The road from elementary (Part 2)

What was most interesting about my elementary building in Edmonton was that in addition to grades K-6, it also housed an all-girls junior high school on its upper levels. They had to wear uniforms so the junior high girls were always easy to spot. When I was in grade 3 or 4, sometimes during recess, a junior high girl named Amanda would come and play with us. I don’t quite remember why she first started talking to us, but she’d come by every now and then. I really looked up to Amanda. I thought she was pretty, smart, and had a warm personality.

When you are a girl in grade school, you don’t look up to your mom or adults. Instead, you idolize a slightly younger generation, but a few years older than yourself. You marvel at their vast knowledge of the world and degree of autonomy. When they talk to you, it’s genuine conversation, versus talking to adults who would mostly criticize and chastise. I was personally captivated by Amanda’s independence and her success. (She was in junior freaking high! She wore the prettiest hair accessories! She had a boyfriend!) I imagined myself at that age, and I saw myself living Amanda’s life. I thought, “of course, by then I will be just as cool as her”.

As you can probably guess, I wasn’t even close to having all the things she had when I hit that age. I had zero fashion sense (track pants all the way), didn’t have cool places to go out to, and was nowhere close to touching a boy.

I always had a picture of where I would be when I got to a certain phase in my life. I look at the people around me whose lives I am envious of, and I picture myself being in their position. But then when I reach that same stage, it’s nothing like I imagined. Sometimes I’m better off, and sometimes worse.

By now, most of the people I know are probably finished school. We might be starting our first jobs in the real world or trying to find one. It’s a defining yet puzzling moment in our lives. I’m sure many of us are familiar with the “quarter life crisis”, either through having experienced it or maybe being approached by a friend about it. It’s a time of reflection.

I never would have imagined I would be the person I am now. So I propose to you the following question:

Are you where you thought you’d be at this point in your life?

What did you imagine you’d be doing in your early twenties when you were 5, 10, 15 years old (hell, even just last year)? The kind of friends you’d have? Places and activities you’d enjoy? Your role in society? Your values and attitudes on life? The things you’d talk and joke about with your friends? Your accomplishments? Relationship expectations?

The road from elementary (Part 1)

Oliver School

My elementary school in Edmonton was something quite special. It was a large brick building that looked like the proper educational institutions you’d come across in a movie or picture book. Not the uninspiring slabs of concrete with confusing room numbers that I’ve seen around here. There was a certain charm to it, especially during winter when the red brick walls stood out so beautifully against the piles of snow.

It was a small school with only about one class per grade. We didn’t have ‘O Canada’. We didn’t have French class. Every morning they would announce students’ birthdays on the PA system, and if it was your birthday, you can go down to the main office where they’d know your name and give you a birthday card and a pencil.

Around 10am, the fifth graders were tasked with delivering snack trays to every class. It ranged from milk and cookies to pop-tarts to my favourite, buttered corn.

From grade 3 to grade 5, our physical education curricula included mandatory swimming lessons. We’d pay about $20 and for a couple weeks, two times a week, we’d be ushered to Grant MacEwan (then a college, now a university) down the street and learn how to swim in their pool.

There was a General Store next to the gym where kids could buy things like bookmarks and candy (mostly candy). We didn’t have a cafeteria; we ate lunch in various classrooms where chaperones (sometimes parents) would supervise us. I loved going up to the library, on the third floor. It was like going upstairs to your attic in your house to visit your favourite old belongings. There were comfortable reading areas, and a computer lab with educational games like The Amazon Trail and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (yea it’s a book, but did you know there was a game too?).

In grade two, I had Mrs. Anderson for my teacher. At the end of the year, she invited the entire class to her house for a party and BBQ. We also got treat bags, on top of birthday gifts throughout the school year. I’m pretty sure this gave me unreasonable expectations for future teacher-student relations.

Every Christmas, the entire school (grades K-6) gathers in the gym for an assembly. Mrs. Anderson played the piano and we’d sing Christmas carols together with lyrics on a large projector.

Across the street was this old abandoned mansion. It looked like it had deteriorated from its previous grandeur, so we all thought it was haunted. I think some ballsy sixth graders might have explored it on Halloween one year.

Although I was only in grade 2, the neighbourhood was safe enough that I’d walk to and from school everyday by myself.

I miss elementary.