Second grade was difficult. Every grade gave me anxieties I color coded like my little uniform polos and tucked into my pleated skirt. But second grade looks like a sad movie when I remember it. I have vivid recollections of fighting with my best friends over bracelets. I remember a girl telling me my thighs were big. I remember a boy trying to hit me in the head with a kickball and then giving me a hello kitty valentine that I threw directly in the trash. I remember the teacher calling me out for talking and being introduced to guilt for perhaps the first real public time. I remember getting excited to do real experiments but then feeling left behind at the science station and accepting that was not my strength even though putting on those tiny goggles was thrilling.
Mostly though I remember cursive. It was required for all second graders. The workbooks were glossy and floppy. They made that good book sound when we slapped them on our desks. The front cover was a black and white playground scene and the back was solid shiny teal. Within those covers, I met a piece of me I hadn't known before. I don't know how often we worked on cursive in class. I do know I never finished. I always always had to take the book home with me. I can still feel the way my stomach flipped when I saw other kids closing their books in my peripheral. I'd readjust my fingers around my pencil that probably wasn't sharpened to my liking and breathe heavy out my nose and trace those dotted line letters, all the while my face getting closer to the page. I'd wonder why my hands couldn't make every letter perfect and alike in their perfection. I'd thrash myself for not being faster. And I'd put that book in my backpack and take it home, where the war on script continued.
I hated cursive. I hated writing. I hated that I had to do it. But more than anything I hated that I didn't get it perfect the first time. Or the second or the twelfth. I've always craved approval– from parents, siblings, friends, teachers, waiters, cashiers, strangers. I'm very independent. But it was at a small desk in a portable that I came face to face with the approval of myself. I can't help but think that was the inaugural microcosm of a self I'd have to fight every day.
I can write cursive now. But I choose when to use it. I learned it, and I suppose it was even necessary. However I have a feeling I could have learned it without such crippling constraints I placed on myself. I'm sure there were some outside influences that contributed to the pressure but I didn't have to bend to that. I don't ever have to buckle in the face of expectation. I can find peace in knowing my calling is to lean. Not to be flawless.
If I have a daughter one day, I'll tell her second grade won't last forever. And when she brings home her workbook and cries over letters that just won't listen, I'll kiss her little fingers and tell her it does not have to be perfect.
"For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'” // Isaiah 41:1
Suzannah // @suz_joy