If I were a villain, this would be my tragic backstory

I.

You know the paper that goes around muffins and cupcakes?  At six years old, I was convinced that they looked like sunflowers.

One day during kindergarten, my mom packed me a muffin.  When I finished eating, I boldly approached Mrs. Hopkins and gave her the paper.  I was filled with the can’t-sit-still anticipation that six-year olds feel when something wonderful is about to happen.  My heart glowed as I watched my teacher inspect my thoughtful gift.  Her expression, though, was not one of pleasure.  Disgusted, she demanded “Why are you giving me garbage?”

I tried to explain that it wasn’t garbage–it was a sunflower!  It was a beautiful, thoughtful gift!

She threw it away.

I was crushed

II.

When I was eight, I desperately wanted a pet fish.  Around this time, it just so happened that my second grade teacher’s classroom goldfish had babies.  Mrs. Anderson told me that I could have one when they got bigger.

Determined to become a fish owner, I went home and did as much research as possible.  I inspected my dad’s old fish tanks that were in our pole barn (all broken) and scoped out the pet section of Wal-Mart for potential bowl accessories  (Castle?  I think, yes.)  My parents were hesitant, but I assured them that I would feed them every day and clean the tank once a week.  Grudgingly, they agreed.

Every day, I pestered Mrs. Anderson about the fish.  She had placed the babies in a separate bowl.  I’d gaze at their tiny bodies swimming about and constantly asked: “Are they big enough?”  “Are they big enough?”  “When can I take mine home?”

One day, Mrs. Anderson combined the fish bowls.

The mom and dad ate the babies.

To this day, I have never owned a fish.

III.

In middle school, I had to take this class called F.A.C.S.–also known as Family and Consumer Science.  Each week, you’re given a partner and assigned to a station.  At these stations, you learn practical life skills like budgeting, marketing, child care, how to properly set a table, cooking, etc.

One week, I was about thirteen at the time, I was assigned the sewing section.  The task was to make a wall hanger with pockets using the sewing machine.  At the end, we attached a wooden rod and string to our creations so we could hang them up at home.

All week, I battled that machine.  It was a long, valiant struggle, but I made the best wall hanger I possibly could.  I even decorated it with permanent markers, spelling my name in colorful block text.  I knew that my project wasn’t anything amazing–nothing like the spectacular wall-hanger that I saw Lisa making the week before.  But I had worked hard, and I was proud of my accomplishment.

At the end of the week, I presented my wall-hanger to my teacher (also named Mrs. Anderson) for my grade.  She was a kind-hearted, soft-spoken woman and I expected a “well done” for my efforts.

That’s not what happened.

Mrs. Anderson looked down at my sewing project…

And she laughed.

I haven’t touched a sewing machine since.

The Perks of Being a Cat

Oh, to be a cat.

“You really have it made,” I told Paco, who is yellow and as apathetic as a stuffed animal, as I gave him the best pet down he has ever experienced in all his nine lives.  “I mean, all you do is sleep all day.  You come into the house, something none of the other cats get to do, you lay on this chair, and you sleep for hours on end.  You always know what your next meal is and you don’t get tired of eating the same food every day.  You always have people petting you.  You don’t have to worry about things like work, school, or money.  You don’t have to make major decisions.  You don’t even have to think.  You’ve really got it made.”

I’m a bit envious of Paco, actually.  He doesn’t have to think about things.  As much as I value having cognitive ability, there are times when all I want to do is flip a  flashing red OFF button on my brain.  Sometimes–scratch that–most of the time, I think WAY too much.  This only gets worse when I have serious things to ponder: what I’m doing with my life, if I should go back to work at camp this summer, what books will I bring to school this semester, etc.  You know, not-quite-real-adult problems.  In a few months, they’ll be but tiny blips on the surface of my life.  But, for now, they seem massive–an ever-looming force that induces panic when touched by thought.  If you don’t think about them, they fade away.  But, unfortunately, there is no OFF button in my brain and I’m certainly no cat.    I can’t close my eyes, lift my head to be scratched, and let the burden of possessing thoughts fade into oblivion.

If I was busy, all the cares floating around in my brain would fade into the background.  But spending days on end cooped up in your house usually gives way to boredom.  That’s what you get, though, when you live in Minnesota during winter.  The temperature dips to ridiculously low degrees (we’re talking -20 here) and you’re unable to go anywhere because your car won’t start.  And, as wonderful as the Internet and Netflix are, they only keep your thoughts occupied for so long.

In four days, I’ll be back in school, surrounded by friends, with plenty of textbook reading to keep my mind busy.

Until then, I’ll continue to pet Paco and try not to think too hard.