GUEST COLUMN: When “It’s OK not to be OK” was a still universe away

Bob Boulton

Local residents are slowly being surrounded by Christmas – the Season of Emotions.

Bob Boulton

Some years ago, we used to think of ourselves as rational. Emotions were regarded as frivolous blocks to life’s important and serious matters – especially by men.

Only notable exceptions were allowed: family Thanksgiving table irritation, playoff game excitement, and falling in total and featherbrained love at a young age.

Goodness knows, few of us talked about mental, emotional or developmental disabilities. And goodness knows, no one I knew had even heard of the autism spectrum or ADHD.

If no wheelchair was in sight, how afflicted could a person be?

There were only good kids and bad kids and unusual kids. Smart, or not so smart.

Apparently, some people chose to be depressed or anxious or who knows what. In the immortal words of Cher in Moonstruck, the remedy was to, “Snap out of it!”

Superstar Olympic gymnast Simone Biles’ elegant truth that “It’s OK not to be OK” was still a universe away.

Aptitude, which is a natural liking or ability to do something, was another emotional concept seldom acknowledged or discussed.

Some people were said to have a talent (often preceded by the adjective God-given) for music or mathematics or throwing a baseball, but, for the most part, succeeding at what you were supposed to do well was a matter of “trying harder.” Cooking and sewing for girls. Building campfires and fixing cars for boys.

Achievements were applauded, of course, so long as the achiever’s head didn’t get too big. And they couldn’t “forget where they came from.”

In Grade 12, students in Sarnia were required to write the Scholastic Aptitude Test of Ontario. This was big stuff, because universities reviewed applicant test scores when determining whom to admit.

Not long after, I sat for the aptitude test our school Guidance Counsellor summoned me to his office, pulling me out of English class. I didn’t even know what a Guidance Counsellor was, but understood this couldn’t be good.

I had tried hard and done pretty well on the test overall. But I had scored so low on something called “mechanical dimension” that alarm bells rang and rockets went off.

I remember my score as ‘13’, but out of what I don’t know.

This test, I was told, was to be taken seriously. “Take it again. No fooling around.”

I was too intimidated to defend myself.

Bob Boulton is a Sarnia writer of stories, articles and light verse.