Overcoming The Clown
As I entered my final year of primary school at age 10, I had one singular wish. I wanted nothing more than to be a student road warden who helped kids to cross the road at the pedestrian crossings near our school.
I wanted to wear the bright orange vest. I wanted to swing out the big orange signs. I wanted to have the power to stop traffic, and to be seen as the responsible one who was providing a public service. I had been watching older kids play this role for years, and to me it seemed the pinnacle of earned respect.
I put my name forward at the beginning of the year, and waited expectantly. When I found out that my application had been declined, I was crushed. The message, relayed through my parents, was that my maturity levels were not high enough to take on this important responsibility. I was seen as too silly, always clowning about. It was a devastating blow, and I was angry and confused.
I couldn’t understand how the adults would assume that just because I liked to make people laugh and be silly in the schoolyard, that I couldn’t be serious when the situation warranted it?
There was nothing I took more seriously than crossing the road, and so I was surprised to learn that by being silly in contexts where it was appropriate and harmless, that people would assume that I lacked the ability to turn it off and sincerely focus on a task. Even as a ten year old I innately knew that people are multidimensional and behave in different ways in different contexts.
This familiar situation played out again in my final year of high school, when the school went through the process of selecting the head girl, the deputy, and a group of prefects. I had been involved in a lot of extracurricular activities, I got pretty good grades, and was for the most part polite and respectful of my teachers. Although I had no expectations nor aspiration to become head girl or deputy, I was surprised when I was once again overlooked for prefect selection. Looking back, it might have had something to do with being caught running down a dorm hallway late at night in a Scream mask by the…