Friday, 3 December 2010

The Most Influential Person Of Them All...

"You are your own worst enemy..." - circa 2002

Not many people would hold on to those words for over eight years, but I have. Well, to be fair, I've kept the card they're written on in a shoebox for eight years, so it's been fairly easy to hold on to those words of advice.

"Advice?" you might shudder to think that those are words of advice.

To most people, advice should be encouraging. It should be positive. Perhaps advice should only be constructive rather than critical. I am usually one of those people. The person who gave me this card, though, knew that those words were exactly what I needed to hear.

It wasn't what I was expecting. The most profound things in our life are those least expected. It was the most honest thing anybody had ever told me up until that time...

I was a timid, young girl, as most aspiring writers would describe themselves. I was smart, though, and knew it from the beginning. Growing up in a small town, I was easily top of the class...and that's how I made a name for myself. Well, that and being a goodie-two-shoes fat-kid who read under the tree at lunch rather than gossiping about boys on the swings. There were 200 students in a school for children in Kindergarten to Grade 12 - and that included families from three different communities! We were rural kids, endlessly jealous of those city kids we watched on television, but deftly aware of the ENTIRE lives of the kids we had grown up with since Kindergarten.

As I matured, I yearned to be more than that. I took on leadership roles in the small town - fascilitating games of Frozen Soccer (how else do you play in a large field of snow in -30?), Red Rover, and Monster Mash with the younger kids - and it made me feel so much more valuable to my community. When we moved to a larger town, I had already understood that if I was going to be happy, I had to be leading something.

It took me a few years to strive for leadership in the new town. Being a smart kid, this time, worked to my disadvantage. For some reason - and perhaps one day somebody will explain this to me in a way that actually makes sence - the teachers assumed that because I couldn't play a musical instrument I couldn't get more than 85 on an exam or assignment. Strange, really, as I had never gotten below a 90 before...but numbers meant nothing, in the long run. The thirty other "non-band" students in my class, knew I was the "smart kid," even if the teachers missed it my first year there. Needless to say, my three-month initiation into the community did not make me want to feel valuable in that community.

And then high school came! I loved high school...well, until it was time to be over. Haven't really missed it yet, but it was a great time in my development. I continued on the track to leadership I had earlier carved out for myself and became a celebrity in our small city. Looking back, it was kinda neat to have strangers come up to me in the halls and act like we were best friends. And, the acting skills I developed in reacting to them like we were best friends has served me well working in the service industry. It's not being fake, it's being interested in other people. turns out, that's the secret to politics AND business...

So, how was I my worst enemy? Here I was, excelling in my classes again, maintaining a leadership position in the numerous extra-curricular activities I had picked up, and even finding time to work twenty hours a week at a part time job...where I was the youngest supervisor they had ever employed. Wasn't I doing everything right? Wasn't setting such high expectations for myself a good thing? Look at where it had got me. Look at how many people liked me...or, well, at least knew who I was. People who knew me liked me, didn't they? Well, and if they didn't, I didn't need to like them...this is the time of individuality! I can be whoever I want and it doesn't really matter who likes me....but they like me, right?

And that was it.

This card came my way as the best teacher I ever had left the small town. She was a liberal spitfire in that school and she had created so much there while she was there. But the best thing was that she could look at somebody, at sixteen years of age, and know not only what was bubbling under the surface at that time, but what would come up again and again and again in that person's life. And she had the guts to be so honest in her farewell card to me.

I thought I'd keep in touch....I tried to remember to email her, or even send her a Christmas card. I didn't. I don't even know how long she stayed in Saskatoon after moving there. Her kids should be in high school by now. I hope she's still teaching. Our world will be a better place if she's still teaching. I do remember to ask younger adults who've come from her school in Saskatoon if they ever had her. They probably wouldn't know her the same way I did. They might even have called her hard ass. A lot of people didn't like her honesty. But I did...but, whatever, I was a goodie-two-shoes...

It's funny, I can't find that card today. But those words have been reverberating in my head for the last month. Well, not those exact words, but their sentiment. Then, yesterday, chatting with a friend online, I explained how my fear is keeping me from working. "Fear of failure?" he asked. "No," I typed, "fear of success..." Several weeks ago, a friend of mine told me about a license plate she had seen: Get Out Of Your Way.

It's right; Ms. James was right; the universe is right...

I should let myself succeed...

2 comments:

SJ said...

It's an amazing story and funny how someone can see so much potential when you're still young and have your whole life ahead of you. She obviously knew that you have something special so not just for that but for yourself you most definitely should let yourself succeed.

Joda said...

Thanks, SJ!
It's always good to have somebody believe in you. That is truly the best gift ever!