Sunday, November 10, 2013

Teach me to fall... part two.

Teach me to fall, part two.

Remember how romantically I just described our homeschooling?  I'm not trying to be deceptive or misleading.  I really did mean all that I wrote.  But you should know, the day I posted that, I was seriously wondering how we were going to continue homeschooling because the spontaneity and delight I portrayed had been replaced by pressure, arguments and intense fear of failure.  I should clarify that all of that belonged to me, not the children.  I deliberately posted that blog when I did because I needed to see what I needed to learn.

As a homeschooler, I wasn't just wobbling, I was flailing.  Screaming.  Dreading.  Feeling myself losing control.  Not knowing what I could do, or how much pain I would be in, or how scary it would be as the world blurred and spiraled out of perspective.

And so I read my post... and let myself fall.


I have a worse fear of failure than my children, and I am enough of a hypocrite to try and teach them not to identify themselves with how well their achievements compare to the rest of the world.  I do want them to give their best efforts to anything purposeful, and I do know they are kids and will cut any corners they can find or fabricate.  I know after we hit our stride schooling, I tried steering and pedaling and balancing all at the same time, and not only did I get off to a great start with giddy momentum, but also I found the wall coming toward me at terrifying speed.

Rather than spend any more energy trying to be superhuman and turn upright what was already too skewed to go forward, I embraced the fall.  I said out loud that I can't.  I told three of my friends, and my husband, that I'm failing, and I need to stop.  Not "help me stay up" or "keep me from falling," but I need to stop.  Surprisingly, I've never done that.  My character is the type to keep trying to do what I normally do long after disaster has rocked everything.  If I keep trying, I won't fail.

So I stopped, and let myself fall.  "I can't do this" went from a warning (hey, you'd better help me now or else I can't continue!) to a statement in the present moment.

And just like bike camp... everyone cheered for me.  Everyone was behind me, helping me stand up and brush off, to assess the damage, and to begin again.

And... like most beginning bike falls... there was no damage.  My imagination had everything in flames, but it was perfectly fine.  A couple of scuffs, but only if you looked closely.

Likewise, I was safe.  I wasn't broken.  I wasn't bleeding.  I wasn't even crying.  I had all my teeth.

Nobody was scolding me.  Nobody was laughing at me.  And, nobody was worried about me, either.  (In my life, I worry more when other people worry about me.  I am usually pretty confident --- read that as: headstrong --- so I don't worry by myself, but if my parents worried about me, I knew something was really wrong).

My friends answered me, explained to me about my questions, and helped me figuratively wheel my bike back.  I really hadn't gone far off the path... just a few steps, actually.  Funny how perspective stretches when I fear falling.

I won't keep you in suspense.  We are still homeschooling.  That was never in jeopardy.  We are using the same curriculum.  We have made a few changes to help with the circumstances that have popped up and made things difficult.  I have been reassured that I do not need to pedal fast to keep up or finish at some arbitrary time.  I am aware that I wobble when I overthink my technique or worry needlessly about my pace.  Yes, biking has its purposes and benefits, but the bigger lesson is: I will reap all those benefits whether or not I enjoy the ride.  I can get there sweating and fretting, with the goal glued to the front of my mind through tunnel vision and rigid discipline... or, I can get there more slowly, allowing myself delights, dalliances, observations and images along the way.

Lesson learned.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Teach me to fall



It's been a long, wonderful summer around here.  We rolled out our Home School on July 1 and have surprised ourselves at just how much fun learning is.  Ordinary summer days, suddenly counting as credit, were filled with ordinary things that took on new wonder.  Instead of marching from activity to activity like we do every summer, we stopped to think about what we were seeing and doing, and how it all relates to the bigger picture of our lives.

I, for one, learned how to accomplish goals within deadlines without wringing myself out over imaginary benchmarks.  I learned how to aim for something by the end of the week and not worry on Monday that it wasn't done yet, or that I didn't have a detailed list with check-boxes to sustain me moment to moment.  And I made no apology for letting things go.  Like my blog.

The bigger lesson for me, however, was the second week of July.  My daughter was accepted into a learn-to-bike camp for older kids who still used training wheels and wanted to catch up with their peers.  My daughter is eight, and very tall for her age, and remains the one member of our family who will worry about things just to make herself feel safe [um, see paragraph above... okay, the SECOND member of the family who worries to make herself feel safe.]  Bike riding was not happening for her because she lacked the core strength to pedal fast enough to balance, and her sensory overinterpretation made each wobble seem like a major earthquake to her.  When she was accepted into bike camp, I attended an information session the day before it started with much academic interest.  The brochures claimed high chances of success, and I wondered... what could their secret be?  Special adapted bikes?  Coaches who aren't Mom or Dad, so don't provoke the same anxiety from children trying to please their parents?  Padded mats to crash on?

Turns out it was a combination of those factors, yes (only the padded mats were really the indoor surface of a running track in the air conditioned field house of the college who hosted us).  The bikes were indeed engineered specifically to offer better balance without training wheels, and each child had his or her own coach for the week.  Much of the program's success hinged on building up endurance, as children would be required to pedal all 75 minutes each day.  But the light bulb clicked for me when I made the connection about falling.

The program's bike techs spent a good amount of time discussing falls.  I certainly understand the importance of getting right up and right back on the bike, but they explained in depth how important falling is.  A child depends on training wheels to prevent falls more than to maintain balance.  Balance cannot be learned without wobbling first, and every fall must be treated as a success.  The techs warned us loving parents not to be surprised if they cheered and whooped any time a child fell, as the message being forged was: "FALLING IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD."  It almost seemed like the cheers were for the child being brave enough to fall in the first place.  [insert dimmer switch slowly enlightening my mind here]

So off went my daughter.  She pedaled all 75 minutes every day -- the A/C really helped in this case, as did the evenness of the track floor, but regardless, she built up the endurance she never did outdoors -- and as she transitioned slowly from perfectly balanced bikes to slightly more traditional models, I saw her learning how to wobble.  Her mindset has always been to get things perfect the first time, and now she had to train herself how to be imperfect.  After all, balance on a bike can only be achieved when you start to sway and can then correct your posture.  What learning is there if you never wobble?

The falls came next.  In truth, she has fallen more in the weeks after camp than at camp itself, but by then I had embraced the concept and ran with it.  Less cheering for the successes, more cheering for the wobbles.  You tried even though it was hard, and you figured out what to do when things are tipping sideways!  Hurrah!  And each fall, though so hard to watch, became another triumph.  Great Job!  You were willing to try and fall!  Some people are so afraid of falling that they won't even try, but look at you!  And you stood right up afterward!  Go girl!!!

Shaken, and stirred, she would stand up, and even through tears she'd get back on and pedal some more.  I claim nowhere that it is easy or quiet, but I do claim it works.

I wanted to see how this logic transferred to other areas of clashing and gnashing at home... like bed making... and academic worksheets... and other tasks she typically meets with "I can't!!!" before she even starts.  In no way do I lower the bar.  I still expect her to make her bed so that it is smooth and habitable.  I still expect her to master her schoolwork through practice and correction.  But I don't expect her to do it perfectly the first time, and that's where she has always tripped herself up.  So when she says she can't get her bed to look right, I tell her to go do it the way she knows, and we'll take it from there.  Plunge into those division problems even if you aren't sure of all the answers, and give each one a logical guess.  Trust what you already know, and then go further and wobble.  We'll keep doing it until you figure it out.

What it really comes down to is: embrace uncertainty, and view falling as moving toward the goal rather than crashing and ending right there.

My daughter is especially drawn to the Stations of the Cross each Lent, and with this summer's new perspective on falling, it struck me how falling is emphasized not once... not twice... but three times in the story of the Passion of Christ.  As we are asked to follow the steps of the Master, we must allow ourselves to move forward, even when that means falling, rather than bucking or avoiding the call toward spiritual perfection.  

And, as always, my daughter teaches me where I am lacking.  This is indeed my season of learning how to fall.

Stay tuned. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Turkey in the Clamshell

My attention is back on my son.  The older he gets, the more I learn from him.  At the age of six, he already shows an uncanny ability with pen and paper that boggles my mind.  He is not a classical portrait artist or an accomplished wildlife sketch artist, but he can capture emotional expressions in simple animal cartoons like nothing I could ever try to do.  He still reverses his letters when he prints and he still spells words like he is stamping out license plates, but when it comes to drawing imaginary animal friends, he is a graphic whiz.  So I am not surprised that his visual field sees things through different lenses than I normally use.

Last week we were at a restaurant.  I ordered the seafood linguine, which came with fresh clams and mussels.  He, as always, ordered the plain pasta with butter, and declared himself full after about five corkscrews.  He had already crayoned as much of the children's placemat as space would allow and was getting antsy while the rest of us ate.  I wiped one of my clam shells clean with a napkin and gave it to him to play with.  I figured he would make it talk, like a puppet, which he did... until his whole face lit up, and he announced under his breath, "I'm going to make a TURKEY!"

I didn't pay much attention to that comment, but after he said that, he held the clam shell very carefully, so as not to break it, and told me any time we made eye contact that he needed to make a craft as soon as we got home.  "I can't wait to make my turkey!"  In my mind, I imagined him gluing googly eyes in the usual place, then making the mouth open and close as it said gobble-gobble.  Maybe he would even glue on yellow or orange as a beak.

The thrill of anticipation consumed him, so much that my little shy guy even stopped a patron on the way out to tell him that he was going to make a turkey when he got home.  The man, surprised, smiled and said, "Good for you, buddy!"  I still didn't think much of it.  When we got home, the girls set about to getting ready for pajama time, and he went straight to the table with paper, scissors, crayons and glue.  "Time to make my turkey!"  I was relieved to have quiet and kept myself busy with everything a mom has to do (... which is, everything).

Ten minutes later, he handed me his finished project.  I stopped "everything" in amazement.

He HAD made a turkey.






Never in a million years would I have seen a turkey in that clam shell.  My closed mind only saw the cliché, the usual way of looking at a clam shell.  But his turkey gave me such a moment of enlightenment.

The "turkey in the clam shell" is a perfect metaphor for Aspie life.  So many times we see things, literally or figuratively, in space or in our mind's eye, which nobody else can possibly see... and, more importantly, which excite and delight us for the sheer realization of what we see.  For my son, it was a turkey in a clam shell.  For me, it is usually some realization about human nature and spirituality, or some connection between concepts which makes a short, clean, straight line in solving what looks like a complicated mess.  And... nobody else sees it.

It's not that we are particularly genius or important for seeing what we see, it's how meaningful it is to us, and how impossible it is to communicate it to anyone else.  In my son's case, he was able to translate it into tangible space and share it.  I bet that man he told in the restaurant didn't give it another thought, nor would he expect a finished product like the one above.  But when my son told him, he did so with great conviction and joy.  He was bubbling with glee at his creative vision.

I remember having a moment like that when I was five.  Out of nowhere I realized that most kids are automatically programmed to ask questions to their mothers first, not their fathers, even if their father is sitting right in front of them.  It came to me when my playmate ran past her perfectly alert and capable father to ask her mother inside the house something she could very well have asked him outside.  I shared my amazement with our other playmate who was waiting out there, remarking how weird I found the need for kids to run to their moms instead of their dads.  I didn't realize her father would find that so offensive, particularly because I said it with the mind of an anthropologist and not one hurling insults at my friend's father, so it was a huge shock later when I was reprimanded for being rude and made to apologize to him.  I insisted I didn't do anything wrong, but nothing doing... I had to apologize.  It felt like much more of an insult to ME to have to apologize for such a harmless (and, to me, exciting) observation.  And, when it was all done, my friend had still gone to her mother, not her father, so my apology changed nothing. 

Many times I find myself misunderstood, and it bothers me most when it is something that profoundly affects me -- yet fails to register with anyone else.  Most of the time it isn't going to change the world, but over time, it adds up to me feeling like my ideas (about completely inane things, yes) aren't worth the effort because other people don't see them the way I see them.  It has been a lifelong challenge pushing myself to try and communicate better, to be more patient in explaining what I mean, to be more forgiving when others don't see what I see... and, to cling to my vision, even when it is so much easier to just throw the clam shell away. 

But now I have a greater challenge.  It's not about me anymore... it's about my children.  It is my job to encourage them even when the rest of the world can't see the turkey in the clam shell.  In fact, the world may not ever see the turkey... but don't you dare let that quench the spark inside.  If it's something you know is there... then trust it is there.  Stick to your convictions. Test them out for yourself, not for anybody else.  Persevere in communicating them.  And most importantly, don't ever deny that the turkey is there, even if nobody else can find it.  Don't let others talk you out of who you are because THEY don't have YOU-Vision goggles!!!

Lord... Let my little children lead me.





Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Tale of Two Aspies





"It was the best of traits, it was the..."  Naah.  Too predictable.  And I'm not really thinking best-worst anyways.

No, I'm looking at my children, as I always do, and seeing my middle child coming into his own.  He is six now, almost done with Kindergarten, and finding his place in the world outside of early childhood.

He is smack in the middle of his sisters, almost exactly two and a half years ahead of the youngest and two and a half years behind the oldest.  We didn't plan it that way... God did... but it does favor a family who appreciates symmetry. 

The oldest, as you know, is diagnosed with Aspergers, having graduated from PDD-NOS.  She is a veteran of Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education services to help calm her haywire sensory alarm system and show her how to coordinate her muscles.  Services trained her tongue to make the right sounds at the right time.  Gentle teachers told her important social secrets, like how other people would rather hear her thoughts out loud than watch her contemplate.  Her anxiety even as a toddler caused enough tsking at home and in social settings that we knew we needed to pursue assessment, diagnosis and intervention.  With all those things in place, she has had a clinical name for her difficulties and a treatment protocol for quelling and transforming her anxiety.  She is succeeding academically and socially in school.  Perhaps most importantly to me is that she does not rely on her diagnosis to define herself, her achievements or her shortcomings.

Her younger brother, by comparison, has never been anxious.  He is the epitome of easygoing.  He has a delightful sense of humor and his creativity is endless, allowing him to adapt well to changes in plans and frustrating obstacles.  (He's still a six year old boy and all things obnoxious when he wants to be, don't get me wrong... but his acting out comes from his being a goon in that moment, not from anxiety or sensory overload).  But is he "one of us"?  He was evaluated for speech and found only mildly affected when he became withdrawn in preschool.  He does have unusually low tolerance of food texture, save for ziti and provolone cheese.  His joints are hyperflexible but not a big concern; his pediatrician's recommendation was "make sure he doesn't get on the wrestling team in high school."  Soft spectrum signs, maybe, but none of these traits cause much trouble.  He makes up for his poor nutrition with instant breakfast drinks and gummy vitamins.  His speech therapists felt his abilities far outweighed his needs, and his quietude was more a function of being reserved than anything mechanical.  In other words, he's a chatterbox with adults, but he isn't one to start a conversation in a group of kids.  He prefers to reflect on things instead of making smalltalk.  Sounds familiar, huh.

When I compare him and his sister side by side, I see an almost Ernie-and-Bert relationship.  He giggles while she frets.  He chills out and imagines while she complains about having nothing to do.  Worst of all, his laid-back approach and natural drawing talent give him a great deal of success, while her uptightness and fury at mistakes tend to cause her grief and trouble.  She usually finishes second or third to his first in anything they happen to do together, be that board games or athletic attempts.  She struggles while he gets it on the first try.  Sometimes it looks like cosmic destiny.  I can almost guarantee he could get a kite to fly effortlessly on the first try while hers would tangle and crash. 

But I digress.  Aside from this sketch, I see my son looking a lot like me in that he is introspective, extremely deep and contemplative.  He slowly ponders concepts and comes back days later with interpretations and questions far beyond his age.  He analyzes EVERYTHING.  Even if he is running around playing tag, he will stop and report to me a summary of his experiences peppered with self-reassurance [... "I'm chasing that boy over there.  He's faster than me, and the grass is kind of bumpy... but not too bumpy... but that means I can't tag him very well... and that's okay because it's a lot of fun just chasing him.  I can have fun and get exercise just trying!"]  He plays with other kids but reaches his limit early, especially when things get loud and rough.  His six-year-old manners need fine tuning when he declares summarily that he wants to go home because the play date is no longer interesting to him, and his peers may not understand the abrupt change of tone... but I have no cause to rush him to the diagnosticians.  

I do think he's "one of us."  I don't see the need for clinical intervention so much as I see loneliness in his eyes.  He tries sometimes to explain his deep thoughts to playmates at hand, and the other kids just aren't interested in stopping to contemplate the different shades of green in the grass, or the funny sound that bird makes, or the fact that running makes you feel hot, but not the same way the sun makes you feel hot.  He is just as happy to sit and draw as he is to join in with others, and when it gets rowdy, drawing is his sanctuary.  Just the other day he accidentally hurt another boy playing sports in the gym, and I think it upset him more than the boy.  He and I talked afterward, and he acknowledged that his heart is big and soft, and hearts like that are better than hearts which harden themselves to pain... but they do hurt a lot more.  He concluded that hurting was a small price to pay for being the type of person who cares about others.

I see the realization coming to him that a contemplative life is, by definition, solitary.  He's okay with that, but he already knows on some level that it's not without loss... to him and to his playmates.  A contemplative can never fully connect with others, and others can never fully appreciate his musings.  Not without a brain-to-brain high speed USB 2.0 port.  He has no way to plug their minds into his to experience the exhilaration of pondering what he senses.  Sorry... meditation can still only be experienced by one person at a time.

He is uninhibited around his sisters, in part, because they "get" him.  Their siblinghood allows him a bond where he can be himself without being questioned or asked for the umpteenth time to join in something he's really not interested in, even if all the other kids are wildly enjoying it (... his sisters aren't, either!)  He is also comfortable with adults who take the time to listen to him and appreciate how much he has invested in his thought process... as opposed to playmates, whose attention spans are age-appropriately nonexistent.

All of these traits point to the neuropsychological wiring of a person with Asperger's.  Does he have it, too?, I ask myself, still using the term as though it is a disease. 

Herein lies that distinction between "Aspergers" and "Aspergers Disorder."  The problems it causes brings on the disorder qualifier.  When his older sister has difficulty doing something, she has a hard-copy clinical term to fall back on.  But he only has a deep-running sense of longing and loneliness, of realizing that the world races past the savory delights of existence in its hurry to be hurried... of realizing that his interior disposition has already set him up to be questioned, looked at differently, labeled disparagingly as "quiet" and "clingy," out loud or implicitly by the rowdy rest of the world.....

Yeah.  It's not a "disorder" in the clinical sense. Mine never was either.  I was predisposed to pleasing, and that has always gotten me where I want to be.  His pain and struggle will come without supportive labels, targeted intervention or funded services. I have no reason to take him in for assessments or lobby to get him labeled.  If anything, he needs a soul mentor, someone who shares his depth and longing, and can encourage him to listen for God's call and trust that this is all he really needs.  Detachment from the world, after all, has produced some of history's finest spiritual leaders. 

Yes, my son, you probably do have Aspergers.  I'm a school psychologist by degree and I see a good number of objective signs.  You need not deny that, but you don't need to run it up a flagpole either.  Maybe someday, being able to call it "Aspergers" will help you take some of the pressure off yourself for not living up to the world's standards.  No matter how much you fail to embrace the superficial rush of the world, you still have to live in it.  You are only as "disordered" as your ability to live out God's call is.  It's up to you whether or not you want to include Aspergers in your résumé. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Corporate Bullying



Corporate Bullying

Many things drift in and out of my mind as I go about my day.  Today especially I had to take my own advice on "watering or being watered" as kids are home sick and I am dealing with my own pinkeye.  I am stuck indoors on a wall-to-wall sunny day, which in Western New York is as rare as a Florida snowman.  So, rather than gnash my teeth (or, more like, while gnashing my teeth) I am envisioning myself being water to my children and being watered by the inability to do anything I had wanted to accomplish today. 
Something made me think of something which made me think of something while I folded laundry... and triggered a memory of one of my first job experiences.  It was a fleeting thought, but given my propensity toward pondering, it became quite the irrigation to my roots.  Consider me watered!

I'm not in the business of blaming or casting bad light on people from the past, so take my word, I'm grateful for having worked there and for the lessons I took from this place.  It was one of my most difficult experiences because, prior to that, I had known only success and straight-As.  I have always been a pleaser who follows the formula to the letter once I figure out what to do.

Trouble is, I was told (as I was being unexpectedly let go) that I had no idea what to do. 

I followed the job description exactly, and met every obligation with zeal, and worked constantly to improve my performance and please my supervisor.  I was shocked to be told I was not doing well enough.  Nobody had worked as hard as I did, and yet my grueling dedication went unrewarded.  Why?  How?

I was told that my co-workers did not feel I put in enough effort.  Although I had strong character, I was not seen as part of the team.  

Those words stunned and haunted me for months afterward.  I could not fathom how my peers felt slighted.  That feedback stayed with me through every successive job I have held, and none of my subsequent bosses have ever said I was not a team player.  Perhaps I took that criticism and applied what I needed to improve... or, maybe it was off-track and inaccurate.  Such things do happen.  Many people get let go from jobs unfairly, and I wouldn't be the first one.  I do know that it hit me very hard and I took it to heart as a revelation of some huge defect. Eventually, when I realized I had Aspergers, this experience fed my compulsion to keep my diagnosis a secret.  My former boss may have called me out on my defect, but the success I experienced thereafter guaranteed I would never, ever let on that I have an inborn condition that makes me "not a team player."  I would fake it as hard as I could to look normal, even if I didn't understand their problem with me.

Today, as I sorted and folded, I recalled some of the specific things we were asked to do as a "team" at that particular job.  Our supervisor always addressed us as "team" or "crew" -- not in a drill instructor sort of way, but congenially, and constantly.  We were encouraged to bond, all the time.  Happy hours.  Lunch gatherings.  Ice breaker games at staff meetings.  Nicknames for one another.  And this one thing I remembered today... the team building exercises.  

One such event took place the entire day of a weekend.  I don't recall if it was a Saturday or a Sunday, but it took all day on what should have been a day off.  Never mind we worked all week and I was also in full time graduate school.  Mandatory team building day came and we all showed up as required.  The day was structured around all kinds of physical activities which scared the * * * * out of me.  Not only was it a sensory nightmare, but it evoked all the traumatic memories of being the worst student in physical education class throughout high school.  Nowadays they call it "weak core muscle strength" and it is an accepted piece of the autism spectrum.  But right then, all I knew is that I can't climb ropes, I can't hang on very long, I can't hold other people on my shoulders, and I become panicky if I have no solid ground under me.  

I was so nice about it, self-effacing, even apologetic.  "Sorry, I can't do the zip line."   ---  "I have never been good at things like this, so can you help?"   ---   "I just can't finish, my arms aren't strong enough."  ---  "I don't jump off from high places, sorry."  My declinations had no bearing on the others completing their tasks, and likewise, did not reflect refusal or stubbornness on my part.  None of the teams suffered for my lack of ability because this was supposed to be non-competitive.  Guess that didn't account for neurotypicals having better abilities than me.  For me, in all honesty, it was a matter of survival. 

Was my weakness part of what branded me as "not a team player"?  Or was it my preference of listening to talking, in general, during those lunch gatherings?  Or my dislike of loud, crowded places where I can't distinguish well what people are saying?  Or my choosing not to order alcohol (but still buying one of the rounds) during happy hour?   Or my leaving before 10pm when everyone stayed out later?
As the recollections unspooled today, I felt bad for my younger self.  Indignant.  Anything I declined, I did because it was that important to me, not because I was lazy or aloof.  I spent a disproportionate amount of time making up for the work that was constantly neglected by one of our more social "crew" members who was constantly praised by the rest of the "team" and our collective supervisor, even when I brought the issue of this negligence up in supervision.  None of it made much sense to me, then or now.  It falls far short of hazing, but in many of the same respects, I was subjected to peer pressure in order to maintain good standing.  When I didn't conform, I was labeled, and eventually let go -- even when I was told my work was excellent.  How is this not bullying? 

To be fair, I never looked disabled, and I never knew I had a disability.  Aspergers doesn't come with a wheelchair, so how could they have possibly known my limitations were real and not just my slacking off?  If I had known what it was called and that these aspects are fundamentally who I am, would I have hidden behind the success-face just the same as I did in every other job?  

Was my future success attributable to how hard I fought against the label I took from that job?  Did it help to keep my Aspergers a secret, or did my future superiors recognize my talents and encourage them regardless?  The job I lost was a human service position as much as every other job I would take thereafter, so it wasn't a matter of finding a better fit.  It had nothing to do with whether or not I am a "people person."  

(See?  Having Aspergers does not relegate you to jobs in programming cubicles off by yourself... Aspies can be very successful in face-to-face and speaking-intensive positions!)

I'll never have answers, and I don't need any.  It was such a long time ago, and I hardly ever think of it.   Distance and wisdom makes me see that their definition of "team player" seems narrow and superficial compared to what I myself would value in someone I might have on a team of my own.  That experience taught me to take other people's points of view in trying to understand how they could see me in a way I could not imagine.  

I wonder if any of those people think back to those days, and how they remember me.  I wonder if they have learned to take other viewpoints themselves.

And I wonder what in the world it proves to spend your days off swinging from ropes when what should matter is the quality of your work. 

*

Maybe I just answered my own question.