I read other people's accounts of happy, idyllic childhoods and I don't believe them. Often, I can't read much of it: I find the narrative implausible, a collection of braggart confabulations like the kid on my grade-school bus route who claimed his (unprepossessing, middle-class) family home had an indoor pool and an elevator. I read that kind of thing and I want to call BS on it.
In my experience, children are small, weak and powerless, of no great worth; you didn't know the rules and nobody would tell you what they were. You went where you were told, when you were told and if you offered up any of your own thoughts, you got ignored or belittled. Siblings were't allies and pals; at best, they were untrustworthy neutral inhabitants of the same house. Parents? "Do as we say, or we won't love you." I tried real hard not to care about that. Happiness? "You're not here to be happy."
I hid in books, in reading. Books were nominally okay, though the kind of books I liked best (science fiction) were held in low regard. I still have scars on my forearms from reading under the covers with a hot little desk lamp after all my flashlights had been confiscated.
When I got older, I told my parents I wanted to be a writer. Oh, no, that was an unacceptable choice. Didn't I understand how few writers ever succeeded? I need to go into something practical, something better than my parent's jobs. That's probably why I wasn't discouraged from tech-y interests: at least they were down-to-earth.
I loathed my childhood. I wanted out as quickly as possible. Eventually I had my chance and took it, just moved out one day, fearing it was somehow illegal to do so without permission. I was 19 at the time.
Sadly, you can physically move away but you take the inside of your head with you. You carry your history. Or maybe you don't. I do. I wonder sometimes just how much of my career path has been driven by old history, by being told over and over that my dreams were wrong, by rebelling no further than I dared.
Darned if I know.
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
8 months ago