Be careful when running with words
I have spent most of my life trying to be normal. Forget normal. Normal for me was this unattainable goal that I would put right up there with being able to fly or live unaided under the water. My main goal in life was to be average. I started very young being very different.
I grew up during my formative years, until just after my sophomore year in high school, in Newton, Massachusetts. It is a place even today I still consider home . I went to the Newton school system .Newton, for most of you who do not know it, is a city right next to Boston. It is home to some of America’s brightest minds. I can honestly say that even with my peer group I realized my friends were, and still are, extraordinarily bright . Sending fewer than 30% of its students from the Newton school system on to the ivy leagues was a major disappointment and cause for great hand wringing among parents.
My life was hardly normal though. Part of the time I was raised by my father and part of the time I was raised by my mother. It seems normal, but there were other aspects that due to my deep respect and love for the people involved I won’t get into. Early on I got placed into special education classes. This was not like it is now where people are more enlightened and realize there is very little correlation between special education and intelligence. This was two decades ago when being in special education was a death sentence for a person emotionally and socially.
It got better, as it tends to do in my life, I also got placed in a program run by this guy called Mr. Wheeler. He was a nice older man who acted like a big brother towards social misfits. Once a month I got to go out of class and we would learn how to be people. It is a strange thought if you think about it. However I realize now , that due to my unique family situation , why the school thought it needed to be done. I got picked on a lot as a student. It was not in a particularly mean way. I can honestly say now as I thought then, it was nothing more than kids being kids. But I guess the fact I did not react to the picking on really concerned people. However it really added to insercurity and a feeling of being “broken” that would haunt me my whole life.
I am not sure why. It was hardly any different than teasing that goes on now. I knew there were no mean intentions behind it even then. The fact that my parents were going through a never ending divorce that was acrimonious at the best of times actually made me not mind the attention, because at least I was getting some. But it was not only the non-response to the picking on that probably had people worried. It was me. Something about Josh was off and the caring school officials couldn’t figure out what.
Normal kids were simply not interested in the same things I was. Sure I was interested in basbeball and was fully convinced that by sixth grade I should be playing alongside my heroes of the time Wade Boggs, Jim Rice and Roger Clemens I was interested in other things. I loved current events and when we had current event days in the fourth grade I would be the first to raise my hand. I read the Boston Globe religiously. Perhaps devoured it is more accurate.
I would read about the conflict in the Soviet Union, I would try and understand the business section with its words that looked like English but clearly from some alien planet. I would read the sports catching up on the regular heartbreak of the Celtics,Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins. All of course after I finished reading the comics. I would always read the comics first and get then be disappointed when I finished reading them and started reading the rest. To this very day I love reading the newspapers, and with the advent of the internet I read probably about four a day.
I actually did not mind my “special” classes. I hated working on my handwriting which to this very day looks like some one ran over the letters and then beat them until they grossly disfigured and worthy of being in an a high budget horror show. But there were other things I loved. I loved when I got to write. There I got to write about fantastical things I was not allowed to write about in class. I would write these dystopian visions of the political future. It make sense looking back, we were at the height of the cold war. We were in the age of Ronald Reagan’s SDI missle defense system. TV mini-series like the “Morning After” talking about nuclear holocausts were on TV. The world was doomed and I picked up on that real quick.
My teachers never treated me different and neither did my classmates. My classmates seemed content on picking on my gawky height and feet that were too big for the rest of my body. But this was the 1980s and it was normal. Everyone got picked on, even the popular kids from time to time.