Socrates famously stated that the unexamined life is not worth living for a human. Dogs, koala bears, snails, and other such creatures get a free pass, which explains a lot about why they always seem so happy—or at least nonchalant: Do I want to roll around in this mud puddle? Yes! Should I? Yes! Will I? Yes!
I was reminded of the great philosopher’s wise words recently when I delved into a yellowed Banana Republic bag full of my past that my mother has kept in her attic all this time. There, nestled within two bulging manila folders, was 16 years worth of scrutiny—all of my report cards going back to preschool; the results of IQ tests and Achievement Tests taken every two years throughout elementary school; my SAT scores; dance class evaluations, girl scout records, and—most horrific of all—every class picture from age 4 to 18. Yes, all the discomfort one could want (to escape) in one tidy package.
As I thumbed through all the numbers, letters, pictures, and brief comments that summed up my youth without actually adding up to it, I realized that reviewing this kind of material takes a certain dogness or koala bearness of mind:
Do I want to be able to look at the picture of myself in that dress with the 1600s Pilgrim collar without cringing? Yes! Can I? No! Did you want the popular pixie hair cut in 7th grade? Yes! Should you have gotten it? No! Can you look at that school picture without wanting to run for the matches? No!
Well, I guess it takes some work to achieve true dogness. I’m determined to reach that plateau, though, so as part of my ongoing journey, I’ve decided to let go and let You:
My Pre-kindergarten class picture
This is where it all began.
On the bulletin board behind the class are these paint blots. Are they Rorschach tests? Or early prototypes for the Orphan Black logo?
My Kindergarten report card
Here are all the skills that were to set me on the right road in life. Did I learn them? My report is a bit contradictory. Under comments I “measure up in every way.” But the report of my readiness test states that I am “Apparently very well equipped for first grade work.” “Apparently?” All I can say is that I still paste neatly and I try.
Stop the Presses! The Hollywood Sun-Tattler, page 8
My one shot at fame and they spelled my name wrong. If I didn’t know the technology was a few years off, I’d say my head was Photoshopped onto some other girl’s body. The picture’s caption offers its own interpretation of our faces, but I think my expression forecast a hope that I was waiting to get a neck.
My 5th Grade school picture
A perm was the answer for a little girl with stick-straight hair. And what’s up (unfortunately way up) with my bangs?
I’d rather sit it out, thanks
I was not a natural tapper—couldn’t snap my head on a spin to save my life—and this progress report from Ron Daniel’s Academy of Dance seems to politely bear that out. I may have improved 100% week to week, but, really, 100% of awkward is still awkward.
I was also struck by the use of the universal male pronoun in the letter to the parents. As far as I remember, there were never any boys in our classes.
I never, ever remember being on any sports team. At recess I was a strong volleyball server and, despite my height, was good at nabbing basketballs out of the air. Could I have been on some team? The world will never know.
Now here’s a sport I was good at—but a roller skating proficiency award? Now that I think back, I do vaguely remember demonstrating my skills in a darkened rink with reality-distorting lighting and mind-bending music (Delta Dawn – Helen Reddy and Bad Bad Leroy Brown – Jim Croce to name just two.)
Examiner: “Skate forward…Now, skate backward. You’re proficient!”
One of my High School Report Cards
Isn’t all math anal? Oh, wait…that was Analytical Geometry! While I’ve never used the math I learned in that class, I do remember Mr. Gulla making it fun by dancing around and singing, “Sine sine cosine sine” and “Cosine cosine sine sine.” He also answered complainers with a pithy, “Am I wearing a ‘life is fair’ button?” Now, those lessons I have often used. This report card also includes my beloved Modern European History class with Mr. Wilson for which I won the annual award. Now, that was an award I worked for and remember.
The Numbers Game
A smattering of numbers comparing me to other kids. Who were these “other kids,” what were they really like, and do dogs and snails have to go through this?
After much Laughter Therapy, Blasé Meditation, and a kibble diet, I have reached a certain level of puppyness and am able to release this picture of me in the Pilgrim collar.
But the pixie haircut? I’m afraid I’m still too human to post that.