The moments in life that define who we are, those are the moments that make us the parents, artists and humans we are.
This week I went to my old middle school for research for my book. It was something I thought of doing a while ago. I worried at first my wife wouldn’t let me, but I have the best wife in the world and she said it was fine.
As I have said before my middle school years were the hardest of my adolescence. My high school years went by without many issues, at least not in comparison.
Arriving at the school was surreal, I hadn’t been back there since I left to go to another school. I knew the places things happened to me in the school and walking through the front doors I felt something I wasn’t expecting, fear.
Fear is what drove me to leave the school after all and it was the first thing I felt opening that maroon metal door. The door seemed just as heavy as it did when I was fourteen.
It was not the door that felt heaviest, it was my heart.
The saying goes, “Time heals all wounds.” With this school I felt more like Dante returning to hell than a thirty-five year old man researching a book.
The first thing I did was go to the office, I was after all a thirty-five year old in a middle school. I had arranged earlier in the day to have an escorted walk around the school with an administrator after the students left for the day.
Upon checking in at the office I was told I could wander the halls and do what I needed to do. Which I was extremely happy about. That is what I wanted, to be unencumbered with a tag along. Someone wondering, asking questions about the book and asking questions about my stay at the school. I didn’t want to lie and say I had a good time.
I loathed going to that school every day.
My dad never knew everything that happened to me, not because he didn’t care, he was too busy with his own life.
Walking around the school, there were a few students still in the building, one even asked if I was a teacher, which I found amusing. I made my way to the places I needed to see. And after doing my self tour and taking a few pictures of the empty hallways I returned to the office, thanked them for letting me look around and left.
Walking to my car I felt something that I wasn’t expecting. It was such an unusual thing to do and I sat in my car and took a deep breath. With that breath I think I forgave some of my peers, teachers and administrators that made my life hell.
I was told I could write by a lady at that school, she was my first fan.
Thank you Mrs. Rickert, you made a fourteen year old feel like he mattered in the world. With that one act she saved me from possibly doing something horrible.
Sitting in my room afterward I felt a huge sense of Deja Vu. Everything that I had done that day had happened in a dream I had a year ago. From arriving at the hotel to the school and everything in between.
It is funny how life can deal you a set of cards at a young age and you think it is the worst deal you could imagine.
For me that deck and everything that I went through at that school made me want to write more than anything else. The book I’m writing will be proof of that.
All the little bits of our lives make us, define us, mold us and sometimes destroy us.
But it is always up to us to take the power back. I have learned there are truly evil people in the world, people who don’t care what causes pain. These are the people I care most about for one simple reason. I very easily could have been one of those people after what I went through at that school.
I chose not to be!
One last comment: When you believe in yourself enough magical things happen. When one teacher believes in you, it can alter your life and change who you think you are. I found the scared fourteen year old I’d been looking for. He was with me every time I met a bully at a new job. He was with me the day I married my wife and he was with me that day I held my son for the first time.