Sometimes on the way to your dream,

you get lost and find a better one.

Monday, April 25, 2011

this is who I am

I’m an uneducated person.

I can read things and understand them.
I can read things that I don’t fully understand and they will make sense to me.
What I can’t do , is explain my understanding of things.
I can’t explain just how things make sense to me.
I can’t explain the meanings of things I understand, in ways that make sense to others.
I lack the ability to communicate.
So I stay quiet...

Ask me questions and I can probably answer them, but don’t expect me to start or carry a conversation.
I can’t do it.

Even after many years “talking” to people at the checkout, real conversation doesn’t come easy to me.
I fake it. I make stuff up.
If you say things convincingly enough, people will believe you.

When you’re only with them for as long as it takes to pack their groceries and take their money, what does it matter?

But discuss politics? Economics? Things you’ve read in the newspaper?
It’s all out of my league.
Because I don’t understand those things.

They’re all celebrity gossip, which I don’t care for, so I can’t discuss that either. Why would I care how many pairs of boots someone buys? How many times they’ve switched boyfriends or husbands?

Before my checkout years I worked in factories.
I was on “the team”, but I was alone in the middle of the crowd.
Suited me just fine.

Before that I was at home, raising the kids, until the youngest was in school.
I didn’t socialise, the endless gossip of the neighbours seemed pointless to me.
I did try, there were occasional Tupperware parties, school tuckshop days.
But I was always afraid of being laughed at, afraid they’d think me stupid, because I couldn’t comfortably talk to them much past saying hello.
I was much more at ease at home alone with my babies. And my books.
Fiction. Always fiction. To escape.

A little background is probably necessary here.

All through Primary school I just drifted through my classes, much like I now drift through my life.
The work seemed too easy for me, I didn’t have to try at all, I rarely bothered with homework.
My dad always said I didn’t have to do it. As far as he was concerned, schoolwork was done at school.
He was also convinced that education should be free, including excursions, which I never went on, because he refused to pay.
There were no sports or other extracurricular activities either, unless they were free. Of course they weren't, which left me with the library or the beach. And I was happy enough there, in my own little world.

More background.
I’d been raised not to question my parents. (Or any authority figure really).
They weren’t bullies or abusive. They loved us all.

But my older sister was born retarded, (the term now is mentally challenged), and to keep her safe, she was taught to do as she was told always, and not to question why. Being almost four years younger, I just naturally followed along. With a younger brother who had mild epilepsy, the two of them needed much more attention than me, so I learned to stay out of the way.

I learned to read early, by listening as my sister struggled for years, with Dick and Dora, Dick and Jane, books kept me out of trouble.

By nature I was easy going and lazy, like my dad.

When my mum left us on the eve of my eighth birthday, she took my brother and sister, and I was raised by dad.

He’d leave for work in the mornings and set the alarm clock; when it went off, I’d get up, eat something and go to school.
I was alone, but I was happy. I was never lonely.
I had my Library books and my imagination.

Back to my school years.

My dad didn’t really see education as being necessary for girls who would only grow up, marry and then have babies.
(In his youth, that’s what girls did..)I suspect he didn't finish school himself.

So without words being said, I understood that when I reached school leaving age, I would leave. And I did.

I'd enjoyed high school. The learning was a challenge, which made it fun, unlike primary school, where I'd breezed through everything.
I loved English. History and Math were interesting, Science was fun.
But I didn't really try.
What for? I was leaving at 15.

When career options were discussed at high school, I didn’t pay much attention. I didn’t see why I should think about finishing high school, then going on to university for even more learning, just to get a job for a while until I married.

I knew nothing about money or saving or how much better my future options would have been. Such things were never discussed at home, certainly never with me. (Men earned the money, women looked after the home and kids).

Add in the fact that I was also shy, didn’t make friends easily, why would I want to stay at school, amongst people I couldn’t talk to?

So I drifted on through life, drifted into marriage, eventually growing apart and divorcing.
Without higher education I wasn’t qualified for any job better than factory work.
Life became a little harder, but I coped.
Go back to school you say?
Not so easy. There wasn’t money for schooling, night school was out of the question, not only because of the lack of cash, but also because I’d never learned to drive. Factor in the laziness and lack of communication skills....

Besides all that, I’d never got the “study habit” so important to real learning.
Things don’t “stick”.
Things I hear and learn don’t stay with me.
Not the important stuff anyway.

I know now, that the way I grew up isn’t a good way.
Education and learning, staying in school to better my chances and get a career, instead of “just a job”, would have been a better way.
If I’d been pushed, I would have done it.

But I’d grown up lazy, and been allowed to be lazy , and that’s a hard habit to break.

By the time I wanted more from myself, I was at home with four children.

So here I am, still drifting…..


  1. So here I am, still drifting…..
    And being hard on yourself. Your appreciation for detail has made me stop and think often. Breaking free of your husband and your expected/designated role cannnot have been easy. And you have a daughter who loves you that I know of - and almost certainly your other children too. Not easy. Not lazy. Going with the flow is not necessarily a bad thing.

  2. EC; I'm not being hard on myself, just explaining a little why I am the way I am, why I'm a drifter, much like my dad was, why I don't go for further education. I know it isn't for me, and I'm happy with who I am. Besides, I am still learning, just through experience and trying. Look at me on the computer now...

  3. Those were different times so don't beat yourself up over them just move on and be yourself. You've done your bit for Australia during your life time you should be proud :-).

  4. Having known you my whole life (hi mum!), I think you underestimate your learning capabilities. I know many people who have a much harder time grasping all the computer things you've mastered with relative ease.
    I'd say not uneducated, just differently educated.

  5. I always felt the same way, a drifter, until I read an article that said an interest in everthing was good. I always felt bad that I started getting into something then left it but this article said that doing that simply meant that I had gained everything I needed to know about the subject and was ready to move to another.
    I felt marvellous reading that, it made sense and wiped out years of guilt. I haven't forgotten anything I've learnt and always want more. People like us, curious and readers, live longer. Don't knock novels, I kmow a lot of survivor stuff from reading Clive Cussler, could dissect a body, thanks Scarpetta and would know a human bone if I fell over one, cheers Temperance.

  6. I agree with that delightful child of yours. It's just a different education. I've always thought your comments were really thought provoking and those of someone who looked at the world and wanted to figure it out. If I may say though, it's not too late to study if that's something you're interested in.

  7. Oh River - what a wonderful post - thank you for sharing those private thoughts. I found it very moving.

    I think your daughter is quite right. My mother-in-law in Australia recieved no formal education at all, but I would never think of her as uneducated. She was the wisest woman I know and incredibly smart. She could hardly write and couldn't read at all, which I thought was sad as I could not survive without the written word. But it was her we all turned to for any kind of advice. It was a different sort of wisdom she possessed - something you couldn't learn in a book.

    I recognise the urge to hide away, to try and blend in, to not be the tall poppy. I was that brainy geek in the class who did go on to university and did get that flash job. But boy, did it not mean I was smart in ways that it mattered in the end. And it's taken me years and years to see how fake and unimportant all that striving and focus on material goals was. The grass is not as green on this side, believe me.

    If you say things convincingly enough, people will believe you. That sounds like the story of my own life as well. It's a very hollow sort of life, though. I'm glad that I stopped trying to do that, even though I've paid a very high price for it. I haven't known you in real life and only for a short time here in cyberspace, but I can say that your thoughts and insights, your warmth and humour shine through in what you write and in how you respond to people. And that is what it's all about.

  8. Windsmoke; not beating myself up, just letting you all know a bit more about the person behind the blog.

    no-one; thank you. I love you too. Thanks for your patience too, every time I've had to ask again how you did something when I forgot to write down a crucial step.

    JahTeh; I've started and left a lot of things too. If you ever come across that article again, let me know. I'm quite sure I could recognise a human bone too. I love my novels and often want to be Temperance.

    Sarah; she is a great kid, one of my best works.
    I do wish I could figure out the world, but study is no longer on the menu. Watch, Do, Learn is the way for me.

  9. Marie; thank you very much.
    I'm sad to hear your M-I-L couldn't read, I'm sad to hear about anyone who can't read, I've been reading since I was three and can't imagine life without it. Books are so important to me.

  10. I was given the gift of a book for Christmas last year that pretty much explained what JahTeh said.
    "Refuse to choose. What to do when I want to do everything?"
    It talks about a personality type that likes to learn so that we understand a topic and then move on, rather than be someone who becomes obsessed and delves deeply into an interest and turns it into a career. It was so freeing to read, to know that my never ending wandering through possible careers and interests wasn't a bad thing. Just to learn how to use that personality to get your projects done and then walk away from them without guilt into the next new, exciting, fascinating adventure.
    It was lovely to read your history, so different to my own in how you were raised but so similar in that books were our best friends. I have worked very, very hard at learning how to socialise, watching the cues of others to figure out appropriate behaviour, but it's not a natural thing. ;-)
    Maybe you only retain the things you need to move onwards with.
    Thank you for sharing.

  11. Devi; "maybe you only retain the things you need"
    I've found that to be true a lot of the time. For instance all my life I never ever wanted to be a checkout chick. 8 years ago when it was the only job I could get, I learned it quickly and now I'm damn good at it. It was knowledge I needed.

  12. You'd have sailed through university, so would I, but that would have meant two less places for privileged bums. Privileged compared to us. All the same, when I see the parrot-talk from graduates on blogs like LP we may have escaped the conditioning. “Social construct” they say. “Multiple disconnect”. Good heavens. University is like Pentridge, once you've been there you never leave.

    My social worker niece for instance has moderate intelligence, that's all. She can't do her own thinking. Every utterance is rote: all from text books and what her professor laid down. She talks in cliches, questioning none of it. Every circumstance in society has been set in stone for her, like Moses with his Ten Commandments. These donkeys, bums, they couldn't be original to save their own lives.

    So not everyone intelligent can go to university, there needs to be an underclass, people to do society's dirty work. Things are arranged that way. No one would put their hand on your shoulder and say you're a bright kid why not continue at school, the dumb working class tradition is you leave at fifteen, fourteen in my case.

    Well golly, I worked in dull jobs a few years, then I burgled houses, hundreds of them. And never got caught. It was for the excitement you know, the challenge, the preoccupation I might have got from academia.

  13. River, I really, really like you.

    I loved this post. Hope that doesn't sound too weird.


  14. It is a pity that writing well and in an interesting manner, and taking good photos is not a more appreciated talent or financially rewarding one. Plenty of people seem to like you just how you are.

  15. Interesting post. My father assumed I'd leave school at the end of year 11 and become a secretary. I had to fight to finish high school and then go and do my teaching degree. (I suspect my mother was fighting the good fight for me behind the scenes too!)

    My degree has been the financial saving of the boys and I. I was reading parts of your post, thinking, "That could so easily have been me."

  16. R.H. I've worked in dull jobs too, (factories) and I really really liked them, because once I'd learned the work and routines, I could set my hands on auto pilot and my mind would be completely free to wander. I was often surprised when 4pm came around and it was time to go home.

    Pearl; thanks, I like you too. All your posts make me laugh and some of your commenters are downright hilarious.

    Andrew; for years I've been surprised to find that people actually like me. I'm almost getting used to it now. I'm thinking of finding a way to sell my photos.

    Frogdancer; at the time I didn't realise that I could have fought to stay at school. I also remember when I started high school there were two options; the general course that people chose if they were going on to higher studies, and the secretarial course where typing and shorthand were studied for those who wanted to be secretaries or join a typing pool somewhere. My dad insisted I NOT do the secretarial course as he didn't want me being a typist or secretary sitting on some bosses knee like he'd seen in movies.

  17. I think you express yourself very intelligently and I wouldn't wonder if the "laziness" you are discussing is simply never having learnt study SKILLS. You know there is usually a method for about everything, a most efficient way to scan the groceries? You picked that up on your job with practice and so it is with study skills. There are also short courses and tutoring sessions out there to teach you some basic note-taking skills, etc. but then you customize what works for you when you study. For example, during college and even now I use post-it notes for bookmarks. I can take notes on that page without dirtying the book that way AND my marker stays in place AND I can use different colours to mean different things. Anyway... I do think perhaps you are a bit hard on yourself like Elephant's Child said. :)

  18. It is never too late River, Go and study one subject that you really want to. I went back and did my year 11 with Veronica, there were a lot of Mature age students there. It was what started me back into ceramics. Great post my friend. :)

  19. I take it all back, you're suited to what you're doing.

  20. I LOATHE the word 'uneducated' - it has such negative connotations, as it fails to take into account the different ways people learn.

    Besides, we've all met 'well-educated' dickheads, haven't we??!!