The Self-Flagellation of a 7-Year-Old

In second grade (bear with me), I tried to turn in an assignment and my teacher told me that she would take it later. So I tucked it away in one of my manila file folders, and promptly forgot all about it. End result? I got a lesser grade because it was “late.”

Today, I wouldn’t bat an eye before mowing down that teacher, but at the time I was pretty devastated. I never liked being in trouble (I still don’t), and I was extremely disappointed in myself. So I did what any normal 7-year-old would do: I wrote and mailed a postcard to my beloved first-grade teacher about it.

She actually replied, which was sweet of her. But she said that I probably do more things correctly than not over the course of any given day, and to start with the beginning of my day. I probably tied my shoes correctly, right? (As it turns out, I tied my shoes wrong all the way until my freshman year of college, but I didn’t know that then).

And at 7 years old, I read that and thought, What bullshit. Nobody cares that I know how to tie my shoes; that’s just a given. Over time I’ve come to appreciate it a little bit more, that most 7-year-olds don’t hold themselves quite as accountable as I did, and she was responding to that little boy, rather than the somewhat more complicated one I was at the time.

Still. When I fuck up someone’s name in a feature story, knowing that I brushed my teeth up and down earlier in the day does not lessen the shame.

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