At the back of the class room was the “cloak room” is where we hug our coats. In one corner was a round cardboard “can” with metal edges that had originally been made to hold about three gallons of ice cream in the lunch room. Taped on the container was a piece of construction paper with “Lost and Found” written on it in Miss Pittman’s near perfect handwriting. She was a soon to retire, old maid school teacher who lived in the rundown school teacher dorms behind the high school. Years late I would come to feel sorry for her as I realized how lonely and sad her life must have been. She had evaporated into obscurity before I was twenty-one.
If we found anything in the class room and did not know who it belonged to, we were supposed to put it in the lost and found. If we lost something that was the first place to look for it. Sometimes things ended up there because some 5th graders would put other people’s things there as a joke, although I never thought it was funny.
No matter how strict Ms. Pittman was or how much in turmoil was in my life then, those were simpler times in that wrong and right seemed clearer to me then. My Mother had decided to marry a man sixteen years older that my Brother and I did not like. As we would come to know, that was for good reason. He was a mean and abusive stepfather and we always thought he had a few screws loose. In those days I knew bad was bad. That was clear. Then I imagined good was simply the absence of the bad.
Through my childhood and into early adult life there were parts of me that ended up lost and stayed unfound for many years. Unlike the classroom of my youth, there was no ice cream bin to check out for what was missing. I did not develop the ability to love a girl/woman properly and it was replaced with neediness and want. With very little family influence of love expressed and shown, there were no teachers to emulate. So I read books, watched TV and saw movies. When I was sixteen that’s about all I knew about love.
My education continued, but painful and slow, learning the most difficult way from repeated mistakes and bad choices. The girls, then women, I was attracted to were often attached and several times I became the ‘secret guy” on the side. Too, I had a penchant for choosing ‘female roller coasters’ who were emotionally unstable. I sure could pick ‘em, but they were not the problem. It was my ‘picker’ that was. I look back now and can see I thought the intensity, the anguish, the heartache and the longing totaled together was love.
Today awareness of who I am, where I come from and what I have been through has brought a willingness to pull the lost part of me out of “lost and found”. Like a broken vase that has been glued back together, the fractures and scars will always visible. But it is from those very wounds that knowledge and wisdom benefits me today. My sensitivity, ability to relate and identifying my feelings are all keen sense now. From what once hurt and confused me came great teaching from strict and difficult teachers too, just like Miss Pittman. But I got A’s and B’s in her class and give my self pretty good grades for living life and knowing how to love today. I am grateful for the difficulties I endured that eventually made me more able than most to know and express my feelings.
People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself.
But the self is not something one finds,
it is something one creates.