(Yes, that's me on the right.)
There is nothing quite like a 40 year High School Reunion to make you feel your age, right? Well I was surprised. It didn’t do that for me at all. What it did do however, was to remind me of how very far I’ve come. It reminded me of the power of the mind and how changing your thoughts can literally change your life.
You see those years were probably some of the worst years of my life both at school and at home. I lived my senior school years in tears each and every day. My life had become a helter skelter, a downward spiral both emotionally and educationally. I was an emotional and physical wreck. I hated school and I hated home and I had become very good at hiding it. I had gone from absolutely loving school to just wanting to escape. I took every opportunity I could to “wag” school and hardly anyone even noticed.
I was born a gifted child with high IQ (163 at age 7) with hyperactive child syndrome (ADHD) a thirst for knowledge and a love of learning. I had a reading age of 12 when I started school at 4, working with the older children right from the start. (There is another story in this - for a later page)
I loved flouting my intelligence and throughout my infants in UK and early primary school years in NSW it was never a problem. Due to my father’s work, I was backwards and forwards between schools in different towns each year and each new placement began with an intelligence test so that the teachers knew where to place me in the class, what reading to give me and which library books I was allowed to borrow. I loved astounding my teachers with the results of these tests and I was treated to extra reading material, quizzes, and fun things to do. During the school holidays I would work through maths text books two or three years ahead. I loved this too and was so proud of myself when I came to the end of a book. But things didn’t go so well as I got older.
My father’s work relocated him to a new town for three years and I was stuck at the same school from grade 5 to grade 8. My grade 5 teacher had no patience for someone who was so far ahead. He refused to allow me to work at my own pace and I was hit with a ruler on a number of occasions for “showing off” or doing long division “the quick way”. In grade 6 I was banned from maths and english games in class because I always knew the answers which meant that no-one else had a chance. I had to sit by myself and watch everyone else struggle and not be allowed to help. I began to get so miserable. By the time I finished primary school as DUX, I was being bullied by other students for my intelligence, for being English and even for being skinny. On a few occasions I was even threatened at knife point by another student. I told no-one. I thought I knew how to fix it though. As I began grade 8 I vowed never to be top of the class again and I even tried failing exams on purpose. My class results started to slip, but I realised that I wasn’t really happy. And to top it all, I was now being teased and laughed at for NOT being top of the class.
Towards the end of grade 8 - first year of high school, my father’s work took me to my final school destination in a regional city - no need now for the boarding school for which I had won a scholarship. I was full of good intention - I would be able to prove myself again. BUT the mind is a powerful thing. I couldn’t for the life of me turn things around. I was still a good student, but I could no longer put pen to paper on a written test or read multiple choice without making stupid mistakes. I COULD NOT pass an exam. As soon as an assignment or an exam hit the desk in front me I would freeze and my mind would be completely empty. My essays became a series of dot points containing all the facts, but nothing else. I was called lazy at home due to my results, and I began to take it on board - I was beginning to believe it.
Gradually, I was failing almost every subject except art (which not surprisingly I did not enjoy). I had gone from top of every class to literally the bottom of every class. Music and Dance kept me going and also gave me my escape route from school. I was part of the school Stage Band and concert band, learned flute and tenor saxophone at school and studied ballet externally. I made friends with the school office staff who would mark me away at dance or music classes when I needed to escape. Nobody ever knew what I was going through, although I have an idea that my friends in the office suspected. Unfortunately during my last two years at school I was made to give up my dance to concentrate on improving my school work - I lost that escape route.
By now the tears had started - at school because I didn’t want to be there and then I’d cry all weekend at home because frankly I would rather have been at school. I had nowhere to go.
With the problems at home, the looming end of school was especially terrifying. I had nothing to show for my years of study - there was really nothing I could do in those days, but become a secretary or shop assistant. I did both. I moved out of home at 17 and worked one full time job in an engineering office, part time in a dress boutique and part time at my parents picture framing business. All in an effort to prove that I had some worth. I would walk to work at the office at 6am in the morning and not leave until 6pm. Then work weekends and Thursday nights at my other jobs.
But then life caught up with me and at the ripe old age of 18 I collapsed after contracting Ross River Fever. I was bedridden for 6 months and had to move back into the family home (another story for later). This culminated in diagnoses of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, early onset arthritis, depression and anxiety and in all honesty I did not expect to make it to 30 years of age. BUT I was determined. There are many stories to tell around my long recovery, but those I will share in parts at later stages.
Surprisingly though, I didn’t give up on myself. I’m here! I’m fit, healthy, happy and living my dream. I learnt to change my thinking. It did take me a good few decades, but I’ve never given up. I have multiple qualifications in different areas as I found that studying outside of school suited me well.
I now understand the workings of the mind in creating reality. Life really and truly is what you make it. You can make it negative or you can make it positive. The choice really is up to you.
In the words of Mike Dooley “Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones”
I'm Jane Marin, artist, illustrator, writer, self confessed eclectic bohemian. Follow me and my musings right here on my blog.