The sweat was beating down my face as I mopped the dusty floor. Peering through a nearby window, my coworkers and I saw children running, jumping and flinging themselves on a slip n’ slide. We could only imagine the feeling of the chill water on our sweaty overworked bodies. For the kids, it was freedom, and time for camp. Meanwhile, for myself, I was stuck mopping the floors of their school for an entire summer.
I realized I made a mistake when it was eighty-eight degrees outside and I was cleaning my first elementary school on the first day of summer. It was my first job and it was unclear to me that all the good ones are taken at the beginning of spring. I was new to this. I didn’t start looking for a way to get money until my sophomore year started to wind down. With a month left in school, I was told to get a job. After asking around, I found myself locked in a room, and getting peppered by five school janitors during an interview. It was my only option and concluding that meeting, I found myself intrigued by the opportunity. I soon realized that they spiced up the tasks one would do as a member of the “summer student custodial staff”. We had to clean four schools by the end of the summer. We were required to clear out every room, wax the floors, reset the rooms, along with some miscellaneous tasks.
Arriving on my first day was dreadful because I soon found that I and a few others were the only ones motivated. There were five that worked and three that slacked. It didn’t seem too bad, numbers-wise, but we realized that we should be so grateful. We found that almost every week, at least one or two of the hardworking kids would be on their full week breaks. This left much work to be done and the pulling of others weight. After working for about a week, I found an interest in going back to the schools I spent years at as a child. Every so often I would reminisce about the good times, allowing me to see how I have grown as a person over time. As I moved from school to school, I reflected on how I morphed into the being I am today.
I got my first taste of the job where I got my first taste of school, Mary Finn Elementary. The first thing I noticed about the school was the fact that everything was microscopic compared to the high school. Chairs that barely stood two feet left me shocked when thinking that I was that little, once upon a time. The nostalgia hit when I rolled up the carpet in my kindergarten class and watched the place in which I sat, coil away. Everywhere I could see myself as a little blonde boy exploring the life of a schoolboy. I watched myself at the finger painting station, creating a bouquet of hand flowers for a Mother's day present. After looking back on these years at this school, I soon realized that I wasn’t very independent. I was a shadow of a classmate. I was incapable of thinking for myself. This led to my first trip to the principal's office, after following the actions of my first-grade buddies. When I walked into the computer room I saw three goofballs slapping their own butts and attempting to hit an imaginary ball over the fence in Fenway Park. I was the last one to join the home run derby and wouldn't have had that trip to the office if I wasn't a follower.
After two weeks of cleaning the first school, our crew moved to the next one that was on the list. Within five minutes of being at Woodward Elementary, the memories shot into my head. Next, to the front door, pictures of the staff filled the wall. On it, I saw many familiar faces, of teachers that I had, and ones I wish I had. My tendency to follow others came with me to the next school. Going into second grade I wished for two teachers. One of which my brother had, and the other of which my buddy from the Finn computer lab had. I was hoping to get one of these two teachers that I had no connection to and knew nothing about. On the second to last day that I worked at Woodward, I walked into the breakroom for lunch and saw that there were no tables and the full-time custodians were cleaning it. I was tired and couldn't wait for the week to be over, which caused me to have little motivation and moral that day. We didn't each lunch in the breakroom that day, instead, we ate in the library. As the doors swung, I saw myself as an eight-year-old, wearing a white wig, and holding a key with and kite laced to it. I was giving my speech on Benjamin Franklin. My energy was with me that day. I was so happy to be there and so proud to be giving my presentation to my classmates and parents. On that day that I couldn't have been more happy to be working, as I realized that this was a turning point in my childhood. In result of this presentation, I grew a sense of confidence and started to become more comfortable with my personality. This led to me relying less on others and becoming more independent.
The deeper we got into summer, the more we disliked this terribly boring job. However, as we got deeper into the summer, vivid flashbacks occurred more frequent due to the fact that I was at these schools not long ago. The first room I cleaned at Margaret Neary, was my fourth grade classroom and I immediately remembered the first time I met one of my best friends. He was the “new kid”. I never pictured myself being friends with a “new kid”. I didn't think I was comfortable with myself enough to try to interact with someone who was of another place. After gaining confidence, I was able to become great friends with Gunnar. In the past, I always followed the actions of others, but it wasn't like that this time. We were equals in the friendship. As I entered the room across the hall, I saw the empty version of Mr. Curtis’s band room?? rather a closet. When I saw the shape of the room, all of the fake plants, disco lights, and stuffed dummies came back and the memories started to flow. Beside me were Gunnar and the rest of the saxophone section. Most of my other friends didn't play an instrument and I was grateful to have someone to be with, while I tried to take a different path. I had a co-pilot after that year, allowing to be more independent, while still having somebody at my side.
As I moved into middle school, I realized that we were in for a long three weeks. We finished the main parts of the building after two weeks, leaving us to clean the auditorium and do an assortment of jobs around the school with only one week till freedom. This was by far my favorite school to work at for it allowed me to remember the recent memories of my youth. Overall it allowed me to gain a big interest in academics and in specific subjects: history and English. On top of that, it was the time when I completely came out of my shell and started to care less about others opinions on myself. While cleaning the auditorium, my two favorite memories came across my mind; the poetry alive performances and the second being the eighth grade lip sync made my year. In seventh grade myself and five other boys were forced to memorize and act out a poem that we had no connection to. When I entered the auditorium that summer, I saw myself and my group failing to remember lines and choosing not to do the actions of which we planned. In the end this resulted in getting a stern talking to by our teacher. That was not the best moment. This failure brought me to the memory of my eighth grade performance, where it ended with me doing a handstand to conclude our poem. It was chosen by our English class to be performed in front of the entire school. Over the course of the year, I became open with who I was and my confidence level rose. This allowed me to conquer my fear of public performances. On the last day, I swept backstage which led me to the finale of flashbacks that summer. One of the emcees of the eighth grade lip sync walked into the room and asked Matt, my partner, and I what our group name was. With no hesitation we made up a name? we had one day to prepare our lip sync. “We would like to welcome our next group that calls themselves, Murtis and Cat”. Immediately following, “Rappers Delight” blasts on and Matt slowly creeps out onto stage in an afro. After his solo was wrapping up, I started getting the jitters but confidently stuck to my routine. As I slapped my suspenders, the crowd started cracking up, giving me confidence in my actions. To finish off the performance, Matt and I brought up two teachers and sidestepped to “December 1963 (Oh What A Night)”. This was the greatest moment of my eighth-grade year and a great way to lead into my years at high school. It gave me the confidence needed in order to express myself to a new group of people at our regional high school. From reminiscing my experiences while in elementary and middle school, I realized that I overcame my dependency on others and gained a sense of confidence.
In my early years of school, I developed as a person, in addition to my academic-self. I traveled through many phases and trends while growing up in my district. I started as a reserved follower and over time transformed into someone who has the confidence to worry less about the opinions of others, and more about what makes me happy. I never appreciated the schools that I attended, but after visiting and taking time to reflect on my past, I have realized that the school system has influenced my identity. I believe that if I wasn’t a janitor for a summer, that I would not have the same appreciation nor have the understanding of the reasons why I am the person I am today. From this experience, I also learned how to value time. This is in direct result of seeing how small the chairs were at the Finn school. Not too long ago I sat in those chairs and now I am thinking about life after high school. In addition to this, from my reflections on my past, I now believe that people should make the best of poor situations and try to get the most out of everything they do. From this, I now have more friendly faces to say hello to and share personal experiences with. Nevertheless, with people, I never would have pictured myself having a connection with. I may not be a janitor next summer, but I am sure that whatever I end up doing, I am going to try to make it as impactful as if I was still apart of that “student summer custodial staff.”