I was asked to write something about the moment when I knew I had left childhood behind. The question lead to an interesting discovery.
When I look back over my childhood I see myself playing: hiding in bushes, climbing trees, selling catfish, and running away from home a lot. So when I look back I see a childhood.
And still, I can honestly say I don’t recall ever being a child.
I always felt as if I had something special to share and spoke out at the most inappropriate times: in Sunday school, in grade school, amongst my friends and to my parents.
This lead to me feeling I was a little adult constantly getting in trouble. And always counting the days when I could be the adult I already was.
In regards to the original question, I can say I don’t remember leaving childhood behind. However, I clearly recall the day that lead to my independence.
It was in October, my grade ten school year. For clarity, I didn’t really pass grade nine but my father talked them into moving me forward. He didn’t want the embarrassment of a child who failed even though the reason I failed was I never attended class.
And the reason I never attended class, in hindsight I know, falls squarely on the shoulders of the adults in my home.
So here it was, October, grade ten, I had just won the honor of being voted grade ten social rep for the school and attended my first school council meeting. I sat in the meeting, volunteered for everything, and had many opinions knowing full well I didn’t have the ability to pull off any of them.
I walked out of that meeting and was met by some gossiping teenagers. Apparently, one of the “bad girls” in school had run away from home.
It was the same bad girl that used to spit on me as I walked by her in grade seven. Who made a witch on Halloween, named it Lynette-y and placed it in the intersection of all the hallways in grade eight. The same girl who in grade nine had started a physical altercation with me in the girls’ room because she had a crush on the boy I had kissed at the dance. (By the way I won that fight, even though she said I didn’t.)
So I was getting ahead in the world, I was in grade ten on student council and she was a runaway.
Come to find out years later she had been abused at home and was newly pregnant. Afraid to face her family, she ran away.
Not knowing that part of the story didn’t change the fact that she went from being my nemesis to being my hero the moment she was brave enough to run away, farther than a few blocks.
That was the day I gained my independence. I never went home, I just got on the bus; changed my name and made new friends.
Of course there’s much more to the story and my independence had to be fought for repeatedly.
But that isn’t the question.
There are moments that take you across a line into a new trajectory and no matter how difficult the new path you’re walking is, it’s less difficult than the path you walked before.
This was my moment.
*By the way, I have a doctorate now, even though I never finished grade ten.