As she is (hopefully) still alive and there is a good chance she is computer literate, I shall not mention names. There is the off chance my dislike for math in all its forms had much to do with our mutual animosity, but Mrs. B took it in the teeth for my perceived horror of that year.
On the last day of school, Mrs. B mused, “Goodness, this year has gone so FAST!”
I recall looking at her like she sprouted horns and a tail. Fast? FAST? Was she crazy?
If you had asked me, I would have told her that one minute in her classroom equalled three hours spent anywhere else on the planet, and that anywhere else on the planet was where I preferred to be. (Then, as now, I was a great fan of gross exaggeration and just the tiniest bit melodramatic, a fact that is entirely beside the point.)
For the record, sixth grade was the longest year of my life. Though I blamed Mrs. B and a handful of other teachers for my unhappiness, I have since come to realize that my 11th year, the Year of My Eternal Discontent, was almost certainly caused by the dark, hormonal cloud that had begun its descent when I entered double digits and did not properly lift until I was at least 15.
Sixth grade was the first year I experienced creepy dreams about going to school and realizing I had forgot to wear trousers. It was a year of crushes and cliques, and a broad chasm between who was “in” and who was “out” on the Social Scene, the borders of which were being redrawn at the terrifying speed of gossip.
This was a year of painful self-consciousness and a pervasively bleak outlook on virtually any and everything. It was crying fits and (thankfully short-lived) suicidal “I’ll-make-them-sorry” musings, end-of-the-world doomsday concern over world affairs, rabid paranoia, and the absolute certainty that there was no adult on the planet who could ever in their wildest dreams understand what I was going through.
Being childishly self-absorbed, I failed to consider that each and every adult in existence had already endured this angst-ridden right of passage into adulthood.
Call it puberty, call it the early teens, call it petulance or immaturity or any combination of the mixed up emotions involved with growing up. It was hormone soup washed down by an estrogen cocktail. And while all this angst is pretty normal and most of us survive it with our sanity intact, growing up is never easy for anyone.
Oh, for a time machine… I could travel back to 1977 and have a few words with young me, the depressed girl in the brown-rimmed glasses with the cowlick and the plaid polyester bellbottoms. I would assure her that everything would end up okay. I would tell her about being married 30 years to the love of her life. I would show her pictures of her children and grandchildren. I would tell her she would one day fulfil her dream of visiting England, and that yes, she would eventually get to visit Versailles as well. Many times.
More than all else, I would tell her that growing up is an equal opportunity nemesis that is no respecter of race, colour or economic status. Every adult is a member of the club and has endured it. Most would agree that is was not a lot of fun, but we survived the ordeal and so would she.
I would tell her to stop trying so hard to be accepted by others, that popularity is an illusion and, in the big scheme of things, utterly unimportant. Such energy could be better utilized learning practical skills such as self-control and endurance, selflessness, love of neighbour and human kindness. It was also better spent completing her math homework on occasion.
While I was there, I would also seek out Mrs. B and apologize for having been such a moody little so-and-so. I might also have a few words of advice regarding the plaid polyester bellbottoms as well. But if I did, I think I would try very hard to be kind. Eleven-year-olds, as annoying as they can sometimes be, are remarkably sensitive.
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