CSB Crest – Minds, Hearts, Hands and Voices
When I was in Kindergarten I attended a private all-boys school in San Francisco called Cathedral School for Boys. Although many of my classmates were pretty well-off (living in Pacific Heights, Marin, or Tiburon) I myself found myself in a pretty middle class family. I felt a bit different than the other kids in my class and in the school for that matter. Little did I realize, the differences would continue to surface as the years went by. My father was a teacher in the school so it stands to reason that I would enjoy a few perks, and also a bit of derision. That, however didn’t seem to ever be the case. My problems stemmed from other issues. I would also like to say that I took solace in the fact that my brother was also attending the school and was only two grades above me. But again, this didn’t seem to be the case. Although we were close in age, we were very much fighting Irish twins. Well, maybe not fighting – more like me annoying him and him getting mad at me and chasing me around. Yes, I was a brat. I was the youngest of us two. It seemed like I was always sort of lagging behind scholastically and barely able to make a mark of my own. So acting out seemed to be my “thing.”
Me and Billy C. circa 1995
I wish I bothered to straighten my tie… lol
I envied my brother for his dedication to learning; not necessarily in school, but learning for the sake of learning. THAT is what was so cool about him. It seemed like school was merely something to get through, and that he had better things to learn about than the stuff they made us study in class. And as cool as he was, we were still very much children, and didn’t have the sense to actually commiserate. Yes, school was challenging. The classes themselves seemed to be ahead of most public schools at the same level, and at a K-8 school, the learning kept at a steady pace until right before high school.
When I was in Kindergarten, I didn’t have much worry. I pretty much just had a FEELING that I was different. I knew that other kids had parties and took fancy vacations. It wasn’t that our family didn’t take vacations, it was just that ours were more like road trips. Still enjoyable, just, different. And being as young as I was, differences in school always felt like a bad thing. Oh the age of innocence! The time when things that are oh so inconsequential in the grand scheme of life seem to be ever so important. Wait – that wasn’t just adolescence, that’s my whole life! Haha…
Ok, so back to the early years. I never really thought I was that popular in school. I guess I just wanted everyone to like me so much that it got in the way of my own self-esteem. Actually, it turns out that early on in school, I was kind of a brat. I may not have been rich but I definitely felt sheltered. I didn’t know much about the real world except was what on TV and what was taught to me in school. I didn’t read at all (except as forced by my teachers) and even then, I rarely actually read the books. I can’t tell you how many book reports I pulled out of my ass because I had no interest whatsoever in actually reading the material. It wasn’t that the Great Depression and the Holocaust didn’t interest me, because what pre-teen kid WOULDN’T want to read about such things? Well, I certainly didn’t. I hated reading. I hated having to read. I hated people who actually liked books. I thought,’ those rich bastards, with their fancy books and snobby parents’. Screw them! I didn’t want to read anyway. So what did I do in my spare time? Oh, read on… After all, children are known for having incredible imaginations. I was no different. Yes, I hated to read, so what else was there? Of course! Start a business and make some money! Haha… Well there was one thing those rich kids didn’t have, parents who shopped at Costco! (back before it was chic of course.)
Today’s special – Jawbreakers… 😀
Costco lent itself to bulk amounts of candy, and I had gone into the candy pushing business. Some sour worms here and some jawbreakers there, I was the Candy kid, and loving it. Ok, so I didn’t amass a huge fortune from it, but I must say that the other kids with their soy milk and organic wheat bread sure produced some sugar-craving kids. Later I diversified into Otter Pops and other products. I thought I had found my place. But alas, no so. I was still a loner. This was even more pronounced in my later years in school as the other boys started to be interested in girls. Well again, that wasn’t for me. Another thing to set me apart was just what I needed. If I was an outcast then, I was even more so afterwards. I didn’t really see what was going on that made the other kids not want to hang around me. Well, maybe because I had yet to discover Deodorant. lol… But even an odor-blocker couldn’t block the fear and insecurity I was feeling every day. Something told me that whatever edge I had before, whatever “thing” gave me strength and clout, was soon to be entirely gone. So I did what any kid going through this insecure time would do.
Magic Cards – Like crack to a pre-teen geek.
I submerged myself in the world of fantasy – Magic: The Gathering. I began to collect cards, and play card games all the time. I also started watching shows on UPN to get out of my head. Shows like “Star Trek: TNG”, “Xena,” and Babylon 5. These shows made me feel safe. Yes, they didn’t help me deal with reality, but they gave me an escape into another reality. One in which people either got along or they fought. It was clear cut and simple. It made sense. I could pretend to be strong. I was no longer bait. I was the shark.
I was often teased in school. I’m not sure if there was a particular reason. I was a bit… off. I mean I was gay, so I couldn’t pretend to care about girls, I didn’t know much about sports nor was I athletic, so I didn’t know much about working as a team, or talking about guy stuff. Ok, so that leaves academics. Well, I pretty average when it came to most of my classes. I didn’t read or write. Mostly I watched TV, and liked to eat. Occasionally I would do art. Yes, that did allow me to get outside of myself. It again gave me some sense of control in a world that seemed so unfair.
Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys –
I wish I had an actual photo of me in the cassock and surplus… Well the style hasn’t changed much so you get the picture..
From fourth grade until eighth grade, I was in the Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys. I actually really enjoyed this. I thought I was even pretty good at it. We would practice almost every morning before school started, and would perform at the Church services on Thursday night (Evensong) and Sunday (Mass). I really liked the music and found comfort in song. But even though I really loved it, I still never felt good enough. I never received any accolades like my classmates. I was too scared to go after solos and always shied away from standing out in the crowd. I so desperately wanted some encouragement. I wanted to be good, but I was so scared. I never really felt like my classmates had my back. Some were nice to me, but most were kinda mean. Had I some self-confidence, maybe I would have advocated for myself and did what I wanted to. Why didn’t I? Still to this day, I carry with me the fear of standing out. My instinct cries out for retreat to safer locales. But as I was just a child, I didn’t know about self-esteem. I had no concept of life-goals, and facing fears. All I knew was fear. Well, in everything except for music and science fiction. Two things that have never judged me. I blamed my instructors for not encouraging me and for contributing to my fear and lack of confidence. Looking back I realize that something else was going on. Although a child doesn’t choose to suffer, I felt that had I judged a little less, and participated a little more I could have had more of the life I wanted. Yes, it would have been nice to have been encouraged and told that I could do anything I set my heart to, but I didn’t. And even if there was (which I’m sure there must have been) I may not have heard it loud enough. If I could, I would go back to that little kid, sit him down, and tell him that I love him, and to try, to set his sights high, to dream, and that it would be OK, because I’d be here for him if he falls.