Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Of words and friendship

December 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Aspire to Inspire

When do you discover yourself? Are we born knowing  who we are or is it based on how well we are socialized or only by trial and tribulation that we get there.  I think for each of us method is different whether it is nature or nurture or a journey on the wheel.

For me a spark ignited shortly after I started high school,  probably a common enough occurrence I would image.  I had always been the quiet one in the family, somewhat of a tomboy but definitely no scholar although habitually with my nose in a book or preferably with a book in one hand and a line of view to the flights of fancy of  Children’s Hour on the BBC.  I had an imagination that was certain, but I was no match for my younger sister whose academic prowess was renowned even at an early age and who’s precocious humor charmed all around her.

In those days kids of 11 went through a ritual hazing similar to the SATs, basically IQ testing with a strong emphasis on comprehension I think.  I can’t say I actually remember taking the tests but there definitely wasn’t much math involved, because Mr. Phimister had already declared me to be mathematically illiterate!  Well, somehow I aced the test and ended up being placed in one of the top academic streams at the high school.  Most of the kids around me went to the local technical school instead.   I was stunned &  it must be said a little triumphant (although I did worry that someone had checked the wrong box), my parents were stunned and my teachers were amazed.  In fact, the only person who seemed totally unsurprised was the elderly lady at the library who had long since given me a ticket to the mysterious adult side because I had read everything there was in the kids section.  As she said “Books are knowlege, knowlege is power” and that was my first key to the kingdom.

In my first year of high school I found my niche and plodded along quite happily hovering on the edge of a number of different cliches until I found my own.  I wasn’t the sharpest in the class but neither was I the dunce,  I was suddenly up to my ears in formal academics and did pretty well.  I avoided the rich and snobby kids and the wild kids and meandered down the middle of the social world.

I went to an all girls high school with 300 girls in my year, 150  in higher level academics and 150 in slightly less academic classes. The school had a compliment of about 1700 girls ranging from 12 to 18.  By whatever chance of fate, I ended up in the highest academic class for my year!

I’ve been thinking about this lately, my daughters have both just transitioned into new schools , one to middle school and the other high school and we’ve just been pulling together holiday gifts for kids at school and working out who they know or can swap gifts with.  I was reminded of how I met my first  high school friend.

For the first couple of months I stuck to those few who had transferred over from my junior school although none were in my classes.  Margy was in my class,  our ‘home’ room was the Domestic Science room,  so we didn’t have the advantage of a real desk or locker to store our stuff in and had to lug it everything around with us in our satchel or wicker basket.    When Christmas came around, we were just finishing assembly when Margy reached into her satchel and thrust a small package into my hand.  I felt a little awkward since  I didn’t have anything for her but I was thrilled.  I went out that day and bought her the little pottery animal that was missing from her collection but I definitely got the best of the deal.

What was the treasure? A Collins pocket dictionary ~ are we sensing a pattern here!?  I found out years later that she just had an ‘extra’  gift but I will be forever grateful for that and the friendship it cemented.  It has had a huge impact on my life, both the friendship and the dictionary.  The former because Margy was/is a great and stoic friend plus she had a huge cadre of acquaintances  who opened up their ranks to me.  The dictionary because an edict my Father had passed a long time before (as a punishment!) to read and digest a page of the dictionary a day became a habit.

While I had always loved to read I began to love words.  As I began to travel I realized that I love to write, anecdotal hyperbole mostly but.. after all storytelling and verbal histories are part of our heritage.

In the re-telling of meeting my first friend in high school I linked my daughters present with my past in a very tangible way.  They certainly know  how much I value using the correct word and they are beginning to realize the importance in that skill.  They also use my dictionary daily (thank you Margy!) less for spelling as definitions since it is a family joke that I spell color with a ‘u’.  After all “books are knowledge and knowledge is power!”

What that little battered blue dictionary  taught them this week was the ripple effect of reaching out a hand, in this case by buying an extra gift with no expectation other than to make someone smile ~ who knows what impact it will have on the donor as well as the recipient.

Of course for me it’s more,  my love of books took me where no-one expected me to go, it turns out I’m pretty smart too.  And a little blue book full of words gave me my first grown up friend and helped me reach my children at a tough time in their lives.

I’m not 12 anymore but words are central to who I am,  it doesn’t matter what else you go through sometimes you need to regroup and go back to the basics.

I’ve been raising my girls on my own for nearly 12 years and had taken a job that allowed me to be around, but it was becoming more and more difficult on limited money and recently with the reversals in the economy my firm cut my hours.  I’ll admit I panicked but since our standard of living has been pared down to a minimum for years there wasn’t much room to cut, the prospect of Christmas on half pay was grim.

I had just started this website and didn’t want to give it up, this really matters to me.   Instead I looked inwards at my skills, at my power.  I am an excellent communicator, a great administrator, very analytical  and empathetic to a fault.  I had also started to build a business network, (including many of my clients who appreciated my handling of  their work) to launch this site.  I decided to contact them and tell them about “Thoughts…” but also to put the word out that I was looking.  I heard lots of stories of how people are dealing with our economic challenges and received overwhelming support and admiration that my response had been to put emphasis on inspiration.   I was offered somewhere to stay,  lots of encouragement and  I’m now starting an exciting new career.

While I’m sure that my new work will quickly become a passion this website will remain.  Above all I’ve found that whether you are passing on an extra gift ,  sharing part of yourself  be it:  a kind word, your attention, your interest in what or how someone is doing, a smile or an outstretched hand;  it’s all the same.   Call it the power of reciprocity, quid pro quo or simple human kindness it’s amazing what doors and hearts can be opened.


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