When I was born the doctors immediately recognized something was wrong. I was having seizures on the left side of my body and they were unexplainable. I ended up in ICU in Boston Children’s Hospital and was baffling some of the most respected and talented doctors in the world. They started pumping me with penicillin to I guess cure me, but it only made matters worse.
The seizures became more frequent and violent. My parents were questioning their past behavior and their drug use. My parents were children of the sixties and did every drug known to man and they were now regretting their actions. Well, the doctors told them that their LSD trips, Quaalude binges and pot smoking had nothing to do with me being in ICU.
Well I would beg to differ. Regardless, it was ultimately determined that I had neonatal tetany and a little potassium cured me. But due to the seizures and what the doctors would call brain trauma they told my parents not to “expect much.” They said I wouldn’t live a normal life. Imagine how my parents felt! Man it must have been gut wrenching.
At some point in my childhood when I was disruptive, hyperactive, aggressive and just acting up, I was told about my prognosis. I thank god my parents told me. I have figured out really what has been driving me up unto this point. Prove them wrong. Prove everybody wrong. Fuck them!
Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers tries to figure out the common denominator in successful people. I think there are tens of thousands of kids who were just like me that were told that they wouldn’t amount to shit. The worst part about it is the caring parents would tell the teachers, coaches and other parents and they too would believe! My parents were just trying to help, but really injecting me with excusetosis.
But the real question is when a young child, teenager or adult is presented with this type of devastating news, how do they react? Why do some kids embrace excusetosis and give up, and why do others like me literally take the bull by the horns?
The answer is simple. Someone or something in their life told them that what they were told in the past is bullshit. For me it was my fourth and then fifth grade teacher Mrs. Boutin. She didn’t accept what all the others had told her, from previous teachers to therapists and school counselors. She told me and taught me that I am going to be something. But it wasn’t through motherly love, it was more of a disciplinary lovable teaching. She certainly had a maternal instinct to protect her kids, but it came with a heavy dose of discipline. She didn’t accept bad grades but praised good grades. She didn’t coddle me and give me false praise for almost getting an A. She pulled my ear and threw erasers at me when I was being a punk. She cared. She loved what she did and still does even after retirement.
A while ago I sent Mrs. Boutin my book and then we talked. I thanked her for caring about me and giving me a fighting chance. I thanked her for making me accountable and challenging me to get better.
Upon speaking with her, one thing that made me sad though was that today the way our public educational system is set up, teachers aren’t allowed to teach. They are pressured to get kids to pass standardized tests and shuffle them out for the next batch like cattle. Mrs. Boutin retired and she told me it was because she was no longer able to teach. She said to me when there was a moment when a student was having a breakthrough, she wasn’t able to have that teachable moment anymore. It makes me sad that students aren’t able to be taught more than how to recognize a trap on a multiple choice exam.
I don’t have the answer to why people are successful and how to fix our public schools, and not all my writings will have a defined objective, rather it is my goal many times just to make you think and hopefully maybe be that person that tells you, you are worthy and you will be successful. Sometimes finding someone to help you recognize that isn’t immediately available or accessible. You can change anything you want. You have to believe and you have to go for it. No one or thing can do it, only YOU!
Believe in yourself.