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Education, continued..... - Livin' the Good Life

Feb. 16th, 2009

07:27 am - Education, continued.....

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Then there was my little Gabriel. His idea of "going to school" meant "going to play with your friends". And that is all he wanted to do. When his kindergarten year arrived, he was raring to go. His best friends were going, and he was too! There was no question in my mind that my social butterfly would be going to school. He was a very adaptable child who let things roll off his back, so the many things I didn't like about school didn't seem to effect him. His classroom style was to quickly do all his work and then talk. The teachers at teacher conferences always said the same thing, "Gabe has too much energy to sit all day. He gets his work done fast, then he asks to go outside and play, but I can't let him." So Gabe would talk to everyone, wiggle around in his seat, get up and move around the classroom, and just enjoy himself. The teachers loved him because he was so bright and amiable and fun to have around. But, he just couldn't sit still!! I remember him coming home from school, throwing his books on the table, and running outside. He would race around the yard, letting off steam, or he'd hop on his bike and ride as fast as he could! (We had him in sports like swimming and soccer continuously, which really helped take care of his physical needs.) I'll always remember an incident that typifies what Gabe was like back then: He came racing by me in the kitchen at top speed with a big smile on his face and a wild gleam in his eyes and I said, "S-e-t-t-l-e d-o-w-n, Gabe!!" And he said, grinning, "What's the good of livin' if you can't have a little fun?" (I laughed and agreed with him and told him to please go have fun in the other room.) It was typical for Gabe to say, when asked what he'd learned that day at school, "Oh, we learned the 8's times tables, AGAIN. We've been learning that all week, but I got it the first time." It was clear that Gabe was bored acedemically. But, he had so much fun with friends each day that he didn't seem to care. In his mind, he wasn't there to learn. He was there to play. The better teachers had him pegged as a leader and would use his high energy to help direct the class. Gabe could be a real rascal and he loved playing practical jokes. (He would have LOVED to take his "woopie cushion" to school! That would have made his whole school year!) Gabe got along well in the schoolyard because he was athletic and easy going. He had multiple crushes on girls, and I found many amusing notes in his backpack to prove it! In retrospect, I wish Gabe could have been in more accelerated and stimulating programs in school. But, there just were none. He was elected president of his class in 7th grade, and served as "ambassador" throughout junior high. That meant that he was a host to new students and helped them meet people and find their way around school. This was a natural job for Gabe. Acedemically, he got excellent grades, but he was bored. He put on a little weight (which often happens with boys around 11 or 12, just before they hit puberty) and began feeling out of sorts with himself. He couldn't relate to the body he was in and didn't feel as coordinated as he always had been. I later found out that kids like this are at risk. And he was. At one point, he decided that the smart kids were not the cool kids, and he started hanging out with the kids who didn't do well in school and who got in trouble. This was the beginning of a hard period for Gabe which culminated in him taking the California High School Proficiency Exam at age 15 and leaving school behind. I was glad he left.
Gabe had lots of great adventures once he started directing his own life. One notable one was that he rode his bicycle from Ventura CA to Eugene OR. He set off alone, with his backpack and his tent, and rode up the coast against a relentless headwind, arriving tired but triumphant in Eugene a couple of weeks later. He lived in Hawaii for a few years, working and surfing some pretty dangerous waves. He and his brother and a friend had a near-death experience when during a challenging hike up a canyon they got caught on a ledge during a sudden raging storm with the rising river lapping at their feet, and spent 17 hours like this, mentally preparing themselves to die. He worked winters at a ski resort, snowboarding on his time off. He was known for performing dangerous maneuvers, like high jumps that caused him to fly through the air at heights he still refuses to tell me, for fear of scaring me. He lived on a ranch for a year, working hard from sun up to sun down doing things like building fences and dismanteling a huge barn. He and his brothers started a band called ABANDON SHIP in which he sharpened his chops as a quitar player (he is a talented musician), and in recent years he has become a drummer... a very appropriate instrument for a highly physical person like Gabe.
I've since come to believe that many teenagers need much more adventuring than they get. Sitting at desks, reading and writing all day, are not natural ways for teenage boys to use their energies. If we could have sent Gabe on Outward Bound programs or other exciting and challenging adventures that stretched him in the ways he needed to stretch, he may have avoided a pretty painful period of his life. But, he claims that it all happened for the good and has no particular regrets. He's quite philosophical about it.
When Gabe was 20, he discovered meditation. He went to an ashram and meditated for two weeks in complete silence. This was the beginning of a spiritual quest and practise which got him grounded and focused. Then, he discovered Bikram-style yoga, a very athletic kind of yoga, and the rest is history. He has been a serious and dedicated yoga student ever since. He went for an intense three month yoga teacher training in Hawaii two years ago, and today he teaches yoga in Eugene six days a week. He plans to open his own studio.
At the national yoga competition in LA last week, as I observed Gabe standing shoulder to shoulder with all the other male competitors, I was struck by how serious, and handsome, and manly he looked. (I swear, he looked like Superman!) No more little boy running through the kitchen bouncing off the walls. No more kid who only wants to play. This guy, this focused, grown man, is obviously going somewhere.