What Good is Receiving Praise When It’s All Said and Done?
It’s been over 30 years since I graduated high school. I haven’t even returned for a reunion. Not that I haven’t wanted to attend; it’s just that other things took precedence over my cheek kissing over girlfriends and fist-bumping then boys who still wouldn’t mind showering with me – either alone or in a crowd. Every now and then, I would spot an old, and I do mean old, teacher I had during my high school years. Because of either timing or convenience, I couldn’t even yell out a, “Hello,” to them. Then again, maybe I didn’t want to. Maybe it was because of shame…shame that they would turn away from me or act like they didn’t know me from all those years. Some of the things I did in high school, I often wish I didn’t have flashbacks for. Though the years weren’t all bad; there were the stimulating times like playing on the football team, the basketball team, the wrestling team, Yearbook Committee, FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), tennis team. Then, there was the time I called my Guidance Counselor a loser and I made fun of how large my Accounting instructor’s head was. And I do mean “HUGE.” While many students ranted and raved about how smart or intelligent he was, I only saw my Accounting instructor as the one who gave me a “D” in the class I worked so hard in. But, it was my Guidance Counselor who I had a vendetta against because he didn’t think my SAT scores would get me into Pratt University. Aside from calling him a loser, I refused acceptance into Pratt as soon as the acceptance letter arrived. I was determined to show him. I really did want to go to school in Manhattan.
I don’t know what happened to that high school Guidance Counselor. I do hope him the best though. Maybe he’s retired and living in Florida with his wife and seeing his grand kids every chance he gets. Yep, he must be living the life away from having to crush the hopes and dreams of those college hopefuls and the ones who can only hope and dream that the stars align just for them. That Accounting Instructor and I finally came face-to-face one day in a grocery store that was just so out of character, I think, for both of us. And get this, his wife was there in the deli section reading a book! He noticed me right away. After all these years, more than 30 of them, he remembered me. Not only did he remember my name, he remembered all the classes I took as if he was my high school stalker. Boy, was I about to get the shock of my life. The instructor told me how a certain Calculus teacher and he discussed me during one of their teacher meetings. Quickly, I was taken back to that teacher who made me sit up front, every day, in class. I hated that class. I hated how I would have to go up to the board and work out problems or play this game he created called, “The Game of NIM.” “The Game of NIM” was a stick game that named its winner by having the last stick left on the board. I didn’t master that game until many years after I left high school. But, I felt it was my responsibility to teach others how to play the game. Awesome! My memory or my Calculus instructor. Aside from that memory, the Accounting Instructor advised me that my Calculus teacher thought that I could be great if only I had committed or dedicated myself. All while he spoke, I could remember seeing that teacher shaking his head or burying his head in his hands when I would come to class late or act as the class clown…all for no reason. It was Senior Year! What did I need to continue caring about Calculus? I was off to UCLA or Cornell. Either school I decided on would get my acknowledgement when I gave it to them. That’s just how special I thought I was. I had no idea that that was their way of trying to talk to me. Why couldn’t they just come out and tell me I could be throwing my life away by not staying detail-oriented or maintaining my tunnel vision for excellence that other students so envied about me from grades 9 thru 12. They all knew I was going places…but I could have gone anywhere and everywhere. And looking back, I did deserve much less than that “D” I got. My Accounting Instructor could have really crushed future by not receiving college credit for that course. Would you believe that when I did get to college, I didn’t even turn in the invoice for the credit? Ego.
All these years, I harbored resentment for someone who was trying to help me, in his own way. I now wonder what or where I would be now had that teacher taken me told me of what my life could be like if only… I was the student. I was supposed to be made to listen and obey. Then, I could honor. What gall did this Accounting Instructor have to approach me with this so many years later! It was almost as if this conversation was on his Bucket List. Had the stars aligned for this to happen? However the case, it makes me more aware that if this one teacher shared this with somebody, who’s to say that someone – anyone else felt I was unapproachable? I guess all it took was one quick moment or the first few months of a school year to feel that I was above it all. I had listened for three years. To me, that was long enough. I was on my way to doing things my way. I know the old saying, “Hindsight it 20/20.” I was young. I don’t want to feel bad about the ‘what ifs’. But I will say I wish somebody had held me down instead of held me back. Or did I do that all to myself?