It was the fall of my 5th grade year. I went to a private school in an old red brick building surrounded by large leafy oak trees. It was old and beautiful. Every day I had to wear the same typical uniform, red and navy plaid skirt, white button up shirt, blue cardigan, a little blue neck tie and knee high socks. It was classic.
My class was divided into groups of learning abilities. They didn’t tell us this, but it was very clear to me that I was in the upper learning group. I was very awkwardly smart. My strength was math and numbers. I can say that now because my mom brain has completely wiped out every ability my mind once had. In fact, I can’t believe that was me. If you were to ask me a basic math question now, my brain would hurt…but, I digress.
I remember one day going to school and a popular girl made fun of me for being in the smart group. Immediately following up her words with a teasing chant of, “teacher’s pet!” I was obviously upset and the stress was imminent. I went home and dove into brainstorming a solution. I came up with a detailed plan. I would first tell my teacher that I was confused and that I felt like I was falling behind in class. Then, after she moved me to the lower class I would begin the project of becoming the rebellious “not so teacher’s pet”.
The first step happened. Looking back on my conversation with my teacher about not understanding, she was obviously skeptical. But, she said she would move me down for a couple of weeks to test it out. It was all coming together. Que the evil laugh. I knew step two was going to be a little more tricky. I needed to do something that would really make my teacher angry quickly.
Every day in English, our teacher would read stories out of the Readers Digest to our class. In hind sight, that is pretty weird in and of itself, but that is for another day. Either way, our class of twenty or so 10 year olds was bored out of our minds with this activity. One day during this reading time, my teacher got called out of the room and asked us all to stay quiet and she would be back in a few minutes. A lightbulb went off in my mind…this was my chance. Immediately after our teacher left the room, I went to her desk, swiped the readers digest and stuffed it into the paper towel dispenser in the back of the room. In absolute confidence I threatened the class not to tell the teacher upon her return. The class giggled in silence as we waited for her to come back.
Needless to say, I accomplished my objective of making the teacher angry quickly. After a short interrogation of the class, someone of course turned me in. In turn, after sitting in the hall for a solid hour, and getting in trouble with the principal, I regretted my decision. This was not fun.
I look back on this situation and of course laugh. But, that time in my life and the few years following, I was a very insecure teen. If I could tell my younger self anything, I would tell myself that I am good enough, just as I am. I have so much to offer the world, and satisfying that small group around me should be the last of my concerns. I would tell myself to be authentically you…the world will learn to love you just as you are.
But, the underlying feeling I have about this time in my life is appreciation. Appreciation because that time of discovery helped me figure out who I actually am. I don’t think our journeys are necessarily about becoming something and being done with that journey. It is probably more about letting go of the things that don’t allow us authentic happiness so that we can be more of who we actually are. So dear 5th grade Savanna, thank you for helping me realize this.