I can remember my fourth grade parent-teacher conference like it was yesterday. I had forgotten to brush my teeth, and my mother was bitching at me about it. I couldn’t see what the big deal was, it was an honest mistake, or maybe it was the onset of low self-esteem, who knows. All I can see are little clips of movies from that day: her being upset, and shushing the whole thing when my teacher walked in the room; the way they talked about me like I wasn’t there, but looked directly at me; the way the sidewalk looked through the window, and how it’s what I remember the most. It went along the side of the building to where we had recess, and the blacktop where we played kickball most days.
“Victoria could be driving the bus, but she chooses to sit in the back seat,” my teacher declared. “She’s just not working up to her full potential.” I usually got picked last, or close to last. They said I ran funny. I remember feeling like I ran fine, but taking on the role of someone who ran funny. How strange it was to be at this parent-teacher conference. I had gone ahead in my math workbooks and finished them, because they were too easy. I thought maybe I was getting in trouble for that. And those little movie clips keep rolling, moments of my life I’ll probably never forget, always available on instant recall.
Those statements Mr. Krampitz made about me turned out to be strangely profound. Looking back, I can see that I modeled my life after the pursuit of acceptance, not happiness. I was too scared to drive the bus, because I if I did it wrong, people might not like me. I’ve learned since that acceptance of self - whatever that may be - is far more critical than acceptance from others, and that being true to my inner voice is the one thing that will never steer me wrong. The good and the bad, the chances taken alongside the regrets, it’s all made me a part of who I am today. And every morning, when I get in that driver’s seat, I can look around and know that where I wind up - while important - is of little consequence. What matters most is that I‘m the one doing the driving.