“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”― Aristotle
In the summer of 1981 my high school class was graduating without me. I had failed gym class and did not have enough credits to join my friends in this major celebration of our incredible growth.
I failed gym because I skipped so many classes, sometimes to be cool and hang out with other 'cool' kids. Sometimes I just needed to disappear in my wonder. I could not really understand how I ended up so far behind and lost, yet I was.
High school was also the time I learned I was attractive. It seemed it was all I had. It took practice to know how to handle as it came with its own gifts and pressures. I remember a counselor writing to my mother to 'get a handle' on me as boys kept walking up to talk to me in study time. My mother asked me “What are you doing?” I said “I don't know.” She laughed.
Yet high school was also a time of loneliness and depression. I wondered how everyone knew what to do and when to go where. Who guides you in this land of rules? My parents had divorced and life, sadness and change were preoccupying their focus; they were out of touch with my emotional state. I was living in two houses and in each I felt I was a nuisance. I felt forgotten. Or maybe they thought I knew how to handle life? I only have my version.
I don't write this to make judgments and accept none against anyone, especially those I love.
I write to acknowledge any child or adult that ever felt stupid.
I write to acknowledge how wise we can be, beyond the man made definition of 'educated.'
I write to encourage emotional education in schools, making them a useful human gift. How are students taught to handle sadness, grief, love, anger, loneliness, fear, jealousy, anxiety and elation to name a few? Does a student know how to define anger or love or how best to use it?
I write to feel cleaner in who I am.
I had lost my way and was not functioning according to the educational systems rules of how I should get from A to B.
Today in my breath work meditation I saw myself standing outside the fence, gripping onto to it as I watched my friends graduate. I hardly remember walking to the school grounds yet I do remember the sensation. You know that feeling when you have a high fever and all sounds hurt your ears and your skin feels strange? It was like that.
I was there for many reasons. I wanted to see my friends shine. I wanted my mother or father to look for me (I fantasized they would come to find me). Strangely I remember one of the biggest reasons I was there was because I wanted the principal to look in my direction and see me. I wanted him to see my anger, to see me alone, to see his face register that I knew that some people less clever than I were graduating while I sat out. I wanted him to see I knew he made choices of who he would set an “example” with. I wanted him to cringe in shame at his lack of support, but none of that happened.
Most people inside the fence avoided looking at me. It was supposed to be a beautiful day and I was messing up the joy. It was interesting to be so vividly visible and yet so invisible. (I suppose a lot like a famous star who's photo is being snapped by hundreds as she falls from grace and yet no one offers a hand)
Yet I did receive support in the form of my brother.
He showed up and put his arm around my shoulders. I remember he said “How ya doin’?” And really, that was all I needed. I was seen. It was not really the cool thing to hang out with your loser sister, but he did and I am forever grateful. I belong.
It took me some time to graduate. I ended up having one of the best summers of my life. I went to Boston University to a summer theatre and dance study program. One hundred kids had been accepted after auditions and one was me. I took seventeen courses and flourished. I had never felt such respect and pride in my life, I never felt so heard. We talked about emotions all the time! The professor sent a letter of high praise with my grades to my high school principal.
The principal said those courses were not enough and said I needed something more serious.
So I went back to Boston University to see what else I could do. There was a sociology course called “Life Crisis.” It dealt with depression and suicide. It interested me as I had lost some people close to me and I wanted to better understand them. I signed up for the class, my mother drove me there and my father paid. The only thing nobody noticed was that it was a master’s level class and the fact that I had no high school diploma.
I went in the evenings to study, read the heavy books, talked with students and doctors that were in the course with me. The final exam was tough for me, understanding all the language, but I had read all the course work and was curious and intuitive enough on crisis to sense what to answer.
I completed the course and waited for my results, I received a C. I thought...I've done it!
I was surprised a few days later to receive a call from the professor of my course. She said she felt the need to call and ask why I could only accomplish a C on the exam. She commented that when I talked in class I seemed so knowledgeable.
I laughed and told her “It’s ok!!! I am happy, you see when I entered I didn't know I was in a masters course, I have never done this before!” She was outraged and told me she didn't know if I deserved a C under the circumstances. I shouldn't have been in the course. I felt like my heart stopped.
Professor: “How did you get into my class?”
Me : “I just signed up and paid”
She changed my grade to an F.
I asked her to please tell my mother. My mother had driven me to every evening class in the city. She would go off and take an art class at the same time and return for me. We were making friends again. I felt she was remembering me.
Mom told the professor she would sue the university. It took time but I received a letter of apology from the university and my C.
So back I went to the high school to see if they would now give me my diploma. Again he said no. Again my mother stepped in and went with me to the principal. It only took a few minutes with an adult by my side and I had my diploma. I belong?
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
― Mark Twain
I had long ago learned the diploma had nothing to do with how smart I was. It was a form of being acceptable to society. It was one of the ways to get from A to B.
What did I learn from all this? What was I meant to learn?
What do I want to teach?
There are a lot of ways to get from A to B.
Power plays exist. Recognize the ego.
Failure may offer an education.
Support people when they get a bit lost.
Ask for guidance when you get lost.
Share your feelings.
There are people out there who think like you.
Know you were born with gifts.
Choose to see everyone, even if its difficult.
Don't judge, stay curious.
Wisdom finds many ways to arrive.
Intelligence has many forms not on paper.
Have faith in your journey.
Your journey is your best education.
Superiority is man-made, not God given.
A true genius knows we all have genius.
© Lucy Hamel