Wired for Story
For about four weeks in fourth grade, I refused to go to school. My mom took me to a child psychologist, who gave me a bunch of puzzles (diagnostic tests?) that were a lot more fun than getting teased at Suncrest Elementary. One of my favorites was receiving four cards with related pictures and arranging them in order to tell a story.
Healthy minds were probably supposed to identify the one correct sequence to produce a logical narrative. The fun was that other orders were possible, too, and made for different stories. We humans appear wired for story. We shuffle the cards of our days to create one tale after another. Our dreams generate a narrative from a random set of memories or images.
I never learned what the psychologist concluded. Eventually I mustered my nerve and went back to school. All these decades later, I still delight in rearranging elements to create unexpected stories.
That’s me on the left, at Girl Scout camp.
8/27/2018 08:33:11 am
Given your description, I suspect you were given an IQ test. You may have scored lower on the test by deriving unique stories, but a reasonably skilled psychologist would have also determined that your official score underestimated your IQ due to your creative drive that undermined standardized test results. Anyway, I think we are all glad you went back to school.
8/27/2018 10:20:41 am
I love it that you were a young maverick. I was so driven by fitting in that I would never have done something so bold, until much later.
8/27/2018 02:36:52 pm
So glad you went back. So I was not so lonely. And yes we are created to do, be and create story. It maybe in someways an attempt to make sense of apparent randomness of what we call reality. We endlessly select then arrange and rearrange “facts” and other elements of the narrative. ....
8/27/2018 08:35:48 pm
At least you didn't have knobby knees like I did Sarah. I always felt different, and still do, but for whatever reason, I am happy with that and me. BTW, I remember you as a great neighborhood friend in Morgantown. I always felt we had a lot of fun together.
Pam, I have many wonderful memories of playing together before you moved to Germany. The not-fitting-in anxiety was at school rather than neighborhood or camp, and mostly that one year. Feeling different stopped being an issue when I finally caught on that everybody is different, and that's just fine. My mistake had been in imagining everyone else was alike in some way I wasn't.
Betty, our times together are an important part of my memories of high school. Yes to your observation about trying to make sense of the apparent randomness. High school was a time of experimentation with who we are and how we want to be in the world, trying to find or create our place - rearranging the elements to try on different stories. It was good to have companions to do that with.
8/28/2018 04:33:54 pm
I canot think of any better statements than have already been made. Good verbiage. I wonder is Betty W is the one from MHS. Ruth Gross used to teach biology at MHS, a no nonsense teacher. She had twin girls. I do remember seeing years later that she was Dr. Gross. A great blog!
Thanks, Walter. Yes, Betty from our high school days. She and I hung out together a lot. And I'm pretty sure it was the same Ruth Gross, though of course I remember her much more from MHS biology class than from child psych testing (might she have been a grad student when I was in 4th?). She brought a lot of psych into biology class. I recall several of us recording dreams and writing Freud-style analyses for extra credit.
My memory of it is a bit odd and incomplete. Maybe I complained of stomach aches every morning till my mom figured out something else was going on. What took guts was going back. I tried going back one day, got teased for having been gone, and dropped out again, more scared than ever.
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.