Even though it has been many years since I've been in a classroom, when September comes, I can’t shake the feeling that I belong in school. It’s ironic that I should feel this way because I hated school. I was never a good student, prone to daydream. I performed miserably on all of the standardized tests and I often disliked my teachers. If I didn’t like a class, I flunked it. I flunked my freshman year of college and my first year of law school, yet I kept going back to school. I knew education was the only way to understand the mystery of life.
Being in the classroom made me seize up and freeze; I literally could not think or absorb what I heard, saw and read. I was always one of the youngest in the class, small for my age, shy and pale-faced, the first to be pulled out of line and the last to be called on. No one had set high expectations for me, except for, maybe, my mother. The other adults in my life—my teachers—didn’t seem to want me to succeed. My hazy memories of school days are of being shoved, slapped, berated, bullied and beaten. I stood in the firing line of bitter teachers who were more bent on attacking children than they were on teaching them how to ponder the mystery of life.
I experienced my finest hours in school when I was commanded to write perfunctory essays, and sad stories and silly poems, as part of an assignment or lesson. My writing displayed sufficient talent to make teachers whisper in my ear, ‘Did you really write this, or did you copy it from somewhere?’ I could always detect their awkward hesitation and embarrassment. Even they knew they were wrong to ask a child such a disturbing question. That is when I knew that there was tremendous power in becoming writer. Why this is so, is anyone’s guess, a mystery.
I also knew education might not mean pursuing formal education—that was a large part of my destiny to become a writer. The only way I could explore my innermost self was by stepping completely outside of myself—that is the paradox of writing. It’s all about me and at the same time, it has nothing at all to do with me. When I write, I lose all sense of time and of what was going on in the world around me. It is always about the interior world that is manifesting itself and will take on any shape it so desires. My writing is and has always been larger than I—small for my age, shy and pale-faced, and for that I make no apologies. Nor do I apologize for still wanting to unravel the mystery of life.