I have lived for seventy-six years now and rarely have been given a single positive word for anything I have ever done. I remember my father once saying, “Charles, you do good work; we don’t see much of it, but you do do good work.” Although my father was never mean to me he wasn’t supportive either. And, because I was a smart-ass kid, I developed the habit of sarcasm and making verbal fun of everyone and everything, including my teachers and friends. I probably learned that sarcasm from my father as is perceived in that backhanded compliment I remember him giving me.
People thought of me as arrogant and often told me so in high-school, but honestly I never knew what my problem was, and it has taken me a lifetime to even recover a little social perspective, and what I should do about my social problems. I don’t feel any hostility toward these people who never gave me any support; it was my own personal misbehavior which was driving it away. I have decades long friends who have similar problems.
This token of appreciation came about because of a little essay I wrote last week in the newsletter for these people about how the physical qualities of a building affects the emotional responses and thus the ongoing relationships of the people within the structure. Unbeknownst to me, people read this in-house newsletter and a dozen or so people came up to me and thanked me for my essay. Totally outside of any official recognition, Dale, who happened to have this rose, came up to me and gave it to me, saying it was a little gift to me for my beautiful essay. This was such a unique experience for me that I immediately gave my pocket camera to Duncan who took this picture.
I do take nice pictures and have some hanging in the local library at present, which is a mild sort of respect for having done something worthwhile. But this is the first time ever I have received a physical recognition for an essay. When in high-school and college I never received a grade higher than a D- for any writing — ever — even though the English teachers would always read my 500-word weekly essays to the class. What a difference it would have made if just once, just one of them had given me a single word of support. I guess they thought I knew I had some abilities, because I was such an arrogant smart-ass, but kids really have no way of knowing what their skills are without some conversation with people who do have some worldly experience, and thus kids’ behavior is often inappropriate to authority figures. When kids have even a little conversation with even one of these more experienced people, enough conversation to develop a little trust in their worldly experience, then they can easily change their life orientation. I never had any of those conversations with authorities and developed my whole way of being from coffee-house conversations with peers. Fortunately I chose to get involved with good people over the years, and learned to avoid developing really bad habits, so even in Berkeley I didn’t fall into an abyss, like many people around me did.
What you see when you see me is a self-created person. Good, bad and indifferent, it’s just me and I hold no one responsible for my lack of life success other than me. However, I really did love getting that rose.