A Little Bit of Wonder is where I journal about the somewhat roundabout way that I have been working to establish a career and a strong sense of self--I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about "direction" and "identity." I have a Master's Degree in Literature, but I'm no longer working as an English Professor; I'm starting the next step in my life as I work to establish a career as a writer in the non-profit sector.

At my companion blog, Little Wonder's Recommended Reading, you will find reviews for both books and other blogs that I enjoy. The two blogs are inter-linked, so you can access my reviews and reading challenges from the sidebar on the left.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thirty Seconds

“What are you doing?” The harsh whisper came across the table, startling me and stirring up a streak of fear that shivered through my stomach.

I had been caught. Caught reading a novel in the middle of class.

I hadn't been caught by the teacher, but by the new boy. The cutest boy in class.

At that moment, the latter seemed to be more mortifying.

I shoved the book farther under the table. “Nothing. Reading,” I said defensively.

“No you weren’t,” he said, his tone belligerent. He leaned in toward me, getting dangerously close. I could feel my face turning red as he said, “You couldn’t have been reading. You were turning the pages too fast.”

I stared at the fringe of thick, dark lashes around his coffee colored eyes. Even though I couldn't look away from his eyes, I somehow noticed his rosy cheeks. His close proximity made me tremble a little: this was an intense moment for a sixth grader.

I gulped. “I was too reading.”

“How fast can you read, then?” he demanded, still whispering. So far, the teacher had not noticed our quiet conversation.

Oh, crap. Now he was challenging my skill as a reader – one of the few skills that I felt I possessed. I had to defend my honor – but I didn’t have a clue how fast I could read. I just knew that I read fast. And I also knew that I suddenly wanted very badly to impress this cocky, handsome sixth grade heartthrob.

I’m sure I must have stuttered and blushed. “I don’t know,” I told him.

He paused for a minute, tilting his head and studying me. By this time, I must have been redder than Anne Shirley’s carrot-colored hair.

“I’ll time you,” he said. He held up his wrist, displaying his watch. “We’ll see how long it takes you to read a page.”

Now the pressure was on. I was a shy and stuttering sixth-grade geek with no other way of impressing the new boy than to try and dazzle him with my intelligence and speed-reading skills. But perhaps more important than that, I suddenly felt the need to prove to myself that I was good at something. So I nodded, pulled my book back out from under the table, and set my eyes to the top of the page.

“Okay,” he whispered, his eyes on the minute hand as it ticked slowly around. “Wait, wait – go.”

I skimmed the page quickly, looking up and whispering a triumphant “Done!” when I had gotten to the bottom.

“Thirty seconds,” he said, looking at me with new admiration with those coffee-colored eyes. I couldn’t stop staring at his thick lashes. “And you remember what you just read? Tell me what was on the page.”

I gave him a quick recap of the subject. I couldn’t tell him exactly what had happened, but I knew what characters had been talking and what general subjects they had discussed. It was enough to convince him that I had actually absorbed the information on the page in thirty seconds.

Having convinced him, I suddenly felt a new pride in my identity – I might have been a book geek, but at least I was a skilled book geek. And even though the cute boy and I didn’t exactly end up being lunch buddies, he actually paid attention to me from time to time – and I didn’t stutter and blush nearly as much when I answered him.

I’m not exactly sure what made me think of that incident today, a little moment from the life of a bookish sixth grader who has clung tenaciously for the sixteen years following to the identity that I established at that moment. First I was a reader, then I blossomed into the writer and communicator that I am today.

At that age, I could never have imagined that I’d be able to talk as much or as loudly as I do at parties, chatting with all kinds of people for hours without stuttering. A regular Little Miss Chatterbox.

I could never have pictured myself up in front of a classroom, with enough confidence to not only skillfully teach, but even entertain my eighteen and nineteen-year-old students. But maybe it was this very moment – where I was pushed to declare myself, to defend my ability and so define myself through that ability – that made the rest of my career possible. I had always loved reading, but I remember this moment so clearly because it was the first time that I had been challenged to prove that my skills were impressive and important.

So maybe it is thanks to the boy with the thick, dark lashes and a gaze with the intensity of a laser gun that I became confident, sure of who I was and who I wanted to be. I was proud of myself, perhaps even for the first time. In those thirty seconds, I learned some extremely important things.

I am a reader, a critic, a writer, a communicator. I am good at those things, and those things are valuable.

And from that day forward, I have never stopped defining myself that way.

1 comment:

XY said...

A very cute story, put a smile on my face:)
Yes you are a very talented writer, it's an enjoyment to read your blogs and I hope some day you will have something much bigger and longer for us to read and enjoy!
I admire your speed of reading too, wish I could read half as fast. So I guess that explains why you had the ambition to finish a several-hundred-page book over a weekend!:)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...