Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Statement Crappier Than Pregnancy Induced Constipation

I've been spending a lot of time in the bathroom lately.

Yes, I just said that.

I pee a lot, and out of every seven days of the week, I spend six and a half of them constipated. With hemorrhoids for added excitement.

Pregnancy is so beautiful.

With my increased time spent on the porcelain throne, thanks to the Jellie Bean, comes increased boredom. Luckily, the family Justin and I have been staying with this semester have some "entertainment" on a shelf above the toilet, in the form of a book called Happy Thoughts, by Toby Reynolds. It's full of cute little sayings with pictures of even cuter animals, making my field trips to the potty just a little more enjoyable.

I can't sleep tonight (which isn't a rare occurrence for me). I just got back from one of those field trips, and one of the sayings I saw in the book tonight actually stuck with me after the flush. It had a picture of a polar bear next to it, sliding around on its tummy, and said:

"Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training."

At first, the rebel in me was like "Chyeah, you go polar bear and your cleverness!"

And then I realized how dumb that saying really was.

When I was in school (especially late elementary/middle school), I was an awful child. Awful. I punched a boy in the stomach who was twice my size because he made fun of my dog. I attempted to stage a boycott at lunch when our teachers tried to make us have assigned seating to avoid cliques. I told my principal to get a life and stop trying to control everyone when she told me I wasn't allowed talk about being in a talented and gifted (T.A.G.) program because it "made other people feel bad". I couldn't even talk about it  for "risk of offending someone". For crying out freaking loud.

When I got sent to detention for that, I was asked to fill out a form telling "your side" of the story (granted, "your side" was put in quotations, and was dripping with implied sarcasm according to my 12-year-old mind). I was also supposed to circle the specific Pillar of Character I "violated" (you know, those Six Pillars of Character they teach know, the ones you can't teach by just hanging posters of them in a classroom, by the way. Just saying.). Instead of choosing one of the six, I invented my own. I called it "Robotics". Under the description I wrote "I will be a mindless robot. I will follow all commands. I will not think for myself. Mrs. Former Principal Name Withheld is the only person with a brain in the entire school district." And then I circled the whole thing.

I got an in-school suspension, and was told I couldn't go back to class until I apologized. I refused. After two days, the in-school suspension monitor couldn't handle my mouthiness and sarcastic comments about the Character Counts program any more, so I was moved to the conference room in the school's office complex. The conference room happened to be between the private offices of both the principal and the assistant principal. I sang "We Shall Not Be Moved" at the top of my lungs for an hour straight until they called my dad in.

I was back in class that afternoon.

And people think I'm mouthy and outspoken now...ha!

Anyway, back to the polar bear picture and saying...

It reminded me of my old principal. I'm sure she had good intentions. I'm sure she thought that her giraffe cut-out that said "Stick your neck out, help others!" and Character Counts Day that consisted of eating foreign foods and seventh grade boys making fun of the Chinese guest speaker's accent made us all better people. I'm sure she even thought she was trying to make me a better person. And you know what? She did, just not by her standards.

You see, she plastered a lot of "Bad Training" around my middle school. A lot. Hanging up a poster that says "Do you have character?" with a list of six positive attributes and a cartoon giraffe accomplishes nothing but decorating a small portion of a whitewashed wall with an outdated color scheme. And her extremely hostile attitude towards kids who were in the gifted program showed an extreme lack of character on her part. Now, I'm not saying that I have great character, because as the 1941 Lutheran Hymnal page 15 liturgy reminds me on Sunday, "I am by nature sinful and unclean". I'm a really terrible person. Just like everybody else. But as someone who was supposed to be a role model, she set a pretty crappy example for a 12-year-old girl who really just needed some guidance and a good outlet for her misdirected passion. Crappier than the constipation I've got going on.

But I really did learn something from her: That you should always, always, always stand up for what you believe is right. Now, I have some regrets in my life: dating a guy with sideburns, burning some friendship bridges, and wearing blue eyeshadow to my senior prom, but I can look back with confidence and never be ashamed that I didn't fight for something I was passionate about. And if it wasn't for Mrs. Former Principal Name Withheld, I may not be the passionate person I am today. A lot of people can't stand that quality about me. A lot of people confuse that quality with "drama queen", or whatever other negative term that they can come up with. You know what I call them? Lackluster. But that's beside the point. That passion has made me fearless in the face of danger, adversity, and authority figures that abuse their power. And sometimes, because of that passion: I've been able to make a difference.

And if I made a difference in my life, or someone else's life, no matter how small, that's what's important. It wasn't about "surviving" her bad training and idiotic giraffe posters. It was about making something great out of the poor way she handled a potentially good program.

Sure, when you're in a bad situation, you want out. You want to survive it. But do you know what one of the best things you can do to get started is? Make something good out of the bad situation by finding your voice, seeking out your strength, testing your limits, and growing into a better person. Don't be a coward. Don't be a victim. If you don't like something, do something about it.

I think that, far more than survival ability, is what makes a creative mind.


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