There is Nothing Wrong With Me

Fisherville, Michigan, U.S.A. – 1976/1977

I’m in the third grade at St. Anthony of Padua school. It is art time. I don’t draw horses or cars or houses like the others. I draw the stone moai of Easter Island. I saw them on In Search of, which is my favorite television show. My heads, though, are lopsided, the features of the faces crooked. I have colored outside of the lines again. The Teacher has stopped trying to help me make my art acceptable, because it is hopeless. But I have other problems that need fixing. I never know what they are until she pulls me into the hall and screams at me loud enough for everyone to hear. It’s my bad handwriting, or my nail biting, or my daydreaming, or my constant silence. Or. There are so many things wrong with me. And now the other kids know it. I wish I was invisible again, like I was before I started the third grade.

I retreat further into myself, away from the hate that I feel radiating toward me. There is a scream inside me that wants to come out. If it does, it will never stop. I look out of the window and go There. I am now on Easter Island, walking along the windy cliffs, among the moai, those mysterious remains of a civilization that vanished without a trace.

October 2012

I look up at those vacant windows. No lonely child gazes down at me. The building hasn’t been used as a school for decades.

It was not as easy as moving across the country or the world. No matter where I went, those specters tagged along with me, dragging me down. I had to extract their claws, one by one.

At this moment, I feel oddly serene. The name of the school is written in Polish, something that I never before noticed. Those trees and bushes weren’t there in the 1970’s. It is a lovely old building.

I’ve finally escaped.

16 thoughts on “There is Nothing Wrong With Me

  1. Non There is nothing wrong with you ! Tu es juste particulière et unique. Et même si le fait d’être marginal n’est pas bien vu, quel bonheur de se sentir différent des autres au bout du compte. Pas moins, pas mieux, ni au-dessus ni en-dessous, juste “pas comme…”. L’homme a l’habitude de rejeter ce qui lui fait peur, et cela dans toutes les cultures et de tout temps !

    • Oui, c’est comme ça depuis l’aube de l’humanité et ça ne va jamais changer. Aujourd’hui, quand je vois les gens qui étaient dans cet école avec moi, je me sens bien le bonheur d’avoir été “pas comme…”!

  2. “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Friedrich Nietzsche. Trust me – you are with those who can hear the music!!!

  3. This is so poignant and well written. I’m a teacher and I know how cruel school can be. I’m glad you are free. The contrast of the photos goes so well with the story. Steph

    • Thanks, Steph. It’s too bad that this kind of thing still goes on, and that nowadays suicide seems to have become a solution for some. I bet you’re an entertaining teacher. 🙂

  4. I wonder how many people felt similarly at some point (or many point) in their early years, carrying it with them through life. Now I watch my own kids and wonder what haunts them, hoping nothing does, and wish I could know, and fix it for them.

    • Thank you for your thought-provoking comment. I think this feeling is very prevalent among young people. Even though there are more campaigns these days against bullying, it hasn’t gotten any better since the 1970s. In fact, it seems like it’s gotten worse. It’s something that you can never totally get over. You can feel better, but the scars will always remain.

  5. No one needs to be screamed at, and Pacific cultures and people, are beautiful and strong. There is always something to be said on and about the world’s best navigators of oceans. School for me in the young years was just 30/40 of us kids in small rural town (more like a village) between two little creeks that would only run when heavy rains came, once every 5/10 years. But we still had a few teachers who felt screaming might solve something.

  6. I am almost certain that I had your same teacher in Indiana, California, Oregon and Washington…and I’ve been coloring upside down and backwards as far away from the given lines ever since my escape. Take that, teacher.

    Thank you. I’ve never read something that so closely described what the system was like for me.

    • Hey, thanks so much for your words. It’s impressive how she gets around everywhere. Like some kind of fungus. Try as she might, she can’t smother us all. She only makes us stronger.

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