… what your teachers, parents and mentors may have deemed to be your weaknesses….
“She is too talkative in class”, read my class teacher’s report, end of Term III 1973. I was 8 and in Primary 3 at Shimoni Demonstration School, Kampala. I do not quite remember the reaction of my parents to this comment. Because my performance was very good, I might have survived a spanking and got away with some word of caution.
‘Too talkative’ also implied that I was talking at the wrong time, that I was disturbing the peace of the class; and meant that my head had on many occasions been banged against some other talkative head – a punishment so cruel. But I never stopped talking in class, despite the many times the Class Monitor put my name down. I am not proud of it, because it was in total disobedience.
My computer gives me these synonyms for ‘talkative’ – chatty, loquacious, garrulous (never heard this one before), voluble, fluent, glib and conversational. I don’t like some of the words, of course, but some are quite cool!
When I was 10, my father pointed to the wooden bar on the wall, on which our framed family photographs were hung, and he told me sternly, “Alex, your voice should never go beyond that line!” How to measure the volume or pitch was one thing, but controlling the flow of words was my biggest challenge. I don’t know what I always had to say, but I was always talking.
But then again, when you are reading most of the time, chances are that you also have lots and lots to talk about. I needed to retell the stories I read. The problem arises when no one will pay attention. But I would talk, anyway! And I would scribble too. If no one would listen, then paper had to take it!
I know I have had incidents where my words have gotten me into trouble, sometimes during failed attempts at being funny. I have hurt people’s feeling or at times come across as insensitive. I have had to deal with the consequences and also learnt a number of good lessons.
Somewhere along the way into teenage, the Lord and I found each other. While I had been taught decency as a child and never used foul language, I still discovered that my new found faith dictated that I choose my words ever so carefully. I found it very unsettling that some humour was not going to be tolerated by Bible-believing Christians. I made some adjustments, but continued to talk anyway!
Learning, reciting and writing poetry was an after dinner exercise with my father, when I wasn’t reading the numerous story books that seemed to take a reasonable portion of his salary.
I grew up to become a teacher by profession, teaching English language and Literature. My father, whose hope was that I would become a veterinary doctor because of my love for cows, was greatly disappointed. He was further shocked that for my Masters in Education degree I did the same subjects, against his counsel to study Education Administration. However, I did well in my teaching and he was happy. Indeed, even at the writing job I later took up, I excelled and made him proud.
I have, therefore, lived off my words for my entire working life. Now retired from public service, I find it exciting that I am at liberty to use my words without necessarily being influenced by any prescribed syllabus or institution’s programme. I have more time for the old talkative me.
Older, more mature and, hopefully wiser, my words do not just roll off my tongue without purpose. I talk and I laugh. I write and I take pictures. With age I have learnt that even without speaking, I can still afford to be ‘talkative’, and not be reprimanded for it.