It was springtime and my school was outside for Field Day. The sun had finally started gracing us with its presence as we stood on the cement track at Montello Elementary. It was a big day for me. I had been chosen to run the most terrifying race Field Day had to offer. The 400 meter. No one in the school wanted to race it. It was the ultimate race at the time, the Dreaded Race.
Field Day, for those who don’t know what that is, is the gathering of the elementary schools in Lewiston Maine to compete against each other in events like the 400, 100 meter sprints, tug of war etc. It lasts most of the day and was always a point of competition between schools. Montello Elementary, the school I attended, happened to be the largest in town at that time. Naturally being the largest we also felt like we should win the day.
In order to place my classmates into races we had to try out for each one. I remember wanting to race the 100 meter. I knew I could do that! I actually really wanted to run it. I was always out sprinting people on the playground and had a bit of a chip on my shoulder.
“On your mark. Set. Go!” and off we went. I sprinted full speed ahead, my cheeks vibrating with the utter speed and power coming from my legs. I was pretty sure I was first, but couldn’t tell. I remember a few of my classmates giggling, but I wasn’t sure why. In the back of my head I was sure it was my jiggling cheeks that set them off. The memory fades out from there.
At some point my teacher made the announcement. I wasn’t running the 100 meter. Why not? Didn’t I win it? My friends confirmed what had happened and were just as shocked. The Dreaded Race came up. My name came up. I wanted to react with an emotional explosion. My head was whirling and my teacher must have seen this because they asked if I was ok with it. Even then I was a pretty compliant person. I would do what I was told because I didn’t want to upset the adult or the people around me. So… I was it.
The days following my friends and I decided that I should train. As a child, on a break from class, training wasn’t usually something you did. But we were about to go into a big field day and I needed to win that race! I was the fastest kid on this playground and everyone knew it. My training consisted of… actually I don’t know what I did. I might have run the track once or twice. No one else would run so the fun was sorta sucked out.
The sun again. I remember feel a welcomed warming sensation as the sun penetrated my shirt. It was Maine, so any sun was a blessing.
Field Day had started. The events seemed to fly by. I watched in envy as the 100 meter kids lined up. I couldn’t help think that I would have won that race. My thoughts were shocked out of my head as the called “Dreaded Race up next!”.
The anxiety in my body was palpable. It sat right in my gut as a mixture of butterflies, tension, and excitement whirled around in a tight, twisted ball.
My friends hit me on the back wishing me luck and I stepped onto the track. My body was humming. I couldn’t hear. I was numb.
I don’t remember them sending us off. I couldn’t hear.
My feet tore at the ground as I took off around the first turn. The anxiety, butterflies and tension turned into pure energy as we ran.
“I’m in first place.. I’m kicking their butt!”
Then it hits. Half way down the back straight my chest tightens up and my legs start to burn. By the back corner my chest is heaving and I start to slow down. As the kids pass me I remember the sensation of losing control.
We finally hit the last straight away and I’m giving it everything I can muster. My breath seems to be caught in my throat as I wheeze my way to the finish line.
I looked up with shame and confusion in my head to see my dad standing there. I only remember a glimpse of him, but I was glad he was there.
As we lined up I knew I wasn’t last, but this kid cut right in front of me! I was slightly pissed, slightly apathetic about it. On one hand I felt like I deserved last place. On the other I was confused about why my body shut down so badly.
I struggle with this problem to this very day. It’s called Asthma and it’s a bitch.
It’s experiences like this one that evoke specific emotions throughout my life. What I experienced that day on the track would become a pain point all throughout my middle school, high school and college years. I think my whole running career was affected by how I reacted that day on the cement track. Not because I was out of shape or lazy with practice, but because of the pain. I associated it with the need to slow down. It hovered in my mind and even though I knew it was there, I couldn’t figure out how to get through it.
Uncovering this memory and the ability it gives me to push past current events is an example of why I think writing out our memories is important. By recognizing how my past life associates with my future performance I can create desired outcomes in the present.
It’s a process of fighting with myself. Fighting with the associations I’ve previously made. Not knowing why I get angry or sad or frustrated. It’s like the Matrix when Neo is shown the sign above the door. “Know thyself”. By understanding who we are inside we can become ‘The One’ on the outside and kick ass 24/7, but we have to figure out who we are first.
School, Music and stuff…
My schooling wasn’t very exciting, and if you haven’t guessed by this point, it was never a point of excitement for me. Yet my life revolved around school. I would go to sleep so I wouldn’t be tired for school. I had to get up at a certain time so I wouldn’t be late for school. I had to study to get good grades in school.
You can’t go on vacation because of school. Goddamn school!
Can you tell I disliked it?
It’s not that I hated learning. I actually enjoyed when I was able to master something. I remember acing a math quiz and being super excited to learn more. It’s where I learned how to write and read. I learned how to journal, play music, and run!
What I didn’t like was the waiting. The structure of it all. The hardest part for me was absorbing information. It was frustrating to me not understanding something. It didn’t help to sit me down and try and force me to do the work. If I didn’t get something all I could do was sit and stare at the page. Eventually I would guess.
Guessing at an answer feels even worse than not knowing because when I was given the answer I didn’t understand how anyone got to it.
In short, school had one way to learn. Sit, do homework, do class work, listen to the teacher. It wasn’t engaging to me. It was stifling.
To this point, the memories I hold onto most are when I was physically engaged. Laughing my ass off at a book, Winterdance, in the middle of class. Getting yelled at as I was sword fighting with a measuring stick. Quacking in class. Running on the playground. Feeling a deep sense of despair as I looked at the clock. Playing music in our stuffy music room. Things that engaged my body, not just my brain.
My mother explained, after an extensive amount of complaints, that my grandfather had pushed her to learn music. It had been a great experience in her life and she wanted me to experience it as well.
Besides everything my sister did I would do!
*angry faced child peers up at mother*
There were two nights that started my musical career. The first when my sister was introduced to her trombone, and the second when I was introduced to my baritone horn. Both of which came from music night at our school. This was the school’s way of promoting the band and strings programs. These nights were held in the auditorium with the teachers standing around rows of instruments.
They had us pick up the instruments, touch them, look at them, experience them. It helped us to choose the kind of instrument we wanted to play.
I remember wanting to play the saxophone! The reasoning behind this idea was because a president, Bill Clinton, looked super cool playing his alto sax.
I was convinced otherwise because there were two specific instruments everyone wanted to play, the trumpet and of course the saxophone.
It’s foggy but I remember being drawn to brass. Big brass. Not a tuba, or my sisters trombone. I liked the baritone. It was big, bold, and I liked it. I chose it.
I was the only baritone horn player in the school. That meant I got private lessons during school. Some of my favorite memories of playing come from these lessons. My teacher was a nice man by the name of Mr. S.
I liked practicing with him. It got me out of class, split up my day, but it was when I started to play music that my first taste of real passion hit me.
It’s unsurprising this happened. There was always something inside of me that loved music. From listening to my fathers tapes and CD’s to wanting to be a mega rockstar it has always been something I’ve been drawn to.
Walking the World
Before I hit my teenage years I had physically been the entire length of the east coast and out of the country. My parents were pretty active and since my sister and I were small traveling by car was transport of choice until it came for international travel.
Since I grew up in Maine people will automatically assume our country of choice was Canada. Yes… we were there. But I ain’t talking bout no Can-an-ada! I’m talking South America baby! I got to tell the underlings in my class that I was going to be out for a week because we were going on vacation. I didn’t care about doing extra work when I got back, all I cared about was the adventure!
I still remember my first plane ride. We were headed to Las Vegas. I was sitting in my own big boy seat, legs dangling, staring out the window anxious to take off. Naturally Pops and I sat together.
Taking off was an exhilarating experience. Feeling the pressure exerted on my body from the enormous jet engines and finally lifting off into dead airspace.
It was one of those clear memories that I don’t think will ever fade.
We traveled a considerable amount when I was in elementary school. We happened to be at a distance from extended family and by necessity we needed to drive to see them.
I think I got my most excellent traveling experience from these early car trips. Most often we would visit my grandfather and grandmother Emmanuel. They lived in a giant house at the top of a steep hill in Waterbury. To give us some entertainment we would look for a clock tower when we were close to the house.
The trip usually took about 5 hours, but to my young mind it might as well have been days! Regardless I was always a great traveler. I didn’t have to pee often, I would sleep most of the way and even though I would be anxious to get to where we were going I wouldn’t gripe at my parents.
These experiences would help create a spirit of restlessness that was only quenched by visiting new and different places. Because of these travel experiences I was shown a world beyond our icy rock in Maine.
My last memory from school was my last day of elementary school. Mom kept me home because I had gotten sick. I was a little sad because today was mostly festivities that ended our day on the early side. Naturally I didn’t mind a festive day.
Apparently one of my teachers really enjoyed having me around, and during her short speech about her time teaching my class she described a student she liked to call ‘Spaghetti’. I happened to be the only italian kid in class which provoked a few nicknames.
My young self had made it through 7 years at this same building. From kindergarten all the way through 6th grade.
Buried in this time period are the building blocks of my future. My passions, strengths, and values emerged in different ways.
I discovered my love for music, running, travel, and writing. The values my parents encouraged produced a young man who was kind, clean and neat, trustworthy, was on time, finished what he started and was a playful, fun loving kid.
Through growth bits of my best element seems to have emerged raw and untamed. My GRIT and Energy. Basic strengths in my life that persist to today.
Varying stages of growth had occurred and a picture of Jason started to emerge.
Growth in body, growth in mind.
Stepping out of Montello I took my last step out of childhood.
And to lunch.