Patrick is working on a Storyworth project with his children and grandchildren—they pose the questions, he writes the answers. We started this project to test the memoir-writing platform, to see if we would recommend it to our friends. Although it has a few shortcomings, which we'll discuss in later posts, overall we like it. If you've used Storyworth or something similar, tell us about your experience in the comments section that follows Patrick's latest entry. It's a good question—being a teenager is stressful, and Patrick's essay doesn't pretend otherwise.
Question: What were you like as a teenager?
My transition from childhood to teenage years occurred the day my parents sent me to a boarding school, at age twelve.
I knew my mother hated her own experience of boarding school, and I learned later that my father did, too—but they grew up in tiny villages where no school was available after the village elementary school. Boarding school was the price to pay for being educated.
My situation was entirely different: We were living in Paris, and the boarding school was only five or six metro stations from home. Why did it happen? It took me many years to understand.
My parents, being snobs, decided that a good education was in an exclusive private school—as a boarder! Why a boarder when I was living literally a forty-minute walk away? The lame excuse was that I could concentrate better on my studies. The real reason, in my opinion, was to teach me to be independent. There, they succeeded beyond their expectations.
Being only twelve at the time, I couldn’t grasp the utility of a boarding school for me when I was living nearby, so I became rebellious and decided to get myself expelled to embarrass my parents. I succeeded there, too. I developed also an abandonment sentiment, being convinced that they wanted me away as much as they could manage. They succeeded there, as the next high school was some six hundred kilometers away, and instead of coming home on weekends, I was coming to Paris only three times a year. I dreaded these trips, as I knew my stay would start with an update of my grades, which were less than satisfactory, and end with being slapped. For a couple of days I enjoyed the remaining vacation.
Being poorly supervised (if at all), I became very independent, and I relied only on myself. Having no pocket-money allowance, I became an expert in making money. At a point, I was a master smuggler and managed to purchase a brand-new motorcycle. I was raiding the wine reserves of the local farmers and selling the loot to a couple of bars.
At a younger age, I learned to open my mouth mainly to eat. I wasn’t allowed to talk unless asked to do so. I learned to be a loner. I was never allowed to go to a friend’s house to play, as I would have been obliged to return the invitation, and my mother explained to me that she didn’t want kids from parents “below us” to enter our house, because you never know … I’m sure the rule was only for my parents’ comfort and the fear of meeting different people. Later it pushed me to discover different people and cultures, starting in high school.
Going away from home was then my goal. I succeeded!