None Are Better Than….

2

October 8, 2021- This afternoon, as a foreshortened school day was in its final half hour, I greeted two classrooms of 10-11 year-olds, several of whom were full of piss and vinegar, and all too eager to push the limits with one whom they saw as a dotty old man.

I set them straight, in short order, by giving a young man, who was posing as ringleader, some gratuitous time out of the room. He came back about three minutes later, and proceeded to follow the directions for the activity.

My parents told us that no one is inherently better than anyone else. I was never favoured over any of my siblings, and vice versa. My youngest brother was cut more slack, because he had more special needs than the rest of us. He was though, generally speaking, held to the same core expectations. The same ethic was dominant in our neighbourhood, in the schools and, as I experienced it, in my Army basic training and Advanced Individual Training units.

My experiences with artificial pecking orders came with active duty at Fort Myer, and more so, in deployment to Long Binh and Cholon, VietNam. I was dubbed one of the lower caste members, owing to my autism-and found myself feeling more empathy with the Black, Latino and Pacific Islander members of our units. The mantra in my head remained the same-“None are better than the rest.” I had a select job, handling accountable mail, and I did it to the best of my ability. That didn’t make me above it all, and when the bulk mail truck pulled up, in Long Binh, the lock went on the AM cage and my hands were emptying that truck, along with everyone else’s.

In the years since I was honorably discharged, every situation has also had its pecking order. Sometimes, the elitism was codified: Students answered to professors and professors, to Deans; Teachers answered to Principals and principals, to superintendents and Governing Boards; Volunteers answered to paid staff and paid staff, to administrators.

In other situations, the waters were muddier. It was then that the human animal’s penchant for an alpha to lead rose to the fore. Ad hoc authority figures have inserted themselves into my life, or tried to, at several junctures. American expatriates in Korea, retired military (whites and blacks) on the Navajo Nation, and authoritarian personalities, without portfolio, in several of the schools in which I’ve worked as a substitute teacher, have presented themselves as plenipotentiaries. In each case, my response has been: “I am not at your beck and call.”

So, in advising, admonishing or instructing the rising generations, my mantra is that of Mom and Dad: Regard yourselves as good as the rest, neither above nor beneath.

Lack of Imposture

17

September 4, 2019-

Every so often, when I get in a situation where it seems my presence isn’t wanted, the default status, known as Impostor Syndrome, jumps out and tries to say “Boo”.

I feel this, particularly when I go into a business establishment and am either given a pro-forma greeting, followed by a brush-off, or am treated rudely by one or more staff.  Then, there are those who cannot maintain eye contact for more than a minute or so.

In the old days, I’d figure I just wasn’t worth it.  Other people were okay, but I was a different matter.  This didn’t so much impact my casual friendships, but it did affect everything from my dating to employment interviews.

Experiences were thus limited and my own confidence had to start from the ground and work up.   Time in the Army helped-as I was responsible for accountable mail.  Time in college, afterward, wasn’t so beneficial, in terms of self-confidence, nor was the first part of my educational career.  It took marriage, the Baha’i Faith and time among Native Americans to build a solid foundation.  Still, I had trouble whenever I dealt with mainstream society.

Having to be on my own, since 2011, has erased most of this sense of imposture.  It started to come back, last Fall, when I was challenged by someone, as to my very basic level of competence.  I made it past that hurdle, only to have self-doubt re-surface, over the past  week.

So, it became needful to spend much of this day in reflection.  Some conclusions:  It is NOT my fault that the bar manager at a local restaurant was in a bad mood and avoided dealing with anyone dining at the bar, and not imbibing alcoholic beverages.  It is not my fault that a vendor at Farmer’s Market would prefer I not stop at her stand, and take her attention away from older women, who may or may not purchase items.  It is not my fault that a Hispanic waitress at a downtown diner prefers to not serve or interact with English-speaking patrons.

I will do what I can to accommodate these people, and others like them, but I will not, any longer, absorb a sense of imposture or unworthiness, into myself.