Old Records


When my parents came into town at the beginning of the month, they brought with them a pair of accordion files bound up in satin ribbon containing the accumulation of personal records and refrigerator artwork left in the wake of my childhood. For several weeks, the bundles sat unopened on the dining room hutch. Then, yesterday, I found myself in an organizing mood and untied the ribbons to get a sense of what was contained within. 

I came upon a folder of academic records from 1991, when I would have been in third grade. Included in this were behavioral notes, progress reports from speech therapy (I had a lisp, or, as the paperwork described it, ‘an /s/ distortion’), as a battery of tests to measure childhood intelligence. The teacher commented on my messy desk, my difficulty organizing things, my failure to be motivated by external incentives like pizza parties and book worm club. My writing was poor and my spelling was worse and I had a tendency to invert letters and numbers. It wasn’t that I wasn’t smart- the intelligence tests were pleasantly reassuring about this- but there seemed to be an underlying tone of distress about the fact that I didn’t like to talk to my classmates and preferred to be ‘off in my own world’, drawing on my fingers and writing notes. No surprise there. 

At the time, I don’t recall feeling conflicted about this. If I was weird or isolated I didn’t know it yet. Looking back, I realize that I was just an introvert being an introvert, and either no one knew what that was, or the priority was to socialize kids to be somewhat more extroverted than I was prepared to cooperate with. 

Now, as a grown up, I find it funny to read about how disorganized and unmotivated that I was in my larval state. Clearly, being good or bad at something as a kid is no prediction of what you will be good or bad at as an adult. I was apparently really good at science. Like, it was one of my highest consistent test scores, even through the ACTs and SAT IIs. I was never an exceptional writer, even discounting for spelling, grammar, and other mechanics that were almost certainly additional areas of weakness, my test scores were always middling. 

So I shall think it very funny indeed if it is my writing that turns out to be the thing for which I gain any notoriety. 

Took work, y’all. 

Ironically, (I think… I’m still not clear about the proper definition of ‘irony’) there were specific notes about my fragmentary sentences and inappropriate capitalization of letters: both of which I still use liberally. I like to think of it as a style choice, but I’m beginning to wonder if my writing style is actually an artifact of my childhood writing patterns. 

The thing that surprised me the most about this journey into the metrics of intelligence testing and childhood behavior modification, was the deep gut feelings that it stirred up. For the rest of the evening and into my nighttime dreams I found myself in a deeply unsettled mindspace that I couldn’t quite quantify or define. I was feeling some kind of way about some thing that I couldn’t articulate, but that somehow was requiring a lot of my attention. I still haven’t quite shaken the feeling. It’s as if I’ve read the first half of a book and I need to know how it resolves. Then again, the story is still unfolding with a new page being written every day. So it could be a while before I reach the final chapter. 

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on July 24, 2017.

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