TITLE: Tag Can Stay, Flashcards Need to Go!
By TJ Nickel
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I couldn’t believe that I had lost. It had never happened before. I was invincible. They were all staring at me now. They were all cheering inside. They hated me. I didn’t realize it before, but they really do hate me. It’s just a silly game. A game.
I heard on the radio the other day that some schools are actually eliminating Tag because it is too competitive and hurts the feelings of some kids. I was irate. “Tag!…Tag!…You’ve got to be kidding!” Then, my memory smacked my stomach with its flat hand and I became nauseated. I hate thinking of that moment. Tag isn’t the problem. I need to go on a campaign of my own. Tag can stay. Get rid of Flashcards! That game is the root of all my troubles! And, I suppose, the beginning of a true awareness about myself as seen through the eyes of peers. That awareness became my life’s focus and the flashcards went into the trash. Man, what a bold life choice at age seven. Where were my parents?
Whether it was the school’s fault, my parent’s fault, or my own stupid fault isn’t really the point. The point is that Flashcards ruined my life. Oh, okay, that’s going too far. ‘Flashcards ruined my life’ would make a nice slogan for my campaign, but it’s a campaign I’ll never be able to go on because I’m haunted by every other person’s image of me – all because of Flashcards. What a paradox. Well, it would be one if I really wanted to go on the campaign.
Instead, it’s a simple and sad story. So simple and sad I’ll have to slightly fictionalize it and touch it up with humor. My most embarrassing moment wasn’t loading my drawers during class in grade school, getting caught stealing something in high school, or walking around with my zipper undone unbeknownst to me until after the interview. These, of course, are things my friends say are their most embarrassing moments. I, of course, would never have done these things, but even if, a big if here, even if I had done them, the one that sticks out the most is that little half second with a millisecond separating the end of Sara’s answer and my own. She beat me. I had never been beaten before.
I have four older siblings and four younger. Competition, winning competition that is, gains attention. I’d lost Flashcards before, but only against my older siblings, and quite often, I whipped them too. I had to hold off the younger four and overtake the older four. Flashcards, math in general, was my thing. That, and learning to spell antidisestablishmentarianism. I was a pretty cool second-grade kid, eh?
According to www.dictionary.com, the first definition of “embarrassing” is “To cause to feel self-conscious or ill at ease; disconcert.” The winning I had done in this endeavor of Flashcards had never caused self-consciousness to be aroused within me. It wasn’t something I was proud of. It wasn’t something I gloated about. It wasn’t something I tried to use to stick-it to those other kids who weren’t as capable. It was an expectation, a natural law governing me, an ‘ought’. My failure was a sin as far as I could tell; I had missed the mark. The floodgates of sin opened upon me, and shame clothed me in a skin like Adam. Was Sara’s sin the sin of Eve? Where I learned evil, did she learn good? I have no idea, but the weight of shame was crushing and the clothes choked my spirit. My face vanished from physical reality and when it popped back into existence, it was red from the winded speed of flight to and fro. It burned. They could see the windburn upon me and they relished in my becoming one of them; they relished in seeing my equality; an equality I didn’t realize that I had personally, at one point or another, placed them into with one another, but to which I didn’t yet belong.
I have never felt the same embarrassment since this moment in youth. There were other moments when my delusions of grandeur were crushed, but I had the first moment to recollect and compare to, and to use to fight off the enormity of the subsequent times. This was the first, and so often, the first time is what sets the bar. My first taste of shame and incongruity for an audience to behold made the deepest cut. Not even fainting at the feet of my priest three years later as he held the wafer before my Catholic-combined open palm would leave a mark worthy of comparing. There was no conscious-ought that built up prior to that literal fall into my poor older brothers arms. But back then, in that millisecond of time during my seventh year of life and my second year of all day schooling, that ought was so ingrained in me that it shielded me from their eyes and thoughts. The curtain flew open and the gust of wind reddened my face with their hatred for me, and their celebration of my equality. I was incapable of hating them in return. I hadn’t recognized them enough until then to do so. Instead, my head crashed into the crevice of the inside of my bent left arm, and was then covered by my right as it crossed over. There, my tear, one hugely swelled drop of my spirit, spilled upon the wooden desk, hidden by the darkness of my shame.
What a drastic thing these flashcards are. Get rid of them, please, and let’s keep playing Tag! Tag is fine, Flashcards are the devil in disguise. This is school we’re talking about right? We can’t have people competing to drive them to learn and improve their knowledge and skills with school subjects like math and spelling now can we? We end up with swelling eyes on the nerd who spent his evening spelling antidisestablishmentarianism the night before instead of working on his times tables. That just isn’t right. We can keep Tag. Most of us losers at Tag aren’t so worried about being slower or less coordinated on the playground or in gym class. We get our sweet and silent rewards on report card day. Let’s not remove the obstacles of physical games from our roads to success. Instead, let’s just remove the competition between us nerds. Please, please, get rid of Flashcards and pitting us against one another.
I’m starting small with goals to finish big. Next, I’m taking on science projects. Yep, those monster acts of creativity using shoe boxes and paper bags with construction paper, glue, and clay that lose to cool Joey Lewis’ $300 machine hyped up with the painting and decorations the butler and maid put on it for him to get their collective blue ribbon for Joey’s college portfolio one day. But, that’s for another time. Right now, please keep Tag and ditch the Flashcards!
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