Archive | July, 2017

Still Mad

29 Jul

In 6th grade, I placed into the gifted program.

The gifted class necessitated a couple of us leaving the regular Social Studies class halfway through*, which was its own special brand of hell for me: I placed in midway through the year, and was never convinced that everyone else knew I was supposed to be going with those kids now. I lived in abject terror that I was going to get up one day and people were going to ask me what the hell I thought I was doing. I missed a couple of classes because I was paralyzed with this fear.  When I finally managed to get there it was fine, mostly. I liked the regular teacher of the gifted class. She was tough but fair, she loved history as much as I did, she kept a handle on the other kids. Unfortunately she got sick, and we had a long-term substitute for a while. I don’t remember much about her–middle school was a goddamned chaotic time, all bullies and raging anxiety and terrible decisions, and my memories are not clear–except for two things.

The first is that she did nothing to stop the other kids from harassing me. Kids are mean. Kids who have been told they are smart are brutal. I was probably a pretty weird kid–I have no real frame of reference because everything seemed normal to me, but I was the third tallest person in the whole school, I carried my D&D Player’s Handbook around and tried to get people to read it so we could learn to play, I had a bad perm, I talked to myself**, I read all the time, I daydreamed constantly, I still sometimes chewed on pencil erasers when I got nervous. I was probably pretty weird. At the very least I was pretty visible. Because I had not yet learned that my size and strength give me power, they made me a target. This had been a problem for many years, and some teachers handled it better than others. The normal teacher in the gifted class handled it well. The long-term substitute teacher in the gifted class did not handle it at all. There were only like 8 or 9 students in the class. I don’t know if she didn’t realize or just didn’t care.

The second is that she made me read my story out loud.

For some reason we were assigned to write short stories, potentially as part of a unit on epic storytelling. I being, 10 or 11, crafted a wish-fulfilment first person fantasy tale wherein I had a talking dragon, a magic sword (with a name!), a handsome boyfriend, and an important quest. Was it good? Hell no. I was 10 or 11 and had attention problems. Stylistically it was a pastiche of the books I valued most at the time: Pern***, The Hero and the Crown, and the Sweet Valley/Girl Talk/Babysitters Club genre of Cool Older Girl Does Stuff books. It switched from 1st to 3rd person by the end, which I realized but was too lazy to fix. It opened with the main character yelling “MOM! WHERE IS MY MAGIC SWORD?^” I’m sure I tried to rip off Gone with the Wind at some point. It was a hot mess. But it was ambitious, and it was an assignment I completed on time, which put it well ahead of most things I did, and it made me happy.

I was nervous, because I wasn’t sure it was an OK story to write, but I was ready to turn it in anyway. Well, the long-term substitute did not want us to turn the stories in. She made us read our stories out loud, standing in front of the class. I don’t remember what this was supposed to teach us. I remember standing in front of peers who hated me trying to read a story with character names I couldn’t pronounce, I remember stammering and stumbling and paraphrasing so much the sub told me to sit down, I remember people staring at me with naked hatred on their faces, or openly laughing. I remember that two other kids had made me the bumbling antagonist in their stories. I thought one of them was my friend, but in her story I was not only a monster, I was half a monster and the other half was one of my biggest tormentors, a guy nobody liked. I remember the long-term substitute didn’t say a goddamed word about any of this. I remember she made me get up and read my story out loud again after everyone had read theirs. And I remember people laughed.

I didn’t even turn it in. I think I threw it away, but I was pretty dramatic; I might have flushed it down the toilet.

Everyone gets nervous when someone reads something they’re written, right? Right. It’s not a secret. I’m old enough and have practiced enough that by now it only makes me want to die a little bit. Maybe I could lapse into a coma until they’re finished and have come up with something good to say about it? That sounds perfect. Of course, I have to actually show someone what I’ve written first, and that doesn’t happen often^^. I don’t trace all my Writerly Insecurities back to this moment–don’t be ridiculous, they began much earlier–but I can tell you that It Did Not Help, and Yes, I Am Still Mad.

I remembered this today when reading a Facebook thread about school-age humiliations, and realized halfway through typing an abridged version that I was shaking with rage. Healthy? Probably not, but healthier than crying in the corner, I think. I just wanted to be the hero for once, rather than the butt of the joke. Yes I’m still mad. I’m mad as hell.

I’ve been reading a lot of old stories today, and writing a lot of fiction in the last several weeks^^^, and finding most of it good. I even revisited a WIP I’ve been struggling with for years, found it good, and found a lot of new energy for it. I get paid to write nowadays. It’s my job. I have a lot of hobbies and pastimes that let me be the hero AND the butt of the joke, because it’s not a bad thing to be both. I wish I could go back and tell that poor little kid who was me in 6th grade that it’s going to be ok.

Mostly though, I’d have a few words for that long-term substitute.

 

Continue reading

A Room of One’s Own

19 Jul

My office is exactly the kind of space I dreamed of having as a teen who was sad and overwhelmed all the time and didn’t know why.

mr. biscuit and I live in a 2 bed/2bath condo we rent in a small, quiet community in the city. It took us two years, two shitty apartments, a lot of shitty neighbors, and three moves to get back into a space we love as much as the last place we loved. It has hardwoods throughout, a lot of natural light, quiet neighbors, a beautiful covered porch, and so much hot water I’ve never run out, which is very important since I am part dragon and at our last place I had to boil water on the stove to fill the tub. We’ve put a lot of work into making it feel like home, framing art and pictures for the walls and being proactive about decluttering and keeping things tidy-ish. I love almost every part of our home (the master bathroom has terrible lighting, causing me no end of trauma).

When I was young, I vacillated wildly between terror of being alone and fury that I was surrounded by people. That hasn’t really changed, I’ve just learned to recognize whether I want solitude or company at any given moment, anticipate how long I have before that chances, and calm my raging monster of a brain if I can’t get what I want. The one thing I always wanted, though, was a place I could retreat to that was totally my own, where nobody could have input into my decorations, projects, organizational schemes, music choices, or the obscene number of purple containers I have and scented candles I choose to burn at any given moment. For a long while my car was that space (it still is to an extent), but spoiler alert: you can’t do a lot of projects in the car, and if it’s comfortable enough to hang out in the car while you’re not driving you’re probably wasting a SHITLOAD of gas, you planet-killing MONSTER.

That brings us to the concept of my office.

I can’t remember when I first decided I wanted an office. When mr. biscuit began a job that let him telework a few years ago, we knew we’d need a separate space for him to set up so that his workaholic ass would have clear delineation between Work Time and Not Work Time, and also so the cats wouldn’t mess with his stuff. It seemed logical that I should also have a space for all my projects, their assorted accoutrements, and all the memorabilia I have collected over the years.

Nowadays he’s working at the company office, and we share the second bedroom as our joint office. It’s divided almost straight down the center, or it would be if I had packed up my stuff from my last project rather than leave it lying around. My half of the office is my favorite place in the apartment, especially now that I’m working from home. I don’t always spend my time here. I do my yoga in the bedroom, which has the most space and is a peaceful, tidy, comfortable little oasis that is all about us. I cuddle with the cats on the couch. I also spend a lot of time on the porch (or would, except that it’s 900,000,000 degrees outside right now).

My half of the office has a very specific vibe that I love. My desk is against a large window that overlooks a bunch of greenery. I’ve put up some strands of colored crystals to hang in front of the window and catch the light. All my books are here. When I sit at my desk and look around, I see my history. The things I’m proud of, the people and things I love. The tools of my work are here–computer, pens, ten thousand notebooks, costumes, fabric and notions, sewing machines, guitar. I work here. I read here. I stare out the window and daydream here. I listen to whatever the fuck I want to listen to here, and I pretend that no one else knows I’ve played “Kyrie” by Mr. Mister a thousand times already today. From the collection of art (sketches, custom work, prints, framed photos, a little Spanish mission made of cardstock) to the awards to the purple Mason jars to the 6 lb jar of purple glitter to the tiaras to the half dozen signs with my name on them, everything here is here because it makes me feel proud, happy, joyful, nostalgic, amused, thoughtful, strong, safe. Good. I remember who I am in this room.

Of course it’s not perfect.I’m pretty sure that mr. biscuit does in fact know that I’ve listened to “Kyrie” a thousand times, because he’d not deaf. I wish the closet was bigger. The cat boxes live in the bathtub in the attached bathroom and my cats make the stinkiest poops when they feel I haven’t been paying enough attention to them. There are never enough outlets. I keep forgetting to leave a tissue box in here. And though I understand the value of daydreaming, of idleness, sometimes I still have to fight the pressure to Be A Serious Creative when I’m sitting at my desk. But in here I get to shut out other stuff and focus on being me. It’s pretty close to being perfect.

I feel most at home when I’m laying in bed with mr. biscuit’s arms around me and a cat on either side of us. I feel most myself when I’m in my office, being whatever I want.

Out of curiosity, I asked some friends what their favorite room or space in their home is. The overwhelming majority have said their office. My sister, on the other hand, said under the table, and when asked why, she responded with one word: “Fort!!!” We’re not really so different, she and I.

%d bloggers like this: