Lifeline To Non-Special Ed

When I was in eighth grade I was still attending the Waldorf school. This was something of an embarrassment for me when around other kids–I don’t know why it was, but maybe it was because I knew there was something weird about going to an expensive private school and I didn’t really know how to be thankful for that privilege, so I made fun of it instead.

Anyway, at the end of eighth grade my parents and I were trying to decide what high school I should attend. There was a Waldorf High school in Seattle, but the commute would have been atrocious and the cost as well. I visited the public school and the only part I can really remember is visiting the special ed English class.

The class was writing “poems.” I say “poems,” because they were only poems in the loosest of terms. The prompts were dull and didn’t promote lyrical interest or precision. It was more about comparing things to other things. I wrote about a pig, but I can’t remember what I compared it to.

I remember the people in that classroom being quite nice, but still, I wasn’t impresses with the public school system. I felt as though they were catering to the person who moved the slowest–which, in many ways, it does. Regardless, I would spend countless hours in that classroom over the next 3 years. There was no way to avoid it, and parts of it were actually pretty fun because every once in a while I’d find myself in the class with someone who wasn’t socially awkward–he was behind in some way, but he was also a popular person outside of that classroom. It sorta felt like I was their lifeline, and they were mine, to the outside world of non-special ed courses. It felt good to be that for someone, even just for one class.

Adolescent Hero

When I was young and couldn’t read well I didn’t know people looked down on fantasy novels. I thought, I mean, I figured, what other kind of novels were there? I loved the old D&D novels. The ones by R.A Salvatore. He was my adolescent hero. The stories of Drizzt were my favorites and I must have read 12 of the books in the series before I lost interest because the baddies were never really dead and the goodies never really died either. But 12 books in a series is a lot to read–even though the series, last I checked was over 25 books long, and still being written.

When I was a freshmen in high school I took my big R.A. Salvatore books to school and read them in class when I was suppose to be reading course materials in Special Ed. The English classes of Special Ed were so boring I would open my English book and then place my fantasy book on top of it, and they were about the same size, if not width and then instead of reading boring stories about high school kids who didn’t get the bike they wanted for their birthday, or got in trouble for vandalism, I fought dragons with a Drow Ranger (dark elf) and met wizards, faced armies, and the like. But those Salvatore books weren’t only about adventures. Drizzt was a dark elf, or Drow, and Drows were known for their appetite to kill basically everything. But Drizzt was different and fled his homeland and then ends up facing all kinds of prejudices and hurt in his attempt to find a home, a place where he belongs.

Looking back on this, it totally makes sense that I’d enjoy that type of story. I was a freshman in high school, unsure where I fit in, and Drizzt was much the same. I saw a lot of myself in him.

I didn’t know it was nerdy to bring my fantasy books to school. I just liked reading them–why did other people care? Maybe the content didn’t matter. What mattered more was the fact that I wasn’t spending time with friends and trying to be cool–instead I would spend lunch in a quiet classroom and read. And I guess this doesn’t really endear you to others when you’re at that age.