Sunday, March 27, 2016

Only Yesterday

Today I went to see a Studio Ghibli movie called "Only Yesterday." Apparently the movie was originally released in Japan in 1991, and was only recently dubbed due to the rights being held by Disney. Menstruation is a major part of a whole segment of the movie, and I suppose Disney wasn't down with that. The rights passed to another company a while back, though, so the movie finally got dubbed and released in the United States this year.

The movie is about a woman at a turning point in her life, who suddenly finds herself reliving memories of herself in the fifth grade. The movie switches back and forth between her present and her past in a way that feels almost disjointed, to be honest. Still, this look into the life of a normal young girl in Japan in the 60's was pretty cute and charming, though at some point my attention started to waiver. It's a slice of life movie, so if you plan on watching it, understand that it's going to be fairly slow-paced.

I think we all sometimes find ourselves dwelling on moments in our pasts, much like the main character in the film. Reflecting on the movie now mostly results in me reflecting on my own childhood. There isn't too much else to say about the film, so instead I'll see if I can conjure up some of my own grade-school memories; things I personally remember as if they were only yesterday.

That said, my memory of grade school isn't terribly vivid. Thinking back, mostly I can only recall brief moments, emotions, and locations. Let's see what I can remember from fifth grade specifically.

I think fifth grade was a fairly stressful year for me. I was pretty shy, and suddenly there were a bunch more kids in my grade level.

In south Louisiana, in the area I'm from, elementary schools were very local, with most of them teaching children from Kindergarten through the fourth grade. However, Montegut Elementary only taught kids through the third grade at the time. Afterward, we went to the Montegut Middle for the fourth grade.

Montegut Middle was a much bigger school, and a much newer building. It took students from Montegut Elementary, of course, as well as kids from nearby Pointe-aux-Chenes Elementary and Bourg Elementary. However, the Pointe-aux-Chenes and Bourg students didn't attend Montegut Middle until fifth grade, after I'd already started getting used to the school.Our classroom size exploded in the transition from fourth to fifth grade.

I'd been basically an outsider among my peers up to that point, and the sudden increase in people did not result in sudden friends. Rather, there was suddenly a lot more people to feel isolated from.

I recall faking illness a lot during that year. At some point I realized that if I simply told a teacher I needed to throw up, they'd let me run to the restroom. If someone else was in there, I'd go into a stall and fake retching sounds for a while. If not, I'd just stall for time for a while, try to make myself look haggard, and return to class asking to call home. My mom would come get me, and I'd escape school for a few hours.

I don't remember how many times I did this. Enough to have a strategy, at least. However, this one time, after getting myself excused to the restroom and hiding in a stall for a bit, a fellow student followed me in saying he'd been sent to check on me. They might have been sent out of genuine concern for my health, but I also suspected that the teacher had become suspicious of my frequent "illnesses" and had someone go to verify its authenticity.

I made a show of retching a bit, assured the kid I'd be okay, and ended up getting one last "sick" day. After that, though, I figured it was best to quit while I was ahead. It was good while it lasted, but suddenly I realized the risk of being exposed as a fraud, and the prospect of repercussions was enough to curb that habit.

Fifth grade was also the year I failed to try out for band (I wanted to play the trumpet, but I missed a meeting). I also got tested for a special Talented Art program, which I got into the next year. Coincidentally, it was the first year I met my friend Danny, though at the time he was just another kid who I came into conflict with over squatting rights for a tree during recess. I don't remember how that resolved, but we didn't become friends until the next year when we started attending that Talented Art program together.

Altogether, fifth grade was a turbulent time, as was the rest of middle school. As it's supposed to be. It's a time when we, as children, struggle most to figure out who we are and what we want out of this social structure we find ourselves thrust into almost every day. It's rough, and it's awkward, but I think I had a good time overall.

I came out of middle school reaffirmed of my outsider status, but I left the place with more friends than I entered it with. I survived, which is the most you can ask for out of middle school.

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