I have always marveled at the human learning process and thanks to an excellent memory, I can easily recall my first day of school and all that it taught me. I entered Kindergarten with no real expectations other than the hope that I would soon learn to read so that I could choose programs to watch from the TV Guide just like my parents did. I was too young for prejudices and had no interest in confrontations. Sadly, I would quickly learn about and encounter both.
Thanks to a series of allergy medications, I had gained a bit more weight than would have been the norm for my age at that time. I became an instant target of ridicule by most of my Kindergarten classmates after the teacher made a comment about my weight. Dennis was the exception. He was a very normal looking American kid with sandy hair and freckles. While the other children busied themselves looking for ways to berate me further, Dennis just wanted to play 'store' and that's what we did with the toys available until lunch.
At lunch the teacher gave out pints of milk and some cookies. She told the class that she was short of milks by one and decided that I would not get any. I brushed this off on my first day as a fluke, but it kept happening every day for a week until I told my parents about it. They came in the next morning and the teacher told them that she was trying to teach her class a social lesson. I didn't know what she was talking about. All I knew was that I was thirsty and felt singled out. My parents removed me from that school the same day.
I did learn some lessons from that Kindergarten class: I learned that life is not always fair, that people will stack the cards against you for any reason at all, and that you sometimes have to lose something important to you to gain something more important. I lost my friend Dennis, but gained a new school where I was treated as an equal and given a fresh shot as long as I chose to take it. I did and thrived in a class where I was not singled out because of the way I looked. I did not let the prejudices of my previous class infect me with hatred or a desire for revenge. I eventually recognized that all this was part of the amazing human learning process and that as long as I learned from it, moved forward and did not look back, I could easily turn that negative into a positive.
Now some fifty years later, I take people at face value thanks to my brief friendship with Dennis. That was what he did and it left an impression on me. That doesn't mean that I am not careful with regard to my choice of friends and associates, but I give everyone the benefit of the doubt when we first meet. I also give people second chances just like the one I received in the new Kindergarten class. I believe that prejudice and preconceived notions about everyone and everything can lead a person's life in a direction that is always shifted into reverse.
I hate to sound like a motivational speaker, but it is true that if you are not a forward thinker you cannot move your life forward. I meet people every year who are hopelessly mired in their own past. Many of them base their likes and dislikes on pleasing or displeasing relatives, friends and enemies. They have allowed themselves to become what exactly what someone else wants them to be. That is the disadvantage of intentionally or unintentionally starting out with someone else's idea of who you should be as a life priority that influences all your choices.
The good news is that no matter where you are in your life, you can wipe the slate clean and start over with YOU in the driver's seat that was once occupied by the actions of others. While I was in college I won a minor essay contest that garnered me two tickets to a seminar about the art of business negotiation. It was to take place while I was at home on Long Island during summer break and I was less than thrilled about going. I was not a business major and didn't really want to brave a long and hot subway ride into Manhattan during August for nothing. However, I finally decided to attend the event after a close friend of mine begged me to go and take him along. He was a business major.
To my surprise the Speaker was enlightened, well-spoken and provided insightful thoughts that could be applied to just about any area of a person's life. The thing he said that made the biggest impression on me was that he woke up every morning with the attitude that every day was a new day, and he meant that literally. In terms of pure business thought: He said that if he had made an enemy the day before and that cost him something, he would rectify that situation the next day when cooler heads prevailed.
I really could not forget his observation that every day was a new day with him and that starting out with a fresh point of view could be advantageous in so many ways. He added to that thought by telling the people gathered in that crowded auditorium that part of making each day a new day was looking and moving forward instead of back. He made it clear that he was not going to allow anyone to choose his path, dictate the way he acted or influence any of the the decisions he made. That seminar left a lasting impression on me. I have put the ideas that were thrown out during those two intense hours to work in my own life and helped others to do the same. I have made personal adjustments and placed up guard rails of common sense, safety and reason along my route to taking everyone at face value and starting each day afresh, but I always try move forward and refuse to live in the past. The past is a mental slave driver and guilt machine that most people will never be able to leave behind as long as they allow it to rule their lives. By the way, that Speaker was a guy named Trump.
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