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A self-defining tale

By Don Young.

I loved school. I was a kid in a candy store when school was in session, all my senses were energized and brimming with expectation for the next new thing. Libraries were often my playgrounds, equal to the natural athletic prowess I demonstrated outdoors. I was one of the lucky ones. I had so much energy for everything. I wasn’t a bully and it never occurred to me to use my advantages against others. Life was great!

It was the fifth grade when it all changed.

We were nearing the end of another great school year and a class yearbook was going to be published. All the fifth grade classes were going to publish their finest stories, artwork, and essays in a single compendium of celebration. There was even going to be a crossword puzzle that would identify every classmate in the graduating fifth grade class. My friend Tim was in charge of the puzzle, supervised by our teacher, Mrs. Gould. I was not her favorite.

Mrs. Gould was tough. She demanded her students sit with their hands up front, folded and on the desk. If a student couldn’t do this, the option was to sit on your hands for the duration. I sat on my hands… often. And frankly I was happy to do so, I saw it as a sign of courage and rebellion. As a teacher, Mrs. Gould wasn’t passionate with positivity.

It was the last day of school and the yearbook was going to be handed out to everyone as we left for a summer of adventure. I was jazzed. What attribute would describe everyone, what would be the clue to unlock our portion of the puzzle? The puzzle solution would be upside down and inside the back cover, but I wasn’t going to sneak a look. I was now a fifth grade grad and knew my way around any old crossword! All my library time gave me an advanced vocabulary to draw from. Confidence was my companion.

I mentally went though the puzzle and solved the clues for all my friends, and a few I didn’t really know that well. But my space on the puzzle wasn’t clear to me. So forced to the back page and the clue…

“The kid with the biggest mouth.”

Everything changed. From that first day of summer on, I subscribed to what I was always told. “Speak only when spoken to.” “The good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.”

More than the beatings I absorbed as a kid, the fifth-grade graduation crossword left a mark. I remained friends with Tim, although we didn’t speak as often. Thinking of Mrs. Gould, I wondered how any adult could approve doing this to someone.

To this day I’m often the one that listens more than speaks.

At Overture we believe in looking to the power of our self-defining tales for insights into our strengths and weaknesses. Insights into how we are the way we are. Insights into how to be better in our work for our clients and ourselves. That fifth-grade day added one of those moments I’ve never forgotten to my self-defining tale.

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