As a child I changed schools often. The nature of my father’s work – heavy construction, dredging, railway construction – meant that we were moving constantly to new locations. In some primary and secondary school years I could rack up three different schools in which to be the new kid.
New kids are generally set upon by old kids with a view to testing out their mettle and to placing them in the pecking order. My mettle was pretty soft and I occupied the low position on the totem pole in most locations. That is until the tests and exams started.
Then I shot up in the academic charts – which meant that I got a lot of teacher attention and extra books and assignments. The rest of the students resented this and my position on the social totem never changed. I now see that it was actually beneficial:
- I got extra books and extra concepts – the teachers were stuck out in the bush and there were few of their students that could echo their teaching or stimulate them.
- My social life was spent with my parents. I loved them, they loved me, and we got on extremely well. It showed me that family was the important centre of life for me – and this has carried on with my own wife and daughter. Win/win/win.
- I learned that nothing lasts forever. Good or bad. Enjoy the happy and endure the sad because it will pass in three or four months.
- I learned that when something is done, it is done. If you revise it, review it, revisit it, or reheat it you will have either a burned-out or bland experience. Remember what it was as well as you can and move on.
- I learned that bullies exist at all levels of society and in all relationships. The external ones last four months. Some cannot be fought – they must just be escaped. Some can be fought, but you must not fight them upon their terms. If you need to fight one attack them when they least expect it and use much more force and savagery than they have seen before. Bullies bleed.
- I found out that time alone is best passed with a hobby. Hobbies can become avocations, and in turn vocations. And you can play all day and be paid for it.
- I learned to arrive quietly and leave quietly. This has served me very well at boring lectures, dinners, and parties. I stay as long as I like and then unaccountably vanish.
- I was never offered drugs or booze. No-one thought to include me in their coterie so I was protected against their lousy ideas. I had my own lousy ideas.
- Living with adults taught me to act like an adult earlier-on that most of the other students. This meant that when they were on the cusp of adult acceptance I was already well within the grown-up circle of attention and I got the jobs, perks, and connections they missed out on.