Thursday, July 15, 2010
"It's really prompted by a conversation I had with a wonderful woman who maybe most people have never heard of, she's called Gillian Lynne, have you heard of her? Some have. She's a choreographer and everybody knows her work. She did "Cats," and "Phantom of the Opera." She's wonderful. I used to be on the board of the Royal Ballet, in England, as you can see. Anyway, Gillian and I had lunch one day and I said, "Gillian, how'd you get to be a dancer?" And she said it was interesting, when she was at school, she was really hopeless. And the school, in the '30s, wrote to her parents and said, "We think Gillian has a learning disorder." She couldn't concentrate, she was fidgeting. I think now they'd say she had ADHD. Wouldn't you? But this was the 1930s, and ADHD hadn't been invented at this point. It wasn't an available condition. (Laughter) People weren't aware they could have that.
Anyway, she went to see this specialist. So, this oak-paneled room, and she was there with her mother, and she was led and sat on a chair at the end, and she sat on her hands for 20 minutes while this man talked to her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school. And at the end of it -- because she was disturbing people, her homework was always late, and so on, little kid of eight -- in the end, the doctor went and sat next to Gillian and said, "Gillian, I've listened to all these things that your mother's told me, and I need to speak to her privately." He said, "Wait here, we'll be back, we won't be very long." and they went and left her. But as they went out the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk. And when they got out the room, he said to her mother, "Just stand and watch her." And the minute they left the room, she said, she was on her feet, moving to the music. And they watched for a few minutes and he turned to her mother and said, "Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn't sick, she's a dancer. Take her to a dance school."
I said, "What happened?" She said, "She did. I can't tell you how wonderful it was. We walked in this room and it was full of people like me. People who couldn't sit still. People who had to move to think." "
Mr Grey sent me this yesterday. It's the only TED talk that has ever made me tear up. Right around the time he told this story.
You see, when I was about 10 years old, I was this exceptionally spacey child. I was solitary and I liked reading and was always always nose deep in some book or another.
And one day, one of my teachers took my parents aside and told them that I had a problem. I was day dreaming too much and that if they didn't stop me, I would fail all my exams and then terrible things would happen.
So one day while I was at school, my parents went home and removed every single fiction book, every single fairy tale and every single non school related book in the house. They left the encyclopaedia sets, the Reader's Digest and the assessment books. The rest, they all got boxed up and dumped into storage somewhere.
I came home from school that day and practically went into shock. Then when they got home from work, they sat down and told me that dreaming was a bad thing, that I had a problem and this was the cure. They told me that if they didn't do this, I would dream my life away.
Later, when I was 11, they told me that if I went on day dreaming, I might end up being autistic - if I wasn't already.
I don't blame my parents because I don't think they really understood what they did - and it is with a desperate sadness, not anger that I write this. They're hard headed Asian professionals and they weren't prepared for a dreamer of a child and were at their wits end when it came to dealing with the absent minded, spacey child who nattered on about, well, nonsensical things. To them, it was alien; it was a "condition". For better or worse, they were stuck with me and I was stuck with them and by the grace of God, we survived each other.
(Although I do think that I was lucky they hadn't heard of ADHD too - otherwise I might have also been put on medication.)
Anyway, I was pretty old by the time I realized there were actually other people like me. Who liked the same stuff I liked. And he's right, it was wonderful. It really was.