Saturday, July 11, 2015

Da 7.192 Do the Assignment

Without a doubt there are things that I would change.

Given the opportunity.

If only I could somehow go back and take a mulligan.

A chance at a do-over.

Try that one again.

But life, mostly, isn't like that, you get one shot. One attempt, one go at it.

Making every occasion and situation a magical opportunity for joy.

Or a nightmarish descent into dystopian hell.

I have had many such experiences. Of both varieties.

I have learned (not mastered) the art of letting go. I cannot change the events of the past.

But I can learn from them. Regrettably I still cringe with the memories of some.

What was I thinking?

One of them I will use today as a metaphor.

Sister Mary Winton was my fifth grade teacher. She was eighty and I was twelve. Catholic School in Southern California. It was 1964. I didn't like her much and she went out of her way to demonstrate her power to control me. It wasn't a fun year.

One day during art class she gave an assignment. I was in, shall we say, a rebellious mood so instead of doing the boring assignment (colored loops) I did what my wicked ego decided was the opposite.

I drew (almost) a perfect circle with a thick and bold black outline. I then 'colored' it with white. A black circle filed with white.

The assignment was to free form a page of scribbles and then fill the loops with color from our Crayola 64 boxes. Sixty-four colors to choose from. Wow.

I couldn't have gone further from her command. It was an overt act of utter disdain.

After an hour (remember this is fifth grade) she collected every one's 'work' and held up a few to critique for the class.

She didn't say this was going to happen and as she visually and then verbally graded each one, I started to slump further into my chair, knowing the special type of hell that awaited.

When she got to mine I saw the color in her face go from light brown to beet red in about five seconds. I may have made the sign of the cross.

She held it up for the class to see.

There were some laughs, some 'hummmmmms; and one or two wows.

She asked who's work it was (although I am sure she already knew).

I was second guessing my iconoclasm, well into my third Our Father, considering making a run for it.

Obviously no-one raised a hand. I was left with my perspiration and guilt.

It was a tense moment, one I will never forget. I had deliberately disobeyed an order, totally disregarding protocol, and, at the heart of the matter, disrespecting her and all that she represented. I could have chosen to defend my decision on artistic grounds but since my intention was a personal statement of non-conformity, I had no decently plausible grounds on which to state my pathetic case. It would take me another ten years to fully figure THAT one out.

I won't tell you what happened, suffice to say that when Mom found outt, the room temperature went from stuffy to stifling.

The lesson that day wasn't fully embraced for about twenty years.

When I became a teacher.

When my responsibility included giving orders, assigning protocols, leading by example and providing an atmosphere for the constructive use of our valuable time. There is discipline in all of that.

I was rude. I was disrespectful. I was the fool. And I was the loser. I was an immature brat (even at twelve).

So unless you are the teacher, the coach, squadron leader or captain….


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