Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day in April (except Sundays), I’ll be sharing a short bookish memory with you.
I was definitely not born a bookworm. When I was a kid, I did everything in my power not to read.
As a child, I was . . . um . . . special. School was not my thing. In school, I was so anxious that I twitched uncontrollably or so depressed that my teachers would have had better luck teaching a bowl of lime Jell-O how to read. I was a profoundly slow learner who couldn’t handle unpredictability or changes to my routine. I hated crowds and couldn’t focus in the classroom. I was also a control freak with zero social skills. Basically, little-me was a hot mess in a fancy dress.
From first to sixth grade, I took classes for “Special” kids. For most of the day, I was in class with the “regular” kids, but before school and during lunch and recess, I had extra lessons. I was in “special” math, reading, and writing classes. I spent hours sitting in hallways, working one-on-one with a teacher’s aide. I’m surprised that I don’t have permanent nerve damage in my ass from doing so much of my schoolwork on hard floors. (I don’t know the current status of the aide’s ass. Maybe she got nerve damage from sitting with me? Would the school have to pay her medical bills? I need to Google these things.)
Anyway, being “special” isn’t great for a twitchy kid’s self-esteem. Adults were always trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Nobody knew why I was such a failure at life. I felt like there was enormous pressure on me to catch up to the other kids and stop being special. But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t catch up. The self-loathing was intense. I was terrified of making mistakes because mistakes just reconfirmed my “special” status.
Then, there were the bullies. Kids look cute on the outside, but they can be vicious little demons. They called me “Special Ed,” “Ed,” “Retard,” and “Fucktard.” For anyone who hasn’t been initiated into an elementary school clique, Fucktard is a clever amalgamation of the words “Fucking retard.” The bullying got so bad that I started getting physically sick whenever the teacher’s aide walked into the classroom. I knew she was there for me, and I knew the other kids would give me crap for needing her help.
Since I didn’t get along with other kids, I was sent to special friendship classes. For Friendship Class, the school counselors rounded up all the “Eds” in school and put us in a windowless room roughly the size of a walk-in closet. Then, they had us make art. This often ended in disaster.
(Oh, I just reminded myself of a random tangent. Funny story about Friendship Class: Once upon a time in Friendship Class, one of my fellow Eds had a meltdown. He started flinging buckets of crayons around our classroom. Since I was an anxious Ed, I immediately lost interest in coloring my Friendship Turtle and panicked. One of the counselors said, “Don’t worry, that boy has ADHD.” I have no idea if she was talking to the other counselor or to me, but nobody bothered to explain what “ADHD” meant. For all I knew, it was a secret code word for We’re about to get stabbed to death with the sharp end of a broken crayon, but don’t panic, the school district will give our corpses proper Christian burials. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Friendship Class.)
Okay, back to books. How did I transform from an Ed who couldn’t read to a bookworm? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. There was no magic Helen-Keller-type moment where someone shoved my hand under a water pump and everything suddenly made sense. Becoming a bookworm happened slowly. My parents and teachers were very persistent. They made me read Every. Single. Day. When I complained, fought, and feigned deadly illnesses, they still made me read.
During forced reading time in fifth grade, I accidentally stumbled across a few books that I didn’t hate. These books showed me that not all books suck. Once I knew my own reading tastes, I was able to hunt down more books that didn’t suck. I eventually discovered that I (gasp!) enjoyed reading. By the time I got to seventh grade, I was reading for fun every night. I was also put in normal classes in seventh grade. I was still weird, but I was no longer “special.”
So, if you have “Eds” in your life, don’t give up on them. I can’t tell you how my fellow Eds turned out, but this Ed read 108 books last year.
Are you a bookworm? Were you born that way, or did you develop your book love later in life?