and I didn't want it to end - but it had a great conclusion.

Backofpack said...

Wait! What happened to the previous knee-related post? I know it is frustrating as all get out, especially since it came on so simply - it's absolutely not fair at all.

As for your third grade story - whew!

Ginger Breadman said...

what a great laugh - that totally made my day. and I can see you as that detemined little kid, and how you still seem so fearless today.

justrun said...

e.b.- It's funny how we change and we don't, isn't it?

Michelle- What? Knees? Where? Are you sure that was me?

Ginger- The operative word being "seem" there. :)

The Exception said...

This is great. What a quality to have developed at such an early age.

Bre said...

Ha! Weren't you just the sassiest of sassy?

Good for you for standing up for yourself then and now!

JustRun said...

Bre- I think it's part sass, part brat. Works out well, don't you think?

Joe said...

What? No cat fight? Just an exchange of words?

JustRun said...

Joe- Except for when I played hockey, I've never been in a physical fight with a woman (or a man) in my entire life.

Sempre Libera said...

Ha, I love it. Funny how our personalities develop so early on! (Although I will say that I don't think I even knew about the middle finger at that age)

justrun said...

SL- I had older cousins. Boys.

brandy said...

My comment has to be thoughtful and insightful? Geez, what the hell am I going to say? Just kidding. I agree with e.b., I didn't want this one to end. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Great story. I think you were braver in third grade than I am now.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I am gobsmacked! You could very well be my new hero.