I'll start this out by saying my dad is an extrovert, my mom, introvert. And I sure as hell didn't think this would be this long.
Through 2nd grade (1983ish?), my folks lived in an outlying burb of Detroit (Highland was the country 25 years ago and M-59 was a 2 lane road) but the school I was going to was, I realized a few years ago, pretty progressive for its time. It was an interesting, stimulating environment for kids and whoever designed it (the building was maybe 5-10 years old at the time) had some sort of keen insight as to what a kid would like. Some of the classrooms were set up kinda like pods where 3-4 would be in the same 'pod' but share a small common area. The library was sunken into the middle of the building, open to most areas and hallways. Everything was bright and airy, well lit, there weren't a whole lot of straight walls or square rooms, and a lot of things were scaled to little kids. It had what seemed like acres of playground space with lots of grass, and we had art classes (I remember making some project with packing peanuts and toothpicks) for crying out loud. From a kid's perspective, it was Utopia with morning and afternoon bus service. And EVERY report card from there said I talked too much.
By that time, the early '80s recession was taking its toll and my dad pretty much lost his job. We ended up moving about 100 miles north to the thumb of MI before I started 3rd grade. The school system in the sticks proved to be not quite as progressive, unfortunately. The elementary school was the old high school (1930s, maybe 1940s era)...2 stories tall, severe, clinical "faux collegiate" look and feel; dark; squeaky wood floors; most of the dinky playground was asphalt with little to do beside swing. This place was immediately oppressive and as opposite on the spectrum as it could have been. Institutional bordering on industrial.
Then I met my 3rd grade teacher. She was probably well into her 50s at the time, had a very serious air about her (she had to of been some IxTx). You could tell she had been teaching kids for a long time and the joy of helping kids learn had long left her...if it had ever been there at all. My talking apparently had gotten to her. First came the whole "I'm writing your name on the board," "Now I'm adding a check" deal. Next, I ended up being moved to the front of the class closer to her desk. Didn't help. Then one morning, I walk in and I don't see my desk. I ask her where it is and she points to the very back of the classroom. I'm segregated completely away from anyone by a good 8-10 feet, situated in front of the back classroom door (each class had 2 doors to the hallway at either end on the same wall) with the shade pulled down, not even facing the front of the class. Alrighty.
I don't remember exactly how long I ended up being placed there...2-3 weeks maybe? I guess I did learn to be more quiet and was moved back closer to her desk. Things weren't helped by the fact that my best friend was a girl and one of the playground attendants took it upon herself to see that we were separated during recess and couldn't play together (I remember her grilling me and asking "So why is your best friend a girl?" She was even older than the teacher.) My folks did nothing except suggest finding other friends. But my friend's mom was a liberal social worker and raised HELL with the school. At least we were allowed to play together after that.
I think this impacted me quite a bit. I think this could very well pinpoint the beginning transition from extroverted to introverted and being a lot less trusting and always having my guard up; actually changing some core attributes of my personality. Because of two adults during one school year. If I could have one wish at this moment, it would be for that teacher to know exactly what kind of impact she had. I can honestly say, she's probably the only person on earth that I hope has a long, painful, revelation-filled ("OMG, I WAS a bad teacher! I was a bad human being!") death. How many other kids did she fuck up? How many did that school system fuck up? (How many has ANY school system fucked up?) I think I still have some resentment.
It's all about the journey.
One of the more defining moments in my life was when, upon wondering why the whole class was staring at me, I realized that I had actually whistled the Muppets theme tune instead of playing it quietly in my head as usual.
My most recent defining moment was a year long period at about 40 during which I went through the “midlife” transition. Without warning, all the motivation that had been driving me for the previous 20 years evaporated and I became motivated to do new things that I had never cared much about before. I went from being career oriented to wishing I had a dozen kids.
All of you youngens beware. You inexplicably turn into your mirror image at 40.
Nothing in psychology makes sense except in the light of evolution.
75% I :: 80% N :: 75% T :: 42% P
5 SP/SO/SX Variant
Then gradually I began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking which had been characteristic of my orientation. This began with the rejection of politically-oriented thinking as essentially a hopeless waste of intellectual effort.
- John Nash
Childhood and genetics definitely forged some of my most significant traits and behaviors, but what truly defines me are those moments that I make decisions that will change the course of my life for the foreseeable future, and how I implement those decisions. I love starting over and building a new life; I may not be able to control the ocean of life, but I can feel like the Captain of my ship whenever I tear down and rebuild.
(At least until the next tsunami hits.)