punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

The Times of Our School Days

On the ride to work, takayla said she's been out of school longer than she's been in school, but she still thinks of work like school, like, "I needs enough gas to make it to school," or "I don't want to go to school today." That makes sense, I mean, most of us grew up with school being part of the drudgery of the day, and when you got to work... it's more of the same. But for most, school is like some lump of "elementary school, high school, college." Mine is like a time chart of my childhood, which bears explaining.

This is long. And probably about as painful to read as it is to write.

See, I didn't see school as something I had to attend rather than spending the day at home. I hated home. I saw school as kind of a day camp, or release from my normal responsibilities. The payment for this was I had to do a lot of menial rote work, which I could stand, and seemed worth it. I mean, I did learn a lot, and while I do specifically recall moments when it was so dull or anxious that I wished I was dead, I generally recall school being okay. Elementary school was the best, followed closely by high school, and then junior high was two years of raw hell, but looking back on it, 2 years from 13 wasn't so bad. Most of my teachers were okay, except for a few, and those sons of bitches don't matter anymore.

I pretty much rolled out of bed and went to school every morning. In elementary school, it was get up, toss on clothes, maybe eat breakfast if my mother was sober, got to the bus stop, go to school. After 4th grade, my father made me walk to school for some reason, which was about a mile and some change. I never knew why he made me do this, I always assumed it was pure cruelty, but I recall my father's explanation had to do either which character building or because he had to walk to school as a kid. I later found out school was not nearly as far away, and it was all sidewalk in downtown Chicago. My walk was through long stretches of field with no sidewalk, often dangerously close to traffic going 40-50mph. Junior high I had no choice due to some freaky bus zoning thing for our neighborhood. Most kids got rides to school, but some of us walked, which sucked because it was uphill all the way for about a mile. One stretch between the baseball field and Kirby road was a steep slope that ended at a ditch where cars zoomed past. You could either brave the narrow strip next to the slope in the ditch (where cars whizzed past you so closely, more than once car mirrors hit the straps dangling from my backpack), walk through the forest next to the tennis courts and risk getting yelled at my the property manager, or cross the dangerous 4-lane street and use the sidewalk there, and cross back when you got to Kirby road near the school. High school was MUCH better. Like barely a quarter mile through sidewalk neighborhoods, across the baseball field, and there you were.

By high school, and this amazes me now, I would get up at 7:00, toss on clothes, walk out my door (no breakfast... or lunch for that matter), and be in school by the bell at 7:20. Now it takes me 30 minutes just to wake up enough to be able to use a toothbrush. My brain is severe mush when I wake up these days; this morning, for instance, I caught my finger in my own belt buckle twice before I was able to get my belt on. I was confused because my cell phone and pager were right next to each other, and I couldn't decide which one to pick up first, so for several seconds my hand just shook because it got caught in some basic indecision loop. The other day I stabbed my eye while shampooing my head, and that started a whole new mental rant (in my groggy, half-asleep state) about why they don't make "tear free shampoo" for adults (answer: because no shampoo maker could prevent me from stabbing myself in the eye with my pinky). This sort of crap happens to me every morning since... well, since I worked at Cargo Furniture in the early to mid 90s.

Back to being a teen. I used to be amazed that my fellow students would hate school so much. I mean, yeah, there were times when it sucked so hard, it left mental hemmoraging (I recall in some English class I was so bored, I was experimenting how long I could hold my breath... I even tried to pass out, but I kept chickening out), but for the most part, as bad as school was, it was 8 hours a day where I could be away from home and not worry about my mother's drinking, dealing with the fights, and worse... having my dad in the house. School was like a fortress where my dad could not hurt me, even though he cruelly punished me with schoolwork as a vehicle. For several years, when I was done with my homework, he would make be do rote math problems from some old college textbook until bedtime. How he'd graded them was the worst: "You have 3 mistakes [in 100 problems]. Find them." This drove me so crazy, I started SI cutting and stabbing during this time, and STILL have pencil leads in my arm from where I stabbed myself. So, as you can imagine, I was pretty desperate to get out of that house. Just typing this is difficult because my arm left arm (the receiving arm for SI, because I am right handed) starts to turn red out of the memory, and gets sore.

Thankfully, a lot of that stopped with the county got involved, and my father was taken to court with child abuse charges. God Bless Fairfax County for that. God Bless Fairfax County, and the teachers who got involved. There were enough "incidents" that started to add up so that by the time high school came around, they had a pretty solid case against my father. And because a few teachers cared, my trip out of the hell that was my life started to see sunlight through the clouds.

One side effect of thinking in school terms is that my childhood is divided by grades. Like I know where I was emotionally at 4th grade, but have to do math in my head to deduce how old I was (I add 5 or 6, like I entered 4th grade at age 9 and turned 10 in November, and then deduce the school year by adding the latter age to 1968 and 1969, so 4th grade was '78-79). So, when I think of school:

Grades K - 3: Doing okay, kind of a snotty brat, though
Grades 4 - 6: Mother drinking become a common theme. Father becomes very abusive. Depression sets in, SI starts end of 6th.
Grades 7 - 8: Severest depression, SI in full swing, first suicide attempts. Mother very drunk, father severely abusive.
Grade 9: Depression, anorexia, lack of basic body care, SI, and more suicide attempts. I live each day knowing I could kill myself if I wanted to, as a strange form of life control.
Grade 10: County gets involved, father taken to court, I get therapy. Introduction to fandom.
Grade 11: I am better, feeling human. Father "gives up on me in disgust." Fandom now second family.
Grade 12: Just when it all seems to be going well, my mother kills herself, I end up hospitalized, my father throws me out and I have to live with friends. I graduate high school, but all dreams of being an college student smashed.

That's the time scale of my life. My uncle once said, "My life didn't start until I joined the Navy." He refuses to speak of his childhood, and if it was under the shadow of my father, I don't blame him. I wish I could afford such luxuries, but I stay away from denial out of fear I might repeat my father's mistakes.
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