March 5, 2015
It’s amazing how much of our lives are spent in school, and it’s equally as amazing to think about how different everyone’s school experiences were. These school experiences really shape who you, from the youngest grade to your final graduating day. For me, I attended only two schools before going to university. My first school went from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 and I spent it with the same people for 10 years straight before we went on to high school. In Canada, we begin public school in Junior and Senior Kindergarten at the age of 4-5. They are just half days but they are enough to get you used to socializing and interacting with other human beings. After that you move onto full days with Grade 1-8.
From the wee age of 4 years old I have memories of interacting with other kids that I will never forget. I was the tallest girl in class and everyone teased me and I told me I would marry Michael Burger because he was also the tallest in class (little kid logic is amazing). After chanting and trying to get us to kiss, Michael promptly responded that he “would rather kiss a lobster than kiss me”. Not like I wanted to kiss stupid cootie infested Michael Burger anyways (hi Michael if you’re reading this but I don’t know why you would be *waves*) but Michael I ended up being those two kids in the middle of every single yearbook photo due to our height up until grade 7 when another girl passed me in height. My point is that this Junior Kindergarten memory of being pointed out as different or strange stuck with me, even though it wasn’t a big deal. It was a big deal to 4 year old Martina though, and she would eventually learn how to use humour to defuse this situation. “Yeah, did you know that I’m soooooo tall I have different weather than you. Did you know it’s sunny up here? Yup my feet are soon big I don’t even need skis. I just go down the hill on my feet.” What’s funny about it is that I’m not even that tall, I was just that gawky tall girl that grew faster than the other kids.
In Senior Kindergarten the class hamster escaped on our very first day of class. It was a huge deal and the teacher was freaking out but she eventually had to carry on with class. Since I am a huge animal lover I was really stressed out and worried that our hamster could get crushed to death, so during story telling time I ignored the teacher and just kept looking for him. Eventually I found him hiding in a bookshelf and I happily announced it to class! When I knelt down to pick him up, I knelt on a lego brick. I remember being really worried that if I just dropped him to brace for my fall he could get hurt, so I carefully cupped him and just took the fall ungracefully with no hands. Full out faceplant. I was so happy I didn’t hurt the hamster but then I heard everyone laughing and I realized in horror that my little dress had gone upside down. I had showed my white and red polkadot underwear to the whole classroom on my first day of school. This is a memory I will never forget and even as an adult I’m paranoid that I’ve accidentally tucked my dress into my stockings every single time I wear a dress.
This is what I mean by school being part of who you are, in fact every year of school holds an important memory to me, whether it be something that happened to me or to a different person. It seems to me that by the time you enter high school your middle school life has shaped how you might react to other people. I might have been made fun of for being tall, but I dealt with it using humour. By laughing it off and making a joke of it, no one ever bugged me about it and when they tried they realized I didn’t care. If they were a mean spirited kid they had to move onto someone else that would react the way they wanted. By the time I was in high school I saw people being mocked for the way they looked too but they dealt with it in different ways. Some people laughed it off just like me and made it a joke, but other people looked near to tears. I couldn’t tell if this was an ongoing issue that they dealt with their whole lives or if it was the first time they were facing this issue in high school. When I was laughed at for being the tallest girl in Junior Kindergarten, it was something I had never thought about until a group of children pointed it out to me at 5 years old. After that it was something I was aware of and I had to learn how to deal with for the next 10 years since I was interacting with the same people. But in high school it is a whole new ballgame with new team members. New people to point out new things to you that you were either: 1) already sensitive about or 2) didn’t even know you should be sensitive about.
Yet despite everything I went through in school, despite all the mini-examples I’ve given you guise about memories that stood out in my mind, I actually found it really really hard to think of advice to give my high school self. This video was a big challenge for me because I wouldn’t actually change anything that happened in my past because all of it shaped who I have become today. Yes, there are some things I wish I didn’t have to experience, like when I was hit by a drunk driver or the five year depression following the end of an important friendship, but even that taught me tons of things! For example, being able to ask for help is really important. Trying to shoulder everything by yourself and inside your own mind can be exhausting. And often, you’re your own worst critic. Good friends and family are very important, but seeing a neutral unrelated person like a counsellor or therapist gives you a safe person to talk to that doesn’t judge you or give advice based on how much they know you. I’d also like to mention that I was very very doubtful about seeing a counsellor especially since there was/is a social stigma, but now I know that you have got to take care of yourself and your mental well being. After all, the people around you might change, but you’ll be with yourself for the rest of your life. You need to treat yourself well!
So I hope this long blog post about my polka dot underwear and hamsters wasn’t too boring for you. I find it awkward to write about my personal life, but I remind myself that a lot of us go through similar things and feel very alone. I hope I can act like an icebreaker to get this conversation going! So yeah…*Martina hides under a blanket*
So, what advice would you give your past self? Any funny stories that aren’t a big deal now, but were at the time? I’d love to hear them!