While other young grade-schoolers may remember happy, carefree days with their friends, I was extremely shy and barely talked to anyone. I excelled in taking exams and writing essays but did poorly in recitation and extracurricular activities. In short, I had many sad, lonely days in school although I never felt the need to stop attending my classes. I truly enjoyed studying and listening to class lectures. My school day memories are then filled with downs in terms of socialization before they became ups. I remember being insecure of myself and having no friends until I developed self-esteem through drawing and praying.
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My best experience was graduating high school. Starting high school was a whole new phase in my life. High School made my whole life changed around and made me realize it’s time to grow up. I met many new people and many new friends. I enjoyed going to school dances with a group of my friends. During my years of high school, I changed from a charter school to a catholic school. I have many memories from my high school years.
But of course the differences between home and school were morethan physical. That bump on the hard mattress, on the first nightof term, used to give me a feeling of abrupt awakening, a feelingof: 'This is reality, this is what you are up against.' Your homemight be far from perfect, but at least it was a place ruled bylove rather than by fear, where you did not have to be perpetuallyon your guard against the people surrounding you. At eight yearsold you were suddenly taken out of this warm nest and flung into aworld of force and fraud and secrecy, like a gold-fish into a tankfull of pike. Against no matter what degree of bullying you had noredress. You could only have defended yourself by sneaking, which,except in a few rigidly defined circumstances, was the unforgivablesin. To write home and ask your parent to take you away would havebeen even less thinkable, since to do so would have been to admityourself unhappy and unpopular, which a boy will never do. Boys areErewhonians: they think that misfortune is disgraceful and must beconcealed to all cost. It might perhaps have been consideredpermissible to complain to your parents about bad food, or anunjustified caning, or some other ill-treatment inflicted bymasters and not by boys. The fact that Sambo never beat the richerboys suggests that such complaints were made occasionally. But inmy own peculiar circumstances I could never have asked my parentsto intervene on my behalf. Even before I understood about thereduced fees, I grasped that they were in some way under anobligation to Sambo, and therefore could not protect me againsthim. I have mentioned already that throughout my time at StCyprian's I never had a cricket bat of my own. I had been told thiswas because 'your parents couldn't afford it'. One day in theholidays, by some casual remark, it came out that they had providedten shillings to buy me one: yet no cricket bat appeared. I did notprotest to my parents, let alone raise the subject with Sambo. Howcould I? I was dependent on him, and the ten shillings was merely afragment of what I owed him. I realize now, of course, that it isimmensely unlikely that Sambo had simply stuck to the money. Nodoubt the matter had slipped his memory. But the point is that Iassumed that he had stuck to it, and that he had a right to do soif he chose.
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Whoever writes about his childhood must beware of exaggerationand self-pity. I do not claim that I was a martyr or that StCyprian's was a sort of Dotheboys Hall. But I should be falsifyingmy own memories if I did not record that they are largely memoriesof disgust. The over crowded, underfed underwashed life that we ledwas disgusting, as I recall it. If I shut my eyes and say 'school',it is of course the physical surroundings that first come back tome: the flat playing field with its cricket pavilion and the littleshed by the rifle range, the draughty dormitories, the dustysplintery passages, the square of asphalt in front of thegymnasium, the raw-looking pinewood chaplet at the back. And atalmost every point some filthy detail obtrudes itself. For example,there were the pewter bowls out of which we had our porridge. Theyhad overhanging rims, and under the rimes there were accumulationsof sour porridge, which could be flaked off in ling strips. Theporridge itself, too, contained more lumps, hairs and unexplainedblack things than one would have thought possible, unless someonewere putting them there on purpose. It was never safe to start onthat porridge without investigating it first. And there was theslimy water of the plunge bath--it was twelve or fifteen feet long,the whole school was supposed to go into it every morning, and Idoubt whether the water was changed at all frequently--and thealways-damp towels with their cheesy smell: and, on occasionalvisits in the winter, the murky sea-water of the local Baths, whichcame straight in from the beach and on which I once saw floating ahuman turd. And the sweaty smell of the changing-room with itsgreasy basins, and, giving on this, the row of filthy, dilapidatedlavatories, which had no fastenings of any kind on the doors, sothat whenever you were sitting there someone was sure to comecrashing in. It is not easy for me to think of my schooldayswithout seeming to breathe in a whiff of something cold andevil-smelling--a sort of compound of sweaty stockings, dirtytowels, faecal smells blowing along corridors, forks with old foodbetween the prongs, neck-of-mutton stew, and the banging doors ofthe lavatories and the echoing chamber-pots in the dormitories.
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While looking through my stacks of pictures, I realizehow important the memories in my all-school photos are to me. One particular picture, from ninth grade, isespecially significant not because I like to look at what my classmates orteachers looked like, but because it reminds me of how much my life has changedsince the beginning of high school. Foryears, school has been a part of almost everything I do and, except perhaps formy parents, has shaped my future more than anything else. High school has not been the only cause ofchange for me in the last three years, but it played a pivotal role. Not only did school teach me math, English,and lots of other subjects, but it also changed my outlook on life in ways Inow realize aren’t immediately obvious, even to me.
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And this partly accounts for the needless ramifications ofDickens's novels, the awful Victorian 'plot'. It is true that notall his novels are alike in this. A TALE OF TWO CITIES is a verygood and fairly simple story, and so in its different ways is HARDTIMES; but these are just the two which are always rejected as 'notlike Dickens'–and incidentally they were not published inmonthly numbers. The two first-person novels are also good stories,apart from their subplots. But the typical Dickens novel, NICHOLASNICKLEBY, OLIVER TWIST, MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT, OUR MUTUAL FRIEND,always exists round a framework of melodrama. The last thing anyoneever remembers about the books is their central story. On the otherhand, I suppose no one has ever read them without carrying thememory of individual pages to the day of his death. Dickens seeshuman beings with the most intense vividness, but sees them alwaysin private life, as 'characters', not as functional members ofsociety; that is to say, he sees them statically. Consequently hisgreatest success is The PICKWICK PAPERS, which is not a story atall, merely a series of sketches; there is little attempt atdevelopment–the characters simply go on and on, behaving likeidiots, in a kind of eternity. As soon as he tries to bring hischaracters into action, the melodrama begins. He cannot make theaction revolve round their ordinary occupations; hence thecrossword puzzle of coincidences, intrigues, murders, disguises,buried wills, long-lost brothers, etc. etc. In the end even peoplelike Squeers and Micawber get sucked into the machinery.