Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I amount to something. The sum total is 42.

I come from humble origins. And by humble, I mean pretty stinking poor. Which you don't notice when you're little. Material wealth is comparative. No. You really don't notice that stuff until you see what the other kids have that you don't. And when you are in the poor neighborhood in the rich school district, you figure out where you are in the pecking order rather quickly. K-3rd grade I went to Catholic school. It was a "humble" school with a declining student population. Some of the kids came from wealthier areas, but most were from my neighborhood, the kids of blue collar folks who scrimped and saved and worked extra hard to make sure their kids got a Catholic education. The year I started public school was a culture shock. I went from school uniforms to kids wearing designers that I didn't know or care about. And not knowing and caring yourself was a punnishable offence.

I didn't have many friends in private school, but the nuns kept everyone civil. The kids might not like you, but they wern't going to kill you on the playground. At public school I got the crap beaten out of me on a regular basis. Hit with seatbelts the entire way to school, my head slammed off of a cement wall, pushed into chairs... school was not a place I wanted to be. They had a fairly decent library, though, and I was able to hide pretty effectively in books--one of my faves being all the Scarlet Pimpernel books. That was about all that school had going for it.

Mom tried to fight some of the battles for me, I'll give her that. The principle told her once that boys will be boys, in regards to one boy in particular doing boyish things like slamming my head off of a wall. Some psycho guidance councelor told mom the kids would "accept" me better if I wore designer lables to fit in. They did a pretty good job of giving up on me. It didn't matter if I handed in homework, etc.

I think at one point mom figured out that they wern't expecting anything of me any more, and she fought with the school about that too. Some kind lady told her that all I'd amount to was a gas station attendant--after all, I couldn't be expected to compete with the sons and daughters of lawyers and doctors.

No thanks to the public educational system (grades 5-8 are a blurr of mediocraty and work avoidance. I vaugely remember 8th grade choir and struggling to pass algebra, and that's about it), I did manage to somehow, miraculously graduate with a GPA acceptable some learning institution somewhere. It's kind of crazy--if people don't expect you to do homework, classwork or projects--you're just not gunna do them. It wasn't a good QPA, but it got me into college. And somewhere, despite myself and the system, I actually learned some shit. Crazy, I know.

So I majored in theatre (yeah, what the hell was I thinking?) and ended up working for another university doing computer stuff (further proof that it doesn't matter what the hell your degree's in, just that you HAVE one). I've got enough credits for a certificate in writing. I'm a chapter and a half away from finishing the book of great evil, and I almost have all my stuff together to apply for graduate school for the summer term. I'm married, I'm mostly sane, I have a therapist, a 403b and I drink bottled water. Maybe not a lawyer or a brain surgeon, but I don't feel like I've done that bad for myself.

Lets flash to Sunday. EJ didn't leave a copy of the Gloria for me, but somehow that manages to go well--I dont think that anyone even noticed that I was just relying on my memory and hoping for the best. The rest of the music for the mass went just fine. Not my finest moment, but tons better than last saturday night, which was an acid trip, comparitively.

After mass I saw mom talking to someone in the vestibule (vestibule seems to empart some dignity upon the space--lobby is probably a more accurate portrayal of the back of the church). She looked uncomfortable. She wasn't looking at this woman head on. First one side was directed at the lady, then the other. And the coat kept slipping out of her hand, and by the end of the conversation she was awkwardly clutching the sleave and that was about it.

She came back into the church, where I was obsessive-compulsively fixing all the music issues so the spines were facing the same way in the pews, and told me that the lady in the red coat said that I had a beautiful voice and I sang very well.

Mom said it with a weird smugness, so I just said "that's very nice of her," in that sort of half-minded placitate the crazy lady sort of way.

And in true crazy-lady, almost Teresa Heinz sort of fashion, mom repeats herself, that that lady said I had a beautiful voice and I sang very well.

And that I obviously got it from my parents, who also sing well in the choir.

More of the weird smug face.

"That'd be the lady who told me you'd never amount to anything," she explained finally.

I had to kind of smirk at that--I know there were a lot of people who felt that way about me, many my own family members. I told mom again that that was very nice of the lady, and gathered my stuff up to leave.

**

I try to avoid being political. Except for that one day of gloatfest. However, this is a decent day (assuming it's Monday somewhere, right now) to bring this up, I suppose. Especially after I heard one civil rights lawyer today on the radio actually screaming about the injustice in America. Yeah, there're still assholes. Like the poor, the assholes will always be with you, if I can misquote Jesus for a moment. But we live in a country that has laws that give people the freedom and space to do a lot. We don't all start out with the same resources, nor do we all have the same gimmies in life. I would have loved to have taken writing and music classes when I was a kid, and my parents just didn't have the money. But I couldn't just throw my hands up in the air and give up. Sure I might be some famous singer right now, or actually have a book published if I'd have done that in my youth. But when it comes down to it, I'm where I'm supposed to be in my journey. It gives me something to write about (see the previous six zillion paragraphs of this rant).

The only person that can hold me back is me. Sure I started off both emotionally and materially well behind the starting line, but I eventually got there. However, there's a difference between being held back, and having a setback. Growing up dirt poor and not being able to take music lessons is a setback. Being forbidden to take music lessons because I live in the town where I grew up would be being held back. Sure I work a job totally not in my field to pay for my lessons and my crazy eating habit, but we all haveta work for what we want. Being held back is being chained to the ground before the starting line. I just don't think there's a culture of conspiracy against particular groups, the way some people seem to be claiming. And trust me, with the stuff in my life, I have a corner lemonaid stand devoted to dysfunctional, abusive, emotionally stunting, materially unavailable upbringings. I won't say I've had EVERY disadvantage in life, but I've certainly had enough that I've been tempted to give up a zillion times.

I guess what I'm saying is as much whining as I do, my life's going pretty well. Much of it is a blessing from God. But a good bit of it I get to take credit for. I've managed to work hard and create some success for myself (despite myself, sometimes).

**

PS... Word appears to have crashed, otherwise I'd totally spell checked this thing--I know my spelink iznt rilly gewd.

1 Comments:

Blogger Gretchen said...

Who cares about the spelling? This was a GOOD post, Tammy. Solid. You tugged my heartstrings. You should write memoir--and lots of it.

12:04 PM  

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