Easily Distracted

When I was in Kindergarten, my teacher had a parent-teacher conference with my dad. My parents were already separated at the time, so my mom wasn’t there. I guess they took turns or something. I was staring up at the high-ceilinged corner above the front door of the classroom. I did not watch them or give any indication whatsoever that I was listening to them, though of course I was. I was always listening to those around me—I was still struggling to understand the actions and reactions of my fellow human beings. I suppose, in many ways, I continue to struggle with it today.

Anyway…back to my story. My teacher was telling my dad that I was very bright, but I never listened in class. I was “too easily distracted” and I would frequently daydream. “Look,” she said while I stared up at the empty corner of the ceiling. “She’s not even paying attention now.”

“Yes, I am,” I said without looking at her or focusing my eyes. I was still staring at nothing, deep in thought, but also paying attention. She was speechless for a moment before she recommended that I be skipped a grade. I never should have gone to Kindergarten to begin with. I could already read and write far better than anyone else in my grade. I was the only one who could read upside down. I was the only one who could read and write mirrored print. My math skills were years beyond my peers. I had no business being there.

I still remember my father’s sigh, and the sadness in his voice. “Her mother won’t let her.”

My teacher was quiet for a moment. I didn’t bother looking at her expression; I continued to stare at nothing. “Why won’t she let her skip a grade?”

“Because if she skips a grade, then she’ll skip another. People already think they’re twins. She doesn’t want them to be rivals in the same grade. She doesn’t want her to pass him in school.”

I didn’t know the word my teacher used to describe me. It was long and I couldn’t hold on to it long enough to ask my dad later what it meant. I also knew not to interrupt adults. You didn’t always know who might strike you for interrupting, so it was best not to push it and learn who would and who wouldn’t. As an adult now, I can only imagine she must have called me under stimulated. And I was—severely so.

By the time I reached third grade in that school, all the teachers knew me. They knew not to bother with telling me to focus. They knew how incredibly bored and brilliant I was. I aced every test. I tutored those around me. I had a knack for explaining things in ways they could understand. I can still remember Mr. Gilham asking me if I thought I’d be a teacher someday. I was a few weeks into third grade. I told him that I wouldn’t be able to go to college and he explained scholarships to me. He gave me real hope for escape for the first time in my short life. At the end of the year, halfway through third grade, we moved.

My new school was larger, and the teachers didn’t know me. I couldn’t get away with laying my head on my desk during class like I always had before. My new teacher learned quickly, though. By the end of that year, she’d stopped grading math tests. She merely had everyone pass their tests to me so that I could compare them to mine.

But I am, after all, easily distracted. I couldn’t manage to make it all the way through school being a genius. Yes, I took the ACTs in seventh grade and scored in the top ten percentile of high school seniors. I don’t remember my actual score, because at the time it was meaningless to me. The number I understood and remembered was that I was smarter than 90% of high school seniors. Duke University offered me a full-ride scholarship if I could maintain a high GPA through high school. Meh. I didn’t. I got distracted. I wouldn’t finish take-home projects or long reports. Basically, anything I couldn’t finish in my time in class, didn’t get done. I was bored. I wasn’t learning things that I wanted to learn. I was memorizing things and regurgitating it for tests. I hated it. So I left in the middle of my junior year.

I got distracted and wound up moving to New Orleans. It was an adventure. It didn’t last long--just five months or so. After a short stint of living in the backwaters of northern Mississippi, I wound up coming back to Kansas City and re-enrolling in school for my senior year. If I worked hard and passed all my classes, along with a couple of correspondence courses, I’d get to graduate with the rest of my class. Meh. I was bored. I got distracted. I left again.

I did eventually make my way to college. Culinary school, actually. I was in my mid-twenties and it was going to be the start of a new life. It was great! I loved the things that I made, the freedom that I had there. I was learning things that interested me and inspired me. I had a wonderful time, making pastries and chocolates, cakes and showpieces. The creative environment was thrilling and I loved the knowledge I gained there. But, even with all of that, I got distracted. I wasn’t giving it my all. If I’d missed any more days than I had, I wouldn’t have been able to graduate. As difficult as the courses were, I was one of only six people out of almost thirty to have passed every class and graduated from the baking and pastry program. I could’ve been top of my class, if I hadn’t missed an average of one day a week. I could’ve gone through more schooling and become an instructor there. But I got distracted and moved back home.

In just a few weeks from this posting, it will have been ten years since I graduated culinary school. I’ve done very little with my degree. I don’t work at a bakery, and haven’t for eight years. After the bakery I worked at closed, I would up going back to a pizza place I’d worked at before I’d moved away for culinary school. I pursued other baking jobs for a while, but eventually gave up. Now, my degree is so old, and with no continuous use—in the eyes of an employer—I am no longer skilled enough to hire. Not that I’m looking for another job, anyway. I like my co-workers. I’m content to stay where I am until I’m making enough money from my royalties that I can quit. I expect it will be five to seven years from now. Which is fine, because I’m familiar with what I do. I’ve done it for a long time and I don’t mind doing it for a while longer, now that I have a goal in sight.

But now, I may have added a new goal. I’m feeling distracted again. Restless. I love my hometown, the familiar skyline of downtown, the roads I’ve traveled for much of my life. History can tend to dictate the future, though. And historically, I only stick around here for five years or so. I’m long overdue for an extended excursion. I actually would have moved away almost five years ago after a bad breakup, but my grandparents needed me to take care of them more than I needed to take care of myself. So, I stayed. Then I met my husband. When my grandparents passed away and we didn’t have to stay in Kansas City anymore, I tried to get him to move away. He wouldn’t budge. He’s not from here, but he’s made friends here. Kansas City has become his home away from home.

Still, I’m getting antsy. I know we’ll buy a house here someday, but I want an adventure before we do. Not just a vacation, not just visiting his parents and brothers half a world away. I want to live somewhere else again for a while. And Arizona is calling my name. I looked up my old culinary school. It doesn’t really exist anymore. It got taken over by Le Cordon Bleu, and has since failed with them. But, as chance would have it, in the very same town of Scottsdale, there is another culinary school that has attracted some of the teachers from my former school. Two out of three of my favorite chef instructors are working there.

And I want to go so bad! It’s not even a pastry program, but a really well-rounded program that includes sweet as well as savory. I’m so into it right now. Only problem is that my husband is managing a grocery store for his cousin. It’s pretty new, but it’s gaining ground and growing in popularity. He couldn’t consider leaving that job. It would be years before the job could be passed to another. So, I have to bide my time. We’d previously agreed to stay in our current apartment for five years before deciding if we could afford to buy a house. Perhaps, if I still find myself interested in culinary school at that time, I’ll make a case for us moving to AZ for a year or so before we come back here to buy a house. I suppose only time will tell.

Hell, maybe I could even write a book set in a culinary school. That’d be cool. But first, I should probably finish the other *pause while I go sift through files and count* eleven novels and eighteen short stories I’ve started but not yet completed. Yeah. Just another symptom of being easily distracted. I start something, get an idea for something else, and then start on that. Half of them will probably never get finished as new ideas bump their way to the front of the queue. Meh. Such is life.