Pastime Paradise and the Obvious Child

February 27, 1997

It is getting more and more common for a sudden rush of nostalgia to come over me as I am at school.  Now it is happening all the time.  And most of it isn’t for specific instances, but everyday, mundane events.  It may hit me as the lunch ladies once again croak out, “Dollar twenty-five!” with a shaky, outstretched hand, while handing in a Trig assignment, or talking to a friend.

One of these “attacks” came during Government today.  Nothing much was happening–we were just finishing up a paper–and some of the people who were finished began talking to each other.  Each did it in their own way, as they have since I have known them.  Let me explain, with a passage I put down as I sat there:

I sit in class
My work complete
I look around the room
And see people I have known for years.
Their faces, their voices
Known to me so well.
Leslie K laughs and talks
Sidney writes and stays on task
Ray Browning, Jim Camp and Mike Mullins clown around
Doing their thing
Colin, Monica, Les–quieter, more laid back
This is just a fraction of our class
Just one instance
In one hour
In one day

My story, “The Tale of the Two Deaths,” will soon be sent to Western.  Sidney read it months ago, and she seemed impressed.  Hoke read it yesterday during Homeroom, and his comment was, “There are too many big words, and the guy doesn’t even die once.”  Dad read it last night and he liked it.  It may seem wrong, or vain, but I didn’t have them read it for praise.  It wanted to hear what they thought if it, that’s true.  But I always wanted them to just know I could write a story, to know I had the ability, to some amount.  This might seem self-possessed, and maybe in that area I am.  But at least I am honest, as I have advertised since the beginning of this thing.

So let’s be honest.  Sometimes it seems others have so much ability I can get jealous.  It’s almost a natural emotion (isn’t it?), but I don’t like feeling it.  I know I can do some things: I can draw.  I can write. I have an ability to intuitively see people.  I have a skill in reading and history… and, um, sports (okay, now I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel).  Thought maybe I could slip that last one by…

Let me continue.  I do not resent others for their gifts, at least not to a high level.  My brain usually says, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great to be able to do A or B, like others?”  And I don’t want to be Michael Jordan or anything outrageous like that.  It’s more like, when I wish I could sing, I’m really wishing I could carry a tune.  Low expectations, people.

So let’s bring in some of the people around me now.  Hoke is my best friend, and are similar in many ways, but we can also be very different.  He is free and open with everyone and a great, engaging talker.  I can be, sometimes, but usually a group will talk more to him, and less to me.  I can, at times, just sort of “be” there.  But that’s not really anyone’s fault–I’m the one that can be kind of quiet (see how this becomes a loop?)  I don’t harbor any bad feelings at all for Hoke because of this.  I’m glad he’s like that.  I just wish I was developing personal appeal faster.

You might say, “Well, just be more friendly,” but that doesn’t work.  Trust me, friend, if that’s all it took… I’ve tried everything, and in the end I never like this approach because it doesn’t ring quite true (sometimes the complexity of these simplistic interactions mesmerizes me).

Wait, let me give you an example: I, being myself, could probably do the same action or say the same words, as say Jake Pruitt  (purely an example), but wouldn’t get the a fraction of the response he would.  It’s all in the delivery, I guess.  I realize it’s because of me, and I can’t blame Jake for getting anyone laughing (I’m usually one of them!) because he’s really funny.  And they have as much chance, perhaps, sitting still for an hour and making an entry like this as I do talking that long.  It’s just how we’re made.

Now, put yourself in my position.  You know confrontations (hmm, that sounds like a negative word, but I really mean “talking to people”) do not often make you look good.  And it eats at you at times because as any other human you’d just like to be, well, liked.  I hear time and again that shy people can be falsely regarding as snobbish, or something to that effect.  At least in my case this cannot be further from the truth.

Every day Sidney is run through an apparent gauntlet, with all of her responsibilities, and she appears no worse for wear.  The dedication to excellence she exerts is phenomenal.  On every test (except Calculus) she repeatedly gets A’s.  Sometimes I can only look in awe of all she does so well.  Girls basketball just ended, but now she’s in the play, and track is quickly approaching.  I admire Sidney probably the most of anyone in my school.

And then there are other things, like sports, but that has its variations.  Sometimes I want to be Chase Johnston, draining a three, or hit a ball like Josh Harms.  It is strange how revered athletes are.  Mr. Slapeck, Brimfield’s assistant baseball coach, has told us the best player will play, no matter if he is a junior or even a freshman. In one respect I get this completely.  After all, baseball is a sport–and played by people good at sports.  On the other hand, turning completely philosophical here, this physical gift is just that: a gift.  Because I cannot play as well does not negate my desire to play.  It’s almost as if they alone have the right to partake in the game I love so much, and because I don’t have “it,” I can’t.  I also know these abilities will be lost one day.  I would like to see an 80 year old Jake Pruitt take a charge in the paint. In fleeting moments– when I actually think of things like this, –I wonder what will be like for them in the future, when their coordination/athletic prowess will more resemble mine.

There are a lot of other things I wish.  I would like the unending warmth of Leslie K.  I want to the quick wit of a Spence or Mike.  I want the steely competitiveness of Lance Stratford.

Now, there are two ways to take all of these words of mine.  You could become insulted, or insinuate.  Or, you could take it as it was meant: myself wishing I could be more like the people I have mentioned because I can’t help seeing some of the wonderful qualities they have.




P.S– Excuse me for the way this entry sort of rambled on.  I had wanted to talk more about how the Western literary contest is important to me.  Yet, I completely got off that intended subject. Instead, I wanted to show why it could mean this much.  That’s how I got on the subject of others’ abilities.  What I wrote was not planned.  I sat down to write other things.  The way it was written was as it came to me, so there are not just words, but uninhabited, ram, flowing thoughts.













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