In the 1st grade, my teacher asked all the students to sit on the carpet in front of the class and ask her ANY question we’d ever wanted to ask a grown up but never got the chance to. Other kids were asking, How do trains run? or How do plants grow? Me – I didn’t need to know that s***. I raised my hand eagerly and asked my teacher, “Why were we put on this Earth?” Swear that’s what I asked her. She looked back at me with all seriousness and said, “I don’t know.” Then proceeded to answer everyone else’s question. No one gave me a second thought. My little mind really wanted to know the answer to this question, and THAT’S what you give me? No one’s mind looked blown, no one was even thinking on that level. But this is what I’ve lived with for life.
My quest to find the answer to that question continued to follow me. I mean duh, it was a very important question and I needed the answer! My answer came a few years later in the 3rd grade. I remember this as a monumental moment in my 8 year life. My teacher, Mrs. Akinkoye, who was my first black teacher, came to my mother during the Parent/Teacher Conference and said to her, Mrs. Patterson, I think Marrissa is a very gifted student. You should have her tested and get her into a Gifted and Talented Program. So my mom, who has only ever wanted the absolute best for me (it all started with her buying Hooked on Phonics for me at 3 years old) made the arrangements and got me tested.
I took the test the first time and I was on cruise control. I was in my own zone, not thinking anything about the results. I just wanted to show people who I really was. I just wanted to match up the freaking shapes the way I just knew they were supposed to be matched. So I did what they asked and drew some lines and filled in some bubbles and handed in my test. I can still remember the tiny little room with the tiny little table they placed me at to take the test.
I failed the test. No clue what “grade” I got on the test. But I did not pass it.
I don’t remember being particularly crushed. I was okay. But I remember everyone around me changing a little bit. Everyone started to make me feel like this “fail” was in fact a “failure” in life. Like this was my first life test, and I’d just failed it. Like huh? I’m 8! Can’t I just run on the playground?
I remember distinctly that this was a crossroads for me in my life. I’ve always been the type of person who wants to make other people around me happy. It’s why I love to throw house parties and why I believe in other people’s ideas way more than I believe in my own. At the tender age of 8 I looked to my right and saw a road where I could continue on with my failed grade and just live my life, just doing me and maintaining status quo. Then I looked to my left and saw myself achieving a passing grade on that Gifted test. Can you guess which direction I chose?
When I made the choice to re-take the test, I didn’t realize what kinda path I was on. I thought, okay, you can pass this test, then you can get on with your life. I didn’t realize I was opening the door to more and more tests, that I was going to go to a separate School for Gifted and Talented, that I was going to try to constantly achieve 100/100 for everything I did in the future. But I came to realize that this was a relief for me. After struggling to understand my purpose at age 8, I’d finally figured out what my purpose was – to maintain this idea that I needed to be perfect. It gave me something to live for, it gave me an understanding. It became my comfort zone and it’s where I’ve lived for decades. I live in the make believe world of perfection and believe that I belong in that world. And my dark passenger is there to certify that I continue to live for this idea — that perfection exists and I must strive for it.
Just needed a quick side note to describe that short story. Go back to The Catharsis.