5 year old me

5 year old me in Gibraltar
What would I say to my 5-year-old self? If was to travel back in time and meet myself as a child, just as I was about to enter school for the first time, what advice would I give?

The whole world would be opening up for me, and I would have my entire future ahead. What advice would I give to that 5-year-old version of me?

On reflection, school was an uncomfortable, frightening place where bigger, stronger people told me what I could and couldn't do. I was assigned a desk and a chair, both of which were bolted to the floor, and I was forced to 'face the front' and sit still. That just wasn't me. I was given confusing books and complicated papers to read, and pens and pencils to write and draw with.

I much preferred drawing to writing - and numbers were alien territory for me. I was hopeless at mathematics and science because I couldn't understand the numbers I had to work with. They seemed irrelevant to me and the teachers did very little to make me interested.

I was a sickly child and spent a lot of my time either recuperating at home or in hospital. As a result I lacked confidence and felt a little isolated from the others because of illness.

Most of the other children were bigger than me, and a lot stronger, so I became a target. I was taunted by some kids, who thought that because I was small, I was weak. I was excluded from the 'in groups', the last to be chosen when the teams were picked. Some of the teachers also marginalised me - for asking questions they thought were irrelevant. They also punished me for doing things in the way I thought they should be done, rather than in the way I had been instructed. I was a maverick, an oddball, a loose cannon. I didn't fit in very well with school culture or the peer groups that were all around me.

As a result of all this, I didn't try very hard at school, and I left with hardly any qualifications. Yet importantly, I kept true to myself, remained confident in my own abilities and defiant about the way I wanted to live my life. I wasn't interested in academic studies until I was well into my thirties, when I was already married with three small children to provide for. It was then that I realised I had enough intelligence and drive to be who I wanted to be in life.

If I were to meet my 5-year-old self tomorrow ..... I would tell me that I needn't worry about what others might think about me, and I should ignore the taunting from ignorant peers (and that it doesn't stop when you leave school). I would tell me it would all turn out OK and that I would be more successful in life than a lot of those kids who bullied and excluded me. Most importantly, I would encourage me to ask all the awkward questions, and keep asking until I found answers that satisfied me - or further questions that I could ask to extend my knowledge further. I would tell me not to worry about the things I couldn't do, and to focus on the things I could.

I would tell me to remain a maverick, an oddball, and express myself honestly and courageously, and never pass up the chance to dance, sing .... or cuddle a monkey.

What would you tell your 5-year-old self? The comments box below is open (no, seriously, I would like to hear from you!)

Creative Commons License
5 year old me by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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