Today I flunked out of self-esteem class. And no. I’m not joking.
“I just don’t think I can get through to you. Don’t take it personally, but here’s a list of other therapists that might be a better fit. It was nice meeting you.” Are you serious? Good thing I didn’t take it personally- that would’ve been very detrimental to my self-esteem.
Upon hearing of my expulsion from self-esteem class, my other counselor -the one who recommended me for self-esteem classes- subtly asked me not to come back. I told her what he’d said and how I was confused as to what he meant by he couldn’t get through to me. I am not a child. I didn’t misbehave. I took the class seriously. As we conversed and continued to talk about other things she seemed to become very irritated with me.
“That’s just it. You didn’t hear anything I just said.”
“I heard you,” I furrowed my brow, consfused about what she was talking about.
“You heard me but you weren’t listening. This is probably what he meant about not being able to get through to you.”
“Oh, I get it,” I paused to think about what she’d just said. “ It’s nothing personal. I don’t listen to anyone.”
“I feel very disrespected right now.”
“I didn’t mean to be disrespectful. I’m not doing it on purpose. I have trouble focusing, some form of ADD.”
As a child, my parents took me to a variety of auditory specialists. They thought something was wrong with my hearing. When I was focused on something or was caught in my own headspace it was as if I’d been rendered deaf; it didn’t matter how many times someone called out to me or how loud they spoke.
As someone who went through childhood completely undiagnosed with this problem, what was going on didn’t make sense to me until much later. For one, I never got Student of the Month. Each month I secretly hoped they would call my name, but year after year it seemed the award was always given to the same recipients, the students who had no trouble paying attention in class. I couldn’t help the fact that I was unable to focus. In fact, looking back at my report cards now, I am amazed that I did as well as I did. I remember what a struggle it was. I spent the entire school day staring at the chalk board unable to really listen for more than a few seconds at a time. I also spent a lot of time looking at the clock. For years I was secretly ashamed and viewed myself as a lazy brat, who was completely disinterested in anything the teachers had to say, but that wasn’t the case. I just couldn’t pay attention.
In college for extra credits, I became a preceptor for my Astronomy course. I wasn’t doing so hot in the class to begin with. At night I would take my required homework outside, a notebook and star map and look at the sky hoping the answers to my problems would just jump out at me. Where was this elusive Summer Triangle? How would I ever locate these three particular stars, Vega, Deneb, and Altair. I was in Arizona. The sky stretched forever, how would I be able to locate anything let alone these three particular stars that made up one very specific triangle when there were thousands- or maybe millions of stars to choose from, and who even knew how many combinations of triangles could be made from those figures? I certainly didn’t- as I barely passed any math course I ever took. I looked at the map and looked at the stars and looked at the map again. My confusion then was no different than the way my brain sputtered and stalled when presented with algebraic equations.“Fuck this!” I put my homework away and lit up a cigarette.
I ended up calling my father, who was over two thousand miles away in Connecticut, so he could explain it to me- to no avail, of course. Regardless of my horrible astronomy skills I went to preceptor training in which they taught us about the three basic learning types, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
Visual learners thrive in classroom situations that use films, diagrams, and handouts. Auditory learners do well in classes that utilize lectures. While kinesthetic learners do best interacting with the material through “hands on” methods. It all began to make sense.
I started to do a little better in school after learning a trick to turn any auditory or visual presentation into something for a more kinesthetic learner. The secret was to write down and draw diagrams of every single the the teacher said. This process seemed to permanently stamp the lectures into my brain. By “actively participating” in this way, everything became more hands on and engaging to me. It seemed that I had outsmarted my “focusing problem” at least in a classroom setting.
My preceptorship could’ve went better but I made it through and the study group I hosted did well too. I received an A in Astronomy and and A in my preceptor course. Grades didn’t matter as much as the greater understanding I gained of myself. It helped me tremendously through my college years. In my pre-university days I struggled to pay attention and retain any information at all. Back then, and even in college, I had a lot on my mind. I was dealing with the aftermath of being raped and constantly rummaging through all sorts of emotional baggage.
The truth is I not only flunked self-esteem class but I almost flunked out of high school too. Yes, it’s one of my little secrets. There were a handful of people who helped me succeed. This morning, I ran into one of them at the library: my former high school principal. Only God knows why he helped me graduate. I had skipped school and class way beyond the allotted limit. I was a delinquent of sorts, though never disrespectful to the teachers or staff. I just had issues. He obviously saw past those issues and thought enough of me, to help me keep moving forward. I will forever be grateful for his intervention in my academic life. If not for him, there is no possible way I would’ve graduated.
Another teacher went well above and beyond as well. He was my rock in the school system and I always went to him for advice or just to chat. He even asked me to write for the school newspaper. We are good friends now and see each other often. After college graduation, my job in the school system allowed me to work amongst both of these influential men who were great teachers and even better people.
They were not the only people or teachers at the school who aided me in the horrific journey through my life at that time, but they are the two that made the biggest difference. Aside from them, I have many others to thank, believe me. Now back to the self-esteem classes. I only went to one class. It only took one class for him to tell me during our second class that I was done. As always, the real me is liked by some and completely misunderstood by others. It’s okay though- the one’s who misunderstand me give me the best writing material.
Before leaving, my now former counselor said the following,
“I am not here to guide you through your relationships. I am here to help you figure out why you participate in the relationships and why you do the things you do.”
“Well my intention for coming here was to learn how to have a healthy relationship and how to act- so I no longer attract abusers.”
“Hayley, you have no boundaries.”
“I have boundaries.”
“You barely knew the last guy you dated and you slept over his house. ”
“So. Nothing happened. See, I have boundaries!”
“You slept over, Hayley.”
“I didn’t exactly sleep over…I fell asleep.”
“Whatever. The bottom line is you fail to acknowledge reality. You live in some make believe place in your head where you see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear. You are not going to meet someone and immediately fall in love and get married and live happily ever after. These things take time. This is reality, not a fairy tale.”
I do like my now former counselor, she is a nice person however, she has made a mistake that many before her have made about me: I don’t exist in reality. Those who do are more miserable than I and generally hate their jobs. Although they hate their jobs and sometimes their lives, they often choose to stay in their present stations. You know why? Because they are “being realistic.”
Realism is not what dreams are made of.
You can be realistic or you can push the boundaries of what people have told you what shouldn’t -or in some cases- what couldn’t be done. After my last dating experience, I was once again rendered single and alone, and yes, I was sad, however things may have been extremely different if I approached the scenario with a healthy dose of realism. In fact if I was being realistic I might have never gone on a date with him in the first place. The internal struggle would’ve went something like this, “Statistically every relationship and date I’ve ever had yielded the same result. This guy seems really nice, maybe he could be the one, but after reviewing my data, the odds just aren’t with me…or him for that matter. Excuse me a minute while I call him to cancel our date so I can stay home instead and watch reruns of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” And some people wonder why their lives are so boring…
I must say. Those one and a quarter self-esteem classes I attended did do wonders. Not only am I feeling my most confident, but also more smart ass-ish than usual. And another thing. I am completely unfazed by any of the things that were said to me by either of those counselors, things that were a bit harsh at times; things that could’ve inflicted the very thing they claimed to be teaching me to guard myself against: low or even no self-esteem.
There is nothing unrealistic about having high expectations. When you have high expectations you have nowhere to go but up. What’s the worst that could happen? Nothing. Nothing is literally the worst thing that could happen: stagnancy, which is exactly where you would be without any expectations at all – so why not at least try and have some high ones? Having high expectations will move you forward, never backward, and at the worst you might not go anywhere at all, but I seriously doubt that. You will certainly go somewhere if you hang in there long enough and don’t think too realistically.