12 April 2010

Would You Do It All Over?

{Photo Credit: CoffeeStencil on Etsy - isn't this the coolest thing?}

"Looking back you realize that a very special person passed briefly through your life - and it was you. It is not too late to find that person again.”
~Robert Brault

I discovered a new blog love. Her name is Suzy Hayze. She is a writer who has been gifted with a way of communicating a feeling or a place. She is a lover of all things dark and lovely. That in an of itself is reason to like her.

I am not quite sure how I stumbled on her blog, except that I know it was the name of her blog that intrigued me enough to find out more. Tales of Extraordinary Ordinariness. Doesn't that sound interesting?

Suzy wrote a post today about how she had the most awful year ever as a 2nd grader. She remembers everything about that year. Particularly that she got to repeat 2nd grade at a kinder, gentler school.

As a former teacher, I am amazed at stories like this. At such a tender age, to be so blatantly shut out of the joy that should come from learning really pains me. Luckily for Miss Suzy her family was able to recognize the bad experience and turn it into a good one in a new school that seemed more suited to fostering the beauty that was to come from her. Imagine if that was the defining moment of her young educational life. She most certainly wouldn't have ended up where she is today.

At the end of her enlightening and heart-wrenching post, Miss Suzy asks this question:
Would you go back and change the bad parts?
Or do they help you to better understand the good?

Obviously, I had a lot to say in response {which to those of you who know me from my conversations with you via your blogs and emails, is fairly typical}. So much so that I decided that I should post about it and see what you might have to say in response.

Miss Suzy's experience and her question made me think of my own early schooling experiences in particular {although that question could certainly apply to any time of life}. Here is what I wrote without thinking...

Fifth grade was awfully hard for me.

Actually, it started with the end of 4th grade.

My father had grown up in Stevens Point, WI and my parents met at college there. But I spent my early years in Crystal, MN. My father got a new job that brought them back to Stevens Point when I was just shy of 2 months left in the my fourth grade school year. Being the new kid is hard. Being the new kid in the last two months of school seems impossible.

I remember feeling so sad to leave Crystal, MN and my friends. I remember being so in crush with a boy named Paul Heisler who lived down the street {and with whom I concocted all sorts of scenarios of our future imaginary life together}. I remember feeling that it would be the end of the world to leave my best friend Tamara Graf {the one who nearly died in a tragic drunk driver car accident the day after my 9th birthday}. I remember thinking that the only good thing was that my sister would escape having the old bat of a 4th grade teacher that I had. She probably wasn't a bad teacher, but she was strict and she was old, so my feeling was that it was best for my sister to avoid that fate.

I remember meeting Mrs. Van Dreel, my new 4th grade teacher and thinking that she wore a lot of eye make-up and had big hair. I remember being confused that they had milk breaks with pouches and straws {exactly like juice packs now - how ahead of the game they were!}. I had never heard of such a thing. Where I came from we had fruit and vegetable breaks. {I do remember that I had a weird kid in my first 4th grade class that used to eat green peppers and onions as if they were apples, crunching right on through. That was a bit strange. And smelly.} And everyone here called the water fountain a "bubbler" and a soft drink a "soda"{I call them both that now too, but it was a strange thing to get used to}.

I do remember the only saving grace for me. In 4th grade every kid in Wisconsin has to study the state. They were writing reports and making projects. I got to do mine on Minnesota. Which was good becuase that meant that I had the "M" encyclopedia all to myself unlike the rest of the class fighting over the "W".

It was hard, but I got to choose which school I would attend in the fall {we were living in temporary housing}. My father sat me down and said to choose wisely, because whatever I chose would be where my sister ended up, too. That is a lot to ask of a 9 year old. Ultimately, I chose the Catholic schools because I had one cousin there named Jane, it was the only school that I had visited before we moved, and I thought it was better to know one person than to know none. {And I think my dad was secretly happy since he attended the Catholic schools and that would mean we would graduate from his alma mater, Pacelli High School.}

It was still hard to fit in, and I was not instantly accepted. I remember the sting of different people pretending to be my friend so that they could come over and swim in the channel of McDill pond in my new backyard and then realizing that they really didn't want to know me at all. My childhood nemesis, B.C., who was a 'golden boy' once put a chocolate peanut butter bar on my seat so that when I stood up it had melted and looked like I poo'd myself. {True story, and the start of years of teasing}. As a result of the stress of leaving the life I knew for the life I now lived, I developed eating habits as a coping response to my situation that led me to experience weight and self-esteem issues {likely just accelerating what would probably have naturally happened given my particular set of genes} that I still struggle with to this day.

But it was at Saint Stephen Elementary that I met my best friend Lynn(a) {whom I still consider my oldest and best friend after 33 years}. She was my saving grace in a year that could have spiraled out of control. Luckily, we still live in the same town and our kids now attend the same Catholic schools together. We have a shared history that makes it imperative to remain friends. We know too much about each other not to be.

And my husband? He ended up living 2 blocks away from my new home, and we were both the new kids in 5th grade in Sister Lorraine's classroom. If I had chosen differently, there might be no way that I would have met Paul {he is also a Paul H. and in 5th grade I got teased that he was the one that I was crushing on, not some dubious Paul H. from MN. If he existed at all. A fact that I decried boisterously.} And when we were 17 he may not have gathered the courage to tell me that he wanted to get to know me better in my yearbook. And I might have missed out on the single greatest person in my life.

Did I still get mercilessly teased by B.C.? Yes {all through the next 8 years, and who knows? Maybe still today}. Did I ever really find where I fit in in the world? No {I am still trying to find my place}. Did I find two of my best friends ever? A resounding yes.

I may not have liked some of the bad parts, but I think that I would have missed so much and become a completely different person had different choices been made. And I am glad that I can look back now and see that it really was all good.

So. There you have it. Now it is your turn.

If you could go back in time, would you go back and change the bad parts?
Or do they help you to better understand the good?

Do tell!

Check It Out::Suzy Hayze

Enjoy the day!


Anonymous said...

When I am in the "bad parts" I wish I didn't have to experience them. Some are downright almost too much to bear..push me to the breaking point, not sure how I "survived" some of what I have.
However, I do believe a larger hand is guiding, that hand takes my blunders and stumbles and makes something good out of them. I am who I am today because of all that I've experienced and I'm able to touch those around me because I've been there. My Spirit is most buoyant, my Faith is huge, my touch is Light filled. So, I wouldn't change a thing, not even the crazy please don't make me walk through these moments.
I want to shield my loved ones from those moments in their lives as well. However, I stand by patiently and am there as I can be, because I know those moments are important to shape them in their journey.

Alice said...

Hmmm, good question. I probably wouldn't change all the bad parts of growing up, such as the painful teasing, and roller-coaster moods of dating--or lack thereof. Most of these experiences help form us into what we are today, possibly making us stronger, or more compassionate.

Silver Parrot said...

Wow, Erin, what an amazing post! I could write reams about my elementary school experience (not a good one) but the comments aren't the place to do it so I'll have to tuck it away for a future blog entry. I find the timing on this post interesting, too, as the teachers at my son's elementary school (and in the entire district) are slated to strike later this week. So, it could be a very interesting time for HIS elementary career as well.

Christine said...

I would have to say that it's better to suffer through the bad parts because they do help inform your future, even though it may not feel like it at the time. If I could go back in time, I certainly might make a few different choices, but overall, I have to admit that going through some really painful times in my life have made me much more able to appreciate the really good things that came after.

Judy said...

I think the bad parts make us stronger and mold who we are. With that being said, there are some parts that are just crappy, and are not life altering. I would change a few things, mostly when I was a young silly girl.

lunedreams said...

I think about this question from time to time. How different would I have turned out if this or that had not been happening in my early life? And I can't think how anything could have been different, unless everyone in my life, including me and my ancestors, had been utterly different people. Like genetically different individuals with different histories. If that were the case, "I" would not exist. I look at my parents, and their parents, and the emotional toolboxes they all had to work with, and I cannot see how they could have done anything differently. At any given moment they would have had to employ knowledge gained from lessons they had not yet learned; same for me--there are some heartaches I could have avoided, chances I could have taken, but that would have required me to know things I had not yet learned. I feel I've made good use of what my family gave me and of my own choices, both good and bad, and I like who I have become out of that mixed bag. I couldn't change any of it without ceasing to be myself.

The Empress said...

Oh, goodness, you are so right. I popped over there, and signed up.

That was spectacular to read.

Thank you!!

Jenners said...

This is such a hard question to answer because the tough parts of life that you go through make you who you are ... and who knows what you would lose if you lost that part of you? There are parts of me that wish I hadn't gotten married the first time I did ... but part of me thinks I needed to go through that to get where I am today. It is one of those impossible questions I think.

Bossy Betty said...

What an intriguing question! It's tempting to go back and change the bad, but I suppose they are what make us who we are supposed to be.

Cindy said...

Erin, I do agree with everyone that the bad parts help us in some way or other down the road... but there are just some things that I might still change (although I'd keep the great friends I did meet fortunately that year)....moving to a new high school of about 4,000 students for my senior year! Now that was a tough year!

Jeannie said...

Erin this is very good question and I love your response. Thanks for sharing that with us.
I like to focus on what is instead of what if?
I would not change anything, it's part of who I am and my life experiences.

Tony and Lisa Blackwell said...

You are so right! Who could not be intrigued by that title? Thanks for sharing Suzy Hayze with us,I'll be visiting her often.
Hey, and thanks for visiting with me Erin.

Suzyhayze said...

Erin, what a beautiful blog. Thank you so much for this shout out, and thanks for that incredible story! I was so moved reading it. It IS difficult to move to a new place, but that kismet with your Husband? Priceless. WOW for sure. No wonder you are a treasure finder, they've found you all your life, haven't they?:)

Warm warm thoughts your way,
Suzy Hayze.... new follower.

Cynthia said...

I know what it's like to try to "fit in" in a new school. Not counting college, I attended 8 different schools in 12 years. We moved alot (about every 3 years or so), and sometimes I'd graduate from one school to another (like 6th grade to junior high school). I'm not sure if I'd change it all, but I do wish I had a "home town" and some really old friends that knew me way back when. I spent my senior year in a new high school, and was not able to make any lasting friendships there. As a result of my upbringing, I have tendency to move on through friendships in 3-4 year periods. I'm enthusiastic in the beginning, but eventually, I lose contact when it's not shiny and new. I think maybe I look for something wrong, to justify losing touch. As result, I only have a small handful of friends. One exception: I have been with my husband for over 20 years, so I'm at least able to keep that "shiny & new".
So, yes, I think I would like to change some of the bad things in the past, but it's not possible, so, I'm moving on...

littlepurpleroom said...

The ones that know some of my childhood often say it must have been terrible, foster homes, always the new kid,abuse etc. but it is mine.
And I am with my husband now who made such an impact on me when I first briefly ran across him, so much so that I went back and found him again almost 30 years later.
I know that changing one thing in my past might mean I could not be right where I am right now and I would not change being where I am in my life, for the world.
thanks so much for sharing, and the gift of reflection.

swopemelmel said...

Dolly Parton once said " If you want to see the rainbow, you gotta put up with a little rain."

Shaiha said...

This is a subject that I have thought about quite a bit. I wouldn't change a thing because those experience have really formed the person that I am today and you know what, I like that person. I don't even regret anything in past except for the times I hurt someone because they were all learning experiences.


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