I'm outlining this blog as we drive back from holiday vacation. I spend a lot of time wondering how other people's thoughts work. Sometimes, I find myself wishing that someone could transport into my mind for a day. On the other hand, this is probably one of the most frightening ideas I've considered. I'm a writer; yet so often, I find it difficult to voice my thoughts. I struggle to find the words to represent everything that is happening in my mind from day to day. I'm sitting in the car. I'm mentally scribing this blog. When I think, I think in words. I also think in pictures. I also think in numbers. I do some of my best thinking in the car. I think the dynamic surroundings are a pleasant, and necessary, distraction.
As a child, I fell into the habit of counting -- counting the thumps of the tires as they roll over the cracks in the road, counting the mile markers as they pass by, counting the streetlights, counting out the beats to the music on the radio, counting the cars that pass by in the other direction. This information is meaningless. I throw it into the trash bin. I don't need to remember it.
I fell into a habit of reading, too -- reading the street signs, reading the license plates, reading the bumper stickers, and the billboards. The words on the electronic signs echo in my head for several minutes after we pass. Slow - Road Work Ahead. I'm not sure why I keep repeating this to myself. It's just one of the many thoughts that occupy my mind. Just like the counting, this information isn't of any value. I throw it into the trash bin.
Observant. I guess you could call me observant. I've counted and read almost everything we passed. I notice that the headlights aren't all exactly the same color. I notice the slight variance from model to model of the same car. I notice the cracks in the road, the street light flickering in the distance, the blinking lights atop the cell tower, the plane in the sky, the rigid skyline of New York City, the hills in the road, the boat in the distance, the gentle rumble of the engine, the turning of the wheels. I notice it all. I can't help but notice it.
I think in words, pictures, and numbers. I can see the words appearing on my screen as I type out this blog. I haven't yet reached my computer, but I can see it written on my screen. I mentally edit my writing. I delete, edit, insert, copy, and paste.
Still, this isn't quite enough. So, I ponder the next five years, the next ten years, what about the next fifty years? I consider the reports I must write tomorrow. I mentally rehearse my lesson plans for this week.
Sound overwhelming? It's not --at least, not to me anymore. Some might argue that I must suffer from ADD or ADHD. I don't -- at least, I don't think I do. I'm an incredibly productive person. I can stay on task for hours -- even days. My mind wanders while I work. Yet, my wandering mind doesn't seem to impede on my productivity. I consider this professional level multi tasking. I operate at a speed that overwhelms people. It's taken me years to learn patience around my peers. It's still something I struggle with.
I learned patience because I had to. I learned to manage my thoughts because I had to. I've now re-programmed myself. I've designed a mental trash bin. I like to call it my mental black hole. I throw all of the meaningless information into it. At the same time, these thoughts are what kept me occupied in school. They're what kept me from climbing the walls from boredom or crying out in frustration.
Today, for just a moment, I turned around and suddenly the whole school seemed still. You must know that a school full of 2nd - 4th graders is never still nor quiet. For a moment, however, I felt as if I was deaf. The motion seemed to slow. Parents wanted to talk to me. Students needed me. Faculty needed me. Yet, for a moment, it all seemed to come to a screeching halt as I gazed at my students, most of whom were sitting on the new mats engrossed in their novels.
Today was testing day. As students finished each section, I asked them if they would like to take a break. Would you like to color? Play a game? Do you want some water? Do you need to use the bathroom? I received a shrug. Every single child shrugged and asked "Can I get a book from the library?" Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. You absolutely can! This, on its own, almost brought tears to my eyes. Each child flew to the library, careful to keep at least one foot on the ground to ensure that their speed is still walking, not running. I almost felt guilty asking them to tie their shoes on the way to the library. I'm cutting into their library time. It's causing impatient shaky shoe tying. I don't want them to trip and fall on the way to the library. My brother broke his collar bone from an untied shoe.
The name of this child has been changed for privacy reasons. A family friend nicknamed him "Q" as a child because he always had a hundred questions. Actually, he had more than 100 questions. We stopped answering them once he reached 100 questions for the day.
There he was. He was barely over four feet tall, greasy unkempt hair and a childish smirk. He was fidgeting, clumsily as if he still hadn’t grown into his own body. He hadn’t. Really, he’d just had a growth spurt(I think). There was a kind of dark glimmer in his eyes. He was filled to the brim with excitement, or perhaps some moderate anxiety. I mean, who wouldn’t be a bit anxious? It was his first day of college. Eleven Years Old. He didn’t want us to stay. It was harder than putting your child on the bus for their first day of school. We wanted to stay. We knew that we couldn’t. So, instead, we peered in the small window in the door. He looked back for a minute. I think that he knew we were there. We ducked. Not fast enough, it seems because he gave us that angry death defying glare he mastered years ago. Okay. We’ll leave.