overeducated & understimulated

"if you're going through hell, keep going …" -winston churchill

Thank you for my high school teachers April 22, 2013

Filed under: Gifted,Writing — Aerin Rainey @ 4:43 pm

Was there a teacher who helped you recover a lost part of yourself?

My parents never thought creative writing was good for anything.  Or art.  Luckily, I was also really good at readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmetic, so I could still gain their love and approval!  With lots of university degrees and a high-paying job, their “unconditional” love was secure. But I have wanted to write books for as long as I can remember.  And I still do.  But it is hard to believe that wanting that is okay, let alone do it.  I am time-travelling through my past and looking for the little Aerin who once believed in herself and in the worthiness of creative pursuits.  I can remember three people that I knew as a high school student who encouraged me creatively.


…my art teacher

One was Ms. Harris.  The thing you have to know about me in high school is that I was very busy being the “new me” and hiding my light under a bushel.  Being “normal,” and having friends.  Ms. Harris was our art teacher.  She had spiky red hair, always dressed in head-to-toe black, was pretty and youngish, and bore the unusual moniker of “Ms” owing to her status as divorced.  She was an exotic creature in our corner of suburbia.  You only had to take art in Grade Nine, but I took it every year. And the adored-from-afar Ms. Harris was quite indifferent to my work as an art student … until the day of the charcoal drawing.

The assignment was cool.  On cream-coloured construction paper, we used charcoal to reproduce some blurred areas of light and dark that Ms. Harris had put up on the overhead projector.  It was really a black-and-white photograph of a figure sitting in a stairwell that she had purposely left unfocused.  Once we had covered the paper with our blurred light and dark areas, she sharpened the focus.  Again, we worked to reproduce what we saw on our own sheet.  She kept sharpening the photo until we could see it the way it was meant and could add the last finishing touches to our charcoal drawings.  I wrote my name on the back and put it on the pile as I left for my next class.

When we returned to the art classroom four days later, our drawings were all pinned to a bulletin board that ran the length of the class between the top of the window and the ceiling.  I spotted my own drawing easily because of the thick black space I had created down one side to make the paper’s proportions match the photo.  Everybody was checking out the work, and after Ms. Harris called us to order, she started talking about the drawings and pointing out what had worked and explaining why.  She kept using my drawing as an example of the accurate depiction of light and dark and how depth is created by seeing light and shadow.  I was so gratified!  But then, oh my god, she congratulated and complimented someone else by name for my drawing!  I put my hand up.

“Ms. Harris, that’s my drawing.”

“Oh, no — I was talking about her drawing — the one with the thick black space down the side.”

“Yes, that’s mine.”

Ms. Harris looked at the other student for confirmation.  And back to me.  And all she said was my name, “Aerin.”  But it was the look of happiness on her face and the reverent sound of her voice, and she looked back and forth between my drawing up by the ceiling and me sitting below it and I felt like someone was finally seeing me and liking what they saw.  I could have cried.  Or hugged her.  But I just soaked up this new and different feeling.

…my English teacher

Another teacher who supported me creatively was Miss Roseburgh.  She was the complete opposite of the cool Ms. Harris, but I loved her even more.  She was round and rosy-cheeked, dressed mostly in voluminous floral prints, had thinning, dyed hair and was still single and closing in on her retirement.  She really liked me.  I can’t remember another teacher liking me the way she did — and don’t think there was any ulterior motive, because in our graduating year, she and Mr. Heathcock, the equally round and rosy-cheeked music teacher, finally stopped having a “secret” affair and got married.

She always called on me to read aloud from our assigned novels and Shakespeare plays.  I loved it.  And she gave us creative writing homework, which I hadn’t done in a long time.  I relished it.  I wrote a long story about an anorexic girl who was obsessed with running.  The character was inspired by my friend Christina who went to a different high school.  She and I were out of touch, but we had been close back in middle school.

After I got my story back, I was dismayed to see a message written on the last page from Miss Roseburgh:  “Please see me after school today.”

Miss Roseburgh was worried that my story was autobiographical.  (I guess I was really skinny back then.  My mother certainly tried to get me to eat a lot of her disagreeable cooking.)  But when I explained that the story was not about me but based rather on my old friend Christina who went to a different high school, Miss Roseburgh didn’t seem to believe me.

I was in shock.  Elated.  I mean, Miss Roseburgh felt that I had imagined this character so vividly and described her so grippingly that I must be her.  I reached my goal of bringing a story to life.  But at the same time, I worried that should I have chosen something safer — that wouldn’t make me personally vulnerable if people chose to believe I was drawing from my life experience?  Despite the compliments on my fiction, I might have shied away from writing as a result of Miss Roseburgh’s suspicions about my possible eating disorder.  But I went on to write many stories for Miss Roseburgh.  I felt safe sharing my writing with this caring teacher.


… my guidance counsellor

Mrs. Flannery was like the mother I wished I had.  What Mrs. Flannery did for me was to let me cry in her office every morning when I should have been in homeroom and tell me repeatedly that there was nothing wrong with me.  A lot of teens clash with their parents.  This was beyond that.  I don’t think my parents ever knew how to be truly supportive anyway, wrapped in their own fears and lack of fulfillment as they were (are).  But then my dad lost his job, my mother hit menopause, I became a teenager.  And it was awful.  Non-support became direct attacks.  I can remember so many hurtful things that were said to me.  Hence the crying in Mrs. Flannery’s office.  I would get so upset thinking about what my mother had told me that morning or the evening before I couldn’t stop myself from crying.  I would have to leave class and I could either sneak out of the building or go sit in the guidance office legitimately.

Mrs. Flannery was like a light, warm, down-filled duvet that you wrap yourself in when you are chilled to the core, shivering with violent cold.  Soon you are cozy again and your teeth stop threatening to chatter out of your head.  I needed that.  I needed to hear that sometimes young people don’t fit with their family and that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.  I needed to hold on to the idea that the person I knew I was inside was a good person who deserved to be happy.

She told me something a bit questionable maybe for someone in her position but that was really smart and brave of her to say to me.  Because she was right.  She told me to go to university as far away from my parents as I could possibly go.  I never would have become the person I am proud to be today if I had not followed her advice.


…thank you

Thank you, Ms. Harris, for seeing me and making me feel good about something I created.

Thank you, Miss Roseburgh, for liking me and giving me the chance to write whatever I wanted.

Thank you Mrs. Flannery, for understanding me and giving me a safe place to understand myself.


Core April 29, 2012

Filed under: Gifted,The meaning of life — Aerin Rainey @ 10:52 am

At the core of my being, there still resides a little girl who just wants everybody to like her.  She is still there, cowering, meek, looking around at everyone and waiting to be noticed, waiting to be invited.  She just wants to fit in and feel like she belongs.  That there are people she can count on, people who would also turn to her in their time of need.  I’ve always had her with me.

When I was a child, I lived with a lot of criticism and self-hatred.  No one took care of that little girl’s need for approval.  There was always something more to do, something that could be better.  Never good enough — what a negative way to perceive yourself.  Always a better grade to achieve, nicer friends to spend time with, more points to score on athletic teams, more prominent awards to win and programs to be accepted to.  I remember one summer when the unemployment rate for Canadian youth was almost 30% and I was having trouble finding a job.  Instead of feeling supported in my efforts and reassured that everything would turn out, I got asked, “Well, you’ve got to figure out what it is that’s wrong with you.  Why don’t people want to hire you?”  Emphasis on the you.  Not the fact that almost a third of people my age were out of work.

It would be easy to blame my parents, specifically my mother who actually thought she was doing everything right and ended up doing everything wrong.  The pattern of self-hatred was definitely established early and it continued into my young adult life.  I was so unsure of myself and my choices.  How could I know if I was doing the right thing?  I had no idea what I thought was important or what I liked.  I was always looking for clues from the people around me to see if what I was doing was a popular choice.  I missed out on a ton of stuff that I would have really enjoyed and friendships with people I could have really connected with because I simply never realized that I would enjoy it and, furthermore, that it would be okay to enjoy it, okay to connect with people who weren’t generally popular and approved-of.

In my early 30s, after my first daughter was born, I experienced an intense period of self-doubt and self-hatred.  I was wracked with anxiety about how to take care of my little girl.  What kind of mother was I going to be?  I didn’t know anything about or have any right to make decisions that would affect this other being’s existence.  Luckily, I found a wonderful therapist who helped me move forward on a journey to self-acceptance.  I learned that the most important little girl to take care of was my own inner little girl, whom no one (except my husband — how did I manage to let him?) had loved properly her whole life.  No longer did I wait for an approval from an exterior source — I learned to soothe my own hurts and listen to the critical voice inside me with objectivity and tell it how wrong it was.  I gained a feeling of happiness and self-worth.  I cut off toxic friendships and opened myself up more to those who didn’t shy away from the real me.

Life was good.

Then I moved to Atlantic Canada.  I was nervous that I would be able to continue my journey without the help of my therapist, since I am really the kind of person whose ideas and problem-solving benefit from being reflected back to me.  I can make leaps in understanding and integration, as long as I am thinking out loud, preferably to someone other than just me. Anyways, turns out I was right to be nervous, because here I am six years later and right back to where I started.

Why do I do these things?

  • Worry whether my neighbours like me, like my children, like my husband
  • Wish that people I meet would invite me to be in their Book Clubs, girls’ night out groups, dinner clubs, running groups
  • Feel left out every time I hear about people doing something fun
  • Wonder if it’s okay to call someone just to chat
  • Question myself for not going to church!
  • Get upset every time I go to the golf club (or even think about it) and see so-called “friendly” people who never invite me into their foursomes
  • Avoid writing on this blog in case someone I know reads it and decides never to talk to me again

Clearly, I don’t need to be friends with everybody.  I shouldn’t be friends with everybody.  I don’t want to be a chameleon who changes spots to suit every last person she interacts with.  In fact, I have never been good at that anyway!  I only need a few like-minded people who would truly stick with me.  I really need to stop worrying about fitting in with the “friendly” Maritimes and all that entails and just worry about being true to myself and what is important to me:  taking care of ALL the little girls around here, including my “inner Aerin,” who needs a huge daily dose of positive feedback.  (Feel free to leave comments below!  lol — I crack myself up.)


Success is not in the eye of the beholder March 15, 2012

Filed under: Fitness & health,Gifted,Life with kids,The meaning of life,Travel,Writing — Aerin Rainey @ 12:55 pm

This has been a very tough week.  I am not feeling well, I have one sick child, I had that job interview that blindsided me, my husband is sick, there was a snow day, plus I got my period.  I don’t know whether it is required for me to spiral into an existential depression every time hormones and low iron levels hit me, but that is what seems to happen.

In the words of Tears for Fears, from “Mad World”:

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
And their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow
And I find it kind of funny

I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
‘Cos I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It’s a very, very
Mad world

But spring is around the corner and I have a lot to do.  My plan is that carrying out this simple list of projects (in whole or in part, which is more likely!) will help me get back in touch with my focus and let me bring my full attention to every detail and start living in and enjoying the moments of my life again.  Instead of sitting around worrying what those people running in circles think of me.

List of projects for a successful stay-at-home mother

  • Declutter the basement
  • Organize/purge kids’ accumulated art projects/school work
  • Finish painting the laundry room
  • Stay on top of laundry loads
  • Work on Brownie badges with Meghan
  • Plan and prepare healthy family dinners at least 4-5 times per week (prepare semi-healthy meals 16-17 times per week)
  • Help Meghan study for rider level test
  • Complete school’s online Scholastic book orders in timely fashion
  • Declutter my desk
  • Complete photo albums in Aperture and order prints
  • Contact all elementary schools in Greater Saint John area re: fundraiser (as per role on fundraiser committee)
  • Visit and present characters to elementary schools (as per role on fundraiser committee)
  • Purge kids’ DVD collection
  • Work out 5 days per week
  • Keep food record
  • Provide treats for teachers on St. Paddy’s Day (as per role on Special Events committee)
  • Declutter garage
  • Buy groceries
  • Hang hooks in stairwell for backpacks/sports equipment
  • Repair walls in laundry room, front hall
  • Hang new laundry rack
  • Ensure kids practice piano daily
  • Help kids with homework daily
  • Drive kids to and from all extra-curricular activities and playdates on time
  • Get birthday present for Clara’s friend
  • Plan summer vacation camps, trips, etc.
  • Plan trip to London
  • Pursue digital photography hobby
  • Read books I have purchased re: education, giftedness, health & dieting, photography, spirituality
  • Paint three bathrooms and two bedrooms
  • De-mold the upstairs windows
  • Clean all windows
  • Make/order blinds for kitchen windows
  • Install new shelf in Meghan’s room
  • Mail Helena’s housewarming gift
  • Blog 3-4 times per week

Whatever happens, I need a new work-life balance March 9, 2012

Filed under: Gifted — Aerin Rainey @ 6:01 pm

I am busy getting ready for a job interview.  It’s an interview for a real, bonafide full-time job with benefits and everything.  A Communication Specialist reporting to the Director of Internal Communications for a humongous hotel chain.  Two weeks ago, I had no idea that I would be spending hundreds of dollars on a new suit, mining my memories for reasons why I am a great prospective employee, or buttering up past colleagues for a reference.

Now that I am applying for this job, of course I am determined to get it, to succeed at this job application, to be the best, to be the one to get the offer.  I wish I could be this driven in my personal life.  I would have finished all those painting projects and photo albums by now…

I have been thinking about going back to work for a while, though.  For a few reasons:

  1. If I wait longer or am forced to re-enter the working world farther down the road, it will be even more difficult to convince employers of my continued qualification.
  2. My children don’t seem to look at me as someone other than a hug-giver, chauffeur, laundry-folder, cook and cleaner-upper.  None of which count for anything.  I have heard them tons of times talking about how I don’t have a job.  Guess that means I’ll still be doing all that stuff and working full-time for $$ if I get hired.
  3. I’m bored.  Nothing is interesting or urgent in my life, so I don’t do any of it until I absolutely have to.  I have no discipline to keep my days structured and productive, and so with kids in school, I just end up spending time heedlessly.  I couldn’t even say what I do with all the time they are at school.
  4. I like working with language and communication tools.  I like them because they are designed to have a purpose.  Unlike this blog.  I relish the chance to sink my teeth into something and really take it as far as I can and achieve something with it.
  5. I want to work with intelligent, driven people who are experts in their field.  I’m tired of dumbing it down.  I want to be considered an expert.

Helping my sister-in-law with her university and college applications, or designing party invitations or forms for a fundraiser, or even producing a marketing brochure for my children’s school is all well and good.  But every time I do something like that, I realize I could do so much more!  And people say, “Oh, you should be an event planner!  You’re so good at that,” or “You should have a business helping people with resume-writing!” or whatever it is … so I guess I am not the only one who thinks so.

I hope the people who interview me on Monday will agree that I can do the job and would be so good at it!  As my husband said when I was in anguish over some aspect of this process, “What’s the worst that could happen?”  I jokingly answered, “They might actually offer me the job.”  I guess we’ll see …