So, I don’t really remember my eighth year as being great.

I’m pretty sure that’s the year one of my friends slapped me at my birthday party. It’s definitely the year my teacher turned out to be a horrible woman.

Every year there was always a big deal over who our teacher would be. I think it’s still like that now. Mr So-and-So is THE BEST, and Miss XYZ is super hard, but Mrs Q is really mean. . . . Anyway, I had my heart set on a particular teacher. She went to our church and I thought she was just wonderful.

Turns out she was not.

What I remember most about that year is the way she treated one of the boys in our class. Now, he would be identified at ADHD, I expect. His family life wasn’t great, and he definitely had attention and behavior problems. He was really sweet, but very disruptive. I think most of us in the class actually quite liked him, even if we found him a bit odd and difficult.

Our teacher, though.

Well, I guess she too found him difficult. Too difficult.

There was nothing back then to prevent teachers from whacking students. And, boy, did she whack him. She used to use a ruler across his hand. She would make him come to the front of the class and she would hit him on the hand with the ruler. I clearly remember her hitting him so hard and so many times one day that the ruler broke.

He was in the ‘special’ class for math or reading. I can’t remember which. That teacher also went to my church. That teacher used to take him to the PE coach and have the coach hit him on the backside with a paddle while she held one of his arms and the coach held the other.

These images still haunt me.

So that was being 8.

I was 8, and depression was setting in, and addiction was taking its early grip, and I was beginning to see the world for what it was.

That, I’m sure, is a cynical view.

But, you know, I think my eighth year is when I became cynical.

And that’s awfully young to start being bitter.

I didn’t want to be bitter. I didn’t know what bitter was. I certainly didn’t know what cynical was.

I wanted to be popular.

Pathetic, but true.

I wasn’t one of those insightful, worldly, noble children who carve out their own space. No, I wanted to be normal. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to look and dress and feel like normal people.

So, I tried.

Not to great success.

Now, of course, I see, I know, I realise that my inability to fit in back then has turned into one of my greatest assets.

Then, I was a kid who wanted to fit in.

But I didn’t.

So, I set my sights on escaping.

I would get out.

I would forge my path somewhere else.