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How I Became A Reader (and a Writer) — 12 Comments

  1. Yes, wow! How cool you had the opportunities to go to other countries and live the life you did. I think for most of us probably we never thought we had a choice to be different. We lived life in certain parameters and if you went outside them you paid for it. We were forced to conform.
    My dad who I dearly miss taught us to think for ourselves and question everything. But when he lived that way he paid dearly for it and we ended up poor and living outside the acceptable social structure. It was very hard. Besides being a reader I was also an artist. That was what I concentrated on. But unless you are brilliant it’s hard to go against society’s values and rules and not become ordinary. That’s what I struggle with now. Now I really don’t care what the “rules” are. And I regret not pursuing my art or becoming a writer. Then you get stuck in the life you have which no longer fits you.

    • Diana, you aren’t dead yet. Life is too, too short for regrets, and if you have them, they are for things you truly cannot change, yet things you learned from because of not being able to change them. It is NEVER too late to do what you want to do. Pick up your pen, and write. Just my humble opinion, but an opinion built on experience.

  2. Somehow I missed this post when you posted it, and only just now saw it thanks to the comments bar. Though my life has been nowhere near so exotic, I see similarities in our reactions to schooling. With the exception that I was trapped in public school, because I couldn’t convince my parents otherwise… homeschooling wasn’t really an option in this state at the time, and the private school I considered second best, because they’d let me work at my own pace, wasn’t an option financially. So I spent years doing the work because I ought to, and hating it— though it took til my senior year before I finally said to hell with it, and started avoiding classes I hated. AP English being one of them. Oh, did I hate that teacher. She even had the nerve to tell me not to bother to take the AP test, because I couldn’t possibly pass it. She never even bothered to congratulate me after I rec’d the first perfect score on that test for my school.

    I think my second-grade teacher has no idea how she saved me… realized I was bored, and steered me to her Nancy Drew collection, which, of course, no one else ever read. I devoured everything I could get my hands on, and still do.

    My children’s father wasn’t so lucky. They saw his boredom, called it misbehavior, and kept him back a year, which did not help… he spent years hating school, reading all the texts, but doing little of the busywork… finally skipped so much in high school that he gave up and quit. Was convinced to go back to try again, actually did the work for once, and got straight As for a term. And since he’d proved he could do it, he promptly dropped out again.

    They didn’t catch his potential. And today he’s this mess of could have been, should have been… and no direction. I’m terrified of that happening with my kids, and I keep a pretty close eye on the ones in school. This year, three are home… and by next, it may be all four.

  3. Katie—it’s because public schools have become disasters of bureaucracy and social engineering that fail to give the majority of their students even a passing semblance of a functional education that we homeschooled and are homeschooling ours. If your parents would let you homeschool, I’d highly recommend it.

    Take a look at Unschooling for the modern-day way to obtain the sort of education I got, and a growing number of kids get today.

  4. I’ve just been struck with the urge to quit school and move to Alaska. (And I realize that this is a year later than when you posted it.)

    I wish I could do what you did in school, but unfortunately the American Educational system has tightened their requirements. If, theoretically, I didn’t do a math homework (and I mean one [1] homework out of countless ones), I’d be instantly given a zero in the class for the semester. With all the testing, teachers now skip over any interesting stuff and instead rush to cram as much dull information into students’ heads as possible. Maybe I should just join the peace corps for a few years, lose my glorified ideas of college, and get a job driving a taxi.

    So, yeah. Sorry for writting a novelette in the reply box.

  5. What a great story! I can definitely see your love of learning in your books.

    I know people think I’m weird because I still love learning, but I want to know everything. (BTW, my kids want to know how long it took the ants to find and clear the sugar.)

  6. Wow, Holly, your story would make an amazing children’s book!

    I am amazed how different in content all of the stories shared here have been, but how similar the feelings are that we all had.

    The first article you wrote about this came at a weird time for me. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about my childhood and the ‘issues’ I am still trying to deal with a million years later, and I can honestly say that most of the garbage in my life was a direct result of my school experience.

    I feel like I’ve been passed out in the back seat of my life, and the drugs are finally starting to wear off. Now I have to figure out how to drive a damned stick shift!

    I am just now learning to think for myself, find my truth, and speak out about it, no matter what. I am finally finding my voice, and that’s a wonderful, terrifying thing.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your story with us, Holly, I really appreciate it.

  7. You know, if you edit out the bits about living in Alaska and Central America, your atttiude towards school is eerily similar to my own. I even had a story win first place in my school’s young authors contest when I was in first grade (and again in fifth grade). I viewed school as a game. I did what was required of me. I read my textbooks from cover to cover the first day I got them. I only did enough homework to cover my ass. I aced my tests without having to study (I owe that mostly to a photographic memory). I did most of my learning outside of school hours. I’ve self-taught myself about 90% of what I know because I was bored throughout my childhood.

    I think I crashed and burned on college because I was still bored and just damned sick of sitting in a classroom and being lectured at.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Makes me feel like I was a little less of a complete weirdo as a child. Or maybe I really was a strange little child. But at least there are other strange little children out there, too.

  8. Holly, that was a marvelous story, and it is evident how and why you have become the tremendous person — and incidentally tremendous writer — that you are.

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