Learnin’ is tough

A long time ago, and far, far, away from where I sit, I failed Grade 7. How the hell do you fail in elementary school? A few years later I would walk out of grade 11, about 3 days in to the new academic year, and with some crude (and perhaps inappropriate reflections on the sanity of my teacher) remarks wandered off.

That was a failure, both times, and in both cases in many individual ways.

Childhood, a time of wonder and exploration (what a misrepresentation that is) was cut short by doubt, by family troubles, by mental health problems. Oh, yes, even then there were strong indications of things gone wrong. Even in elementary school I had been ‘referred’ to the local health authority’s doctor’s attending to the mentally somewhat fouled up.

No more hall passes for this kid, no more hassle when I said ‘I’m going to the doctor,’ no need for note to excuse my absence.

But nobody ever told me ‘why,’ why me, out of all the kids in the skool that were a little off the bubble why was I the one considered problematic? The knives? Or the off-the-shelf meds? Or something else?

I don’t know. Didn’t know then, don’t know now, afraid to find out.

‘You’re psycho!!!’ my charming mother screamed at me one day.

Takes one to know one.

Besides, I knew by the time she said that, by the time I was 15, that I didn’t want to have kids. And that wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in women. ‘Girls’ would have been the term then, but now it seems wrong to use the term, when I’m old enough to be the great-grandfather of young women I though of as girls at that age… Great-grandfather? Yes, just do the math; if I had kids who became parents at the same age that I became sexually active, and their kids repeated the curse, I’d be a great grandfather by now. Indeed the kids would be – damn, doing the math I could be a great-great-grandfather.

Glad I didn’t allow any of that to happen, but the process of learning to not allow it was tough.

And school was tough. I just didn’t fit. Could out-think the tough kids, and out-tough the cool kids, my saving grace was charging the tough kids $20 a shot for essays in English class. That was in the days you wrote your essay by hand – and I told the tough kids that if they handed it in my handwriting that I’d beat the shit out of them, that if they ratted me out, I’d beat the shit out of them.

Well Cam Dagg thought he’d caught me cheating – but I earned that money, the tough kids took their lumps in ‘lowered marks,’ – and Dagg eventually got charged with sexual molestation of under-age boys. Underage boys assigned to his care by the justice system. Fucker. All that learnin’ was tough, too.

One day I walked in to the Registrar’s office at Vancouver Community College and when the staff asked how they could help ‘well, I was here in 1977, I think, I’m just trying to figure out when…’ After some diligent searching on the part of the staff I was informed that I’d been there twice; ‘oh, yes, in 1977, and again in 1985 (or 84, I can’t remember) to do great and wonderful learnin’.

The a desire, a need for proof that while maybe I’m psycho I’m not stupid, I got in to UBC via Langara College. And I graduated with a mark that was raising the ‘average graduating mark’ (or GPA if that’s your thing) that year. And that learnin’ was tough.

For reasons unclear to me much of this has been brought to the forefront of my day by two things; the first is sharing a quick note to someone about the collections of essays ‘Nobody’s Father,’ and the second is the sting of failure.

The second sting of failure.

Trust me, you want your first aid personnel to know what they’re doing. If you’re floating in the water, face down, non-responsive I have a pretty good idea what to do. Into the boat, check for consciousness, check for pulse, get help (assistance) start CPR, maintain CPR and (if your ticket say’s you trained that way, rescue breaths) just keep doing it until relieved…

I can do that. Adults from 50 kg to 140 kg I’ve managed to get in to a rescue boat, by myself. One time (and really not in ‘great’ danger) 10 people in 2 1/2 minutes. By myself.

So I’ll accept the offer of free training to a much, much higher level of first aid competency.

Four days of Hell.

I’d never heard of much of the stuff in the first aid kit. What’s BVM? A SAM splint, Spider strap? And all of this at great speed, in an atmosphere of RUSH, LOAD, LOUD, SCrEAminG…

I knew I’d fail. I read, and I read, I watched endless videos on youtube. I thought and I fought, and worked at it. How to read blood pressure (it’s actually a pretty simple, kind of cool thing, that sphygmomanometer) in a hurry, in a loud and echo’y room. Heart rate, systolic, diastolic, sinus rhythm, PoUNd, pouND, whoosh, shoosh.

And I failed.

I felt overwhelmed by the vast quantity of stuff I didn’t know coming in to the course, the amount I had never heard of, the screams of gloved patients, the sense of unreality in so many ways.

And now I have to do some of it again – this time on my birthday – is practice, it’s not the real deal, it is filling in as the ‘body’ in a group short one person. But I will have to do it.

Learning. It’s tough.

SVOP (Small Vessel Operator Proficiency) is next, after the Marine Advanced First Aid, not because I’ll be any more or less Proficient, but I’ll have some slip of paper that says I’m proficient.

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