Looking over the worksheets my students filled out for class I saw the same string of jobs as I do every year when the “What do you want to be?” lesson rolls around. A few less baseball players this year than most. Soccer must be getting popular again. Or it is just these kids. How dare they have their own thoughts that buck the trends, eh? Ah, there is the one girl who wants to be the voice actress, and there is the kid who wants to be prime minister. Baker, baker, pastry chef, nursery school teacher, doctor, police officer. Eh? What is that? They wrote the answer in Japanese. Huh.
I want to be a 普通の人.
I want to be a normal person.
I pause. Sadness overwhelms me. “Do I ever know that feeling.” And I do. I may be a straight, white male, but I remember feeing “not normal”. It started for me in fifth grade, a year younger than the kid who wrote this. I remember going roller-blading[ref]Ugh.[/ref] with friends and then going back home to switch to my bike. The change in modes of transportation throws me for a loop for a second and I take a spill right onto my wrist. Bit of a sprain, have to have it wrapped up for a while. Writing, my favorite thing to do at that age, becomes hard to do.
Next day at school it starts. “Eric fell off his tricycle and hurt himself.” “Huh? No I did not.” But the truth does not matter. The comments repeat and I am overwhelmed. I have no idea why these comments are coming and I have no idea what to do. I run to the teacher. She responds by lecturing the class. I make myself a target.
A few days later I get some more shit from one of the students who was doing it before. I am not going to run to the teacher this time. He is talking shit about my t-shirt. I say well, at least I am not wearing that stupid hat like you are. The next thing I know I am on the ground, fists pummeling my face and chest. I just stay quiet from then on.
I just wanted to be normal and blend in. Be ignored. Keep writing my slightly reworked video game fan fiction I passed off as creative writing. I was afraid of myself because clearly I was earning attention that I did not want. So that must not be normal, right? And if it is not normal, that cannot be good, right?
But I survived. Hell, I did not have it bad at all. I have learned that now. But even my stupid little events have given me sympathy, even if I do not need it for my own affairs. So, as I sit here, hovering between whether this student just did not care and wrote this down because fuck English class, or if the simple silly question weighed down harder than it ever was intended to because they just feel so pressured to be what they are not that they want to fit in the mold and do their own little thing where no one bothers them for being different.
Either way, I think, I hope, that with time they will be fine.