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Friday, November 11, 2011

The Large Impact of a Stolen Pencil

This morning I gave a presentation to 200 middle school teachers and during my segment that I mention a soda can and the associative memory system I had a memory back to 5th grade. When I give presentations I always try to use examples that my audience can relate to and I had long forgotten this story until the middle of today's presentation.

As I've said many time, I don't remember people in my memories. Because of this I need to remember people through other means and the #1 way I do that is through physical items. In 1993 my family moved from Indianapolis to Saint Louis. A lot of people were lost in my memories, but I had a couple pencils that I remembered them by. The pencils were from the school I went to and had the name on the side of the pencils. Through this item I still felt a connection with where I came from.

On my second day of school in this new place my classmates wanted to "test" me. I had been warned that this group always played some sort of small prank on a new kid, and I thought I was prepared, but nothing could have prepared me for what was to come.

For one reason or another I had to leave the room, and when I came back all my pens and pencils were gone. Normally I could have cared less as the best way to prank a prankster is to not give them the benefit or acknowledgement of the prank ever taking place. However, my pencils from what was still home to me were gone.

At that point in time I was not diagnosed and I probably couldn't have explained to anyone what was going on or why, but what everyone saw could only be classified under one word, "meltdown."

I became so frantic and irate that no one wanted to claim responsibility. I tore that classroom apart until I found my pencils which someone had placed under the teacher's podium. They say a person can't make a good second impression as everything is based of the first impression and this was true. From that point one I was a social outcast in my class because no one was able to understand why I reacted the way I did.

This story had not been thought of for many years and when I thought of it today in the middle of my presentation it furthered my passion to do what I do even more so. I mean, what if my classmates had been able to understand that I didn't just "flip out" over an irrelevant pencil, but rather my means of remembering a place I no longer lived at as well as the friends that were there.

See, spectrum and not, we aren't that different. Everyone has those items that remind them of someone, someplace, sometime, but for me it can be a seemingly irrelevant item. Those items, whatever they may be, become highly valued and to simply lose an item, like the day I described in 5th grade, creates a sadness that can only be described by explaining it would be like someone deleting your memories. On that day I felt as if that had happened and that's why I had my seemingly overreaction.

As with most things like this it was a misunderstanding on many levels and this states my purpose and passion. If there's just a little bit more of understanding in the world perhaps an incident like what I went through can be avoided, or at least better understood. I wasn't given a 2nd chance by my peers, but I'm okay with that now because it motivates me because it doesn't have to be that way. By you writing this today maybe I've come a little closer to creating a better understanding and for that I thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my, I had a very similar incident and it just so happens it was about a pen too!
    In 5th and 6th grade (defined as group 7 and 8 in the Netherlands) I joined a sort of children's city council. We were allowed to address issues that concerned us, the children.
    This was very important to me, seeing I was good at it (I always have a low self-esteem about my talents... or non-existing talents as I believed back then) and I finally made friends there (remember, I've been bullied all my life).
    During one of our field-trips, this time to a street sign making factory, we were presented some nice presents to show their appreciation for the things we were doing. To me the most prized gift was a beautiful pen with it's own penholder it was placed in.
    I kept it safe and decided to use it for all my children's city council purposes. It represented every nice memory associated with the children's city council.
    Suddenly, after a meeting with the children's city council in the official city council meeting hall (yes, we were allowed to use that if we had one of our big meetings), I went to my mum in the lobby and noticed I lost my pen.
    I couldn't be more devestated. It was gone. I broke into tears and told everyone willing to hear my favorite pen was gone.
    My mum tried to tell me it was only a pen, but I told her she was wrong. It was my pen. It was my FAVORITE pen. And I got it through the children's council. I don't think she fully understood, but she understood enough to understand it was important to me and that was what mattered. Her child was devestated and it was important.
    The lady at the desk in the lobby also understood it was important to me. (also, I think a young girl crying her heart out kind of broke everyone's heart there)
    Suddenly everyone available went looking for me, while my mum still tried to half-heartedly convince me it was just a pen.
    I wouldn't hear any of it and we didn't leave there until I was made sure every inch of the city council meeting hall was searched and my mum left her phone number just in case.

    I didn't get my pen back so far...
    Someone, if you find a grey/silverish pen in a grey pen holder if you happen to visit the Netherlands once... It might be mine. Return it please.
    (of course I have no real hope in this message, since it's unlikely an American comes to the Netherlands and finds my pen after all these years)

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