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Learning to be a left-handed brain in a right-handed world

Mentors that helped me to be me

By Karen CavePublished about a year ago 5 min read
Me now, as captured by my daughter!

As a child, I was often told off for daydreaming, or for appearing not to listen, particularly at school. Actually, my brain was incredibly active, and I was acutely aware of what was going on around me.

I think that I struggled with the schooling system, with the way huge amounts of information were thrown at me. Yet, in terms of complex situations, my brain processed things quickly. I understood a lot, quickly, and felt things deeply.

The first person who helped me function better in the world day to day, as a left-hander, was my aunt Carol, my mum's sister.

I was left-handed, and this was in the 1980s.

I don't remember anybody explaining to me what that meant, or helping me when I struggled. A big memory from when I was about nine, is when we had to make a story book at school, and illustrate each written page with a picture on the opposite page. I completed mine, and then was told off by a classroom assistant, as I had began the story on the 'back' page, and worked through to the 'front' of the exercise book. I had 'done it wrong. Done it back to front.' I hadn't realised that us left-handers have an instinct to write from right to left, instead of left to right!

I also remember there being blue 'left-handed' scissors at primary school, and red 'right-handed' ones. I was ultra confused as I assumed I would also use scissors with my left hand, but couldn't get the blue ones to work. It turns out I am a bit ambidextrous and in fact cut with my right hand!

One day at home, my aunt was visiting and saw that I was struggling, and noticed the ink smears up my left wrist. She told me that she was also left-handed, and sat with me to show me how to angle the pages differently so that I was writing 'away' from my writing, not smudging my wrist and hand across what I had already written. This short lesson in page angles was a game-changer for me, as from then on I found writing so much easier (plus my work was much tidier and not smudged!)

The other person who had a big influence on me, was my primary school teacher Mr Cullum. He was like nobody else I had ever met, he was a Buddhist for one. Plus he was pretty old for a teacher, as he was sixty. He always wore blue; blue slacks and blue jumpers. He was into fitness, walked and ran a lot, and had white shaved hair and piercing blue eyes.

I looked up to him, and I wanted his approval. I liked him, and felt safe with him. Home didn't always feel very safe as I had a father who was terrifying, distant and tyrannical. Mr Cullum was perhaps the kind father substitute I needed?

It's funny really - my father hated him. He was probably threatened by him because I was close to him. Many decades later, I talked to my mum and found out that she couldn't stand the guy either. Isn't that bizarre? This man was an important part of my life for years, I idolised him a bit, and both my parents hated him!

The reason my mum gave was that he was responsible for 'filling my head with nonsense.' I.e. he taught us curiosity about the world, about life, about nature. He made us ask questions about what went on around us.

Remember me mentioning earlier that I had been a bit of a dreamer, with a busy mind? Well I was that person long before I met Mr Cullum. He didn't create my curiosity, he nurtured it, allowed it to come forward. He allowed me to see that it was okay to ask questions.

Despite what my parents thought about Mr Cullum, he was an important mentor for me, and I think he gave me a sense of stability at a time I needed it. I always remembered him, and when we left that school to go to senior school, I missed his presence, and the things he had helped me to learn. He was nice to me. That is such an understated quality in a mentor. Someone who is nice to you and who helps you see the world around you with wider eyes...

Another memory of Mr Cullum just came back to me. During playtime I found a pound coin on the ground. Being the honest little person that I was, I handed it in to my teacher. It was a huge amount of money to me back then! I think it was probably two week's pocket money!

A few days later Mr Cullum called me over as everybody else filed out for lunch. He did a magic trick, revealing the pound coin in his hand with a flourish. "Here you go, it's yours,' he told me with a smile. 'Nobody claimed it, so it's finders keepers.' I remember bounding home that day with a spring in my step. My mentor did that.

After leaving school I heard that he'd had a heart attack, and had to slow right down. I remember not fully understanding what a heart attack was. I just hoped that he hadn't died, and that he went on to live a long fruitful life, mentoring many other children.

As I creep into my fourth decade, I remember these important people more and more. Those who help us, teach us ways to be and ways to think, those who are there for us, helping us navigate a tricky part of life; these are all the things that make mentors so important to us.

These days I get to help mentor my own daughter, helping her navigate life, making her laugh, and there is no greater feeling in this world, to know that I am helping to shape a little human being as she finds her way in the world.


About the Creator

Karen Cave

A mum, a friend to many and I love to explore dark themes and taboos in my writing. I am an optimist with a dark side...

Hope you enjoy! I appreciate all likes, comments - and please share if you'd like more people to see my work.

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