My second grade teacher thought I could skip second grade and go directly into third but my mother refused. The reasons for this are too complicated to explain, but suffice to say, it started a pattern in me of thinking school was boring. By the time I got to high school I had started my own education outside of the school system. I spent many hours every week at the small, cramped public library learning what I really wanted to learn, I took control of what I wanted to put into my head.
What I remember as being most important in high school was popularity – getting invited to a prom, being part of a clique, pretending to be cool – all stuff that I had no interest in. I wanted to learn and there was nothing there to learn. My brother quit school at fifteen and learned a trade. Two of his three children did not finish high school either and both are doing well working at jobs they like.
Children probably know early on in life who they are and what they want to be – not in the sense of what kind of “job” they want, but what kind of life they want. Metaphysical writers say that we all choose to be born and that we know what we want to do while we’re here. But after 12 years of compulsory education, whatever we intuitively “knew” is so buried we sometimes never find it again.
My introvert personality type was not accepted or appreciated. I was an oddball, a weirdo. While I was pondering the fall of the Roman Empire, my mother was conniving behind my back to get me a prom date. After she finally got me one (with a boy I didn’t like), I refused to go. To this day, her biggest disappointment regarding me is that I didn’t go to the proms in high school.
It is a sign of progress that the kind of person I am now has a name and that my personality type is something I can finally relate to in a positive way. And, now that I am old, I can also embrace all of the names that have been given to old women – hag, crone, spinster. I am proud to use these words because it means I endured the hardships necessary to achieve them. Instead of standing at a cosmetics counter buying an expensive anti-aging cream, I am buying paint and painting the walls of a condo. The place I live in needs renovation, “I” do not.
In January, I am going to take a woodworking class so I can get access to the right equipment to cut baseboard trim and sand my kitchen cabinets. Whenever people come into my condo (and see the state it is in) they say, “Why don’t you just pay someone to come in and do this work?” The problem for them is that it’s “not pretty,” it’s not a place one expects to find a 62 yo woman living in.
A woman I once knew used to say whenever anybody asked her where she went to school, “I went to the school of hard knocks.” I greatly admired her for that. She moved up the ladder of her career and reached the pinnacle without ever graduating from college. I think with a smile how great it would be to say, “I went to the school of introversion.” Given that I have learned almost everything I ever needed to know just by using my own innate intelligence, I think this would be a true statement.
As this so-called ‘holiday season’ runs its usual boring course, I say to people, “No, I don’t have any holiday plans.” I am not flying or driving to visit relatives I never got along with and don’t enjoy being with. I am not buying presents nobody really wants or pasting a phony smile on my face to pretend I’m having fun. I will be lone, as I am always lone, blissfully sitting in serenity, sipping a cup of chai in a comfortable chair watching the rain outside my window. To all those who also lone, may the next few days be ones of quiet contemplation and big thoughts. Thank you for your support and encouragement during the past year. In lone we trust.