Friday, April 01, 2005

Shall We Walk?

When I added SwampThings to my list and put it in proper alphabetical order, I was reminded of one very frustrating time when I couldn't put things in alphabetical order at all. How frustrating and embarrassing!

In the Montreal school system, when I was in it lo these many years, public school ended after grade seven. There was some fee attached to school in those days, at least for high school, which started in grade eight; the sum of thirty-five dollars stands out in my mind. It was for rental of textbooks and that sort of thing. That seems archaic now, but that's the way it was. I don't think it was out of the ordinary either because when we moved to Toronto, there was no rental fee, but we had to purchase our own textbooks. It's the way it was back in the dark ages; scrolls and parchment were pricey.

Thirty-five dollars seems like a piddling amount of money these days, but as I was reflecting on it, I realized that it was more than fifty percent of my father's weekly pay. Translate that into today's typical weekly wage, and it turns into a fairly tidy sum.

I relate all of that to set up the account of scholarship exams and my inability to alphabetize.

One day, near the end a grade seven, I was asked to join the brighter students in the class to take scholarship exams. I guess the scholarship would have covered the school fee that I mentioned above. I'm not sure why I was invited into the process as I was anything but an achiever. They took all of the bright kids into these scholarship exams, and they also took me. Perhaps I was there to set a bench mark of sorts — a control factor; I don't know.

This much I recall or think I do. There were five exams. I don't remember the others, but I remember the alphabetizing one with some vividness. We were given a piece of foolscap, a frightfully long list of words, and told to list them in alphabetical order.

I was totally overwhelmed! Couldn't do it to save my life. I wrote and erased in a state of panic for whatever the length of the exam — probably a half hour. At the end of the session, I didn't have one word listed — not one! Just a bunch of erasure marks. What a dreadfully frustrating experience!

The odd thing was that as soon as we lined up to be marched back the our classroom, I knew how to do it. If they had turned us around at that point and taken us back to our desks, I could have ripped through the exam, or at least that's how I remember it now.

Needless to say, I didn't get the scholarship. No doubt, I wouldn't have anyway. It was probably even a good thing that I freaked out like that because I was left no expectancy after that and wasn't at all surprised or disappointed when they announced the winners at our graduation assembly.

I can't recall ever again panicking like that during an exam. Of course, for much of my scholastic career, I didn't take them seriously and didn't much care how well or, more appropriately, how poorly I did.

However, even now I have the propensity to be overwhelmed when presented with a new task and/or a lot of new material. I have taken a few web developer lessons, and there have been times when I haven't been able to sort through a problem. Just like the little kid right after the scholarship exam, I generally find that the solution pops into mind when I have walked away from the computer and stopped thinking about it.

Walking Away is often the better way! When tempers flare, it can be good to walk away and cool off before you say something that you'll regret. When you have a tough decision to make, it is often a good thing to walk away from it for a while. To some extent, although it's not my main point, I do mean "walk" in the literal sense. A nice long walk can do wonders to release tension, alter a mood, or give you a different perspective.

Walking Away is beneficial on many levels, both mentally and physically. Even figurative walking away has its merits. Shall we walk?



swamp4me said...

Good point! Nothing soothes my soul or clears my head better than a nice long walk.

I had to laugh about your alphabetization trauma. Many years ago I worked as a technical services librarian -- putting things in alphabetical order became an obsession. One day, while washing dishes after supper, I caught myself mentally alphabetizing all the states of the US! Like I said, an obsession.

Thanks for adding me to your list of blog links. I am honored.

Mel said...

You sound exactly like one of my sons. He often gets frustrated at tests and tasks and just gives up. "Walking away" has a much better ring to it, though. . . .I'll suggest that to him. "Walk away: Don't Quit!"

Lady Bug said...

dad, just wanted to say how much i liked the swampthings link. i had to look at all the archive pictures cause i thought they were so facinating.
and also, i have decided on a name, lady bug. i this it suits. what do you think?
i suppose i should email you this comment, but since i have already typed it out this way im just going to post it :)

blue2go said...

Walking is a greating coping strategy. It clears my head and helps me think.