In Kindergarten one day we were given a photocopied piece of paper with a monster on it. I think we coloured it in a bit and then were told to collect rubbish at lunchtime to stick onto our monsters. Maybe my teacher was ahead of her time and really into upcycling. It sounded like an easy enough task. As my friends starting eating lunch, they held onto their wrappers but I didn’t really eat much lunch in those days so I didn’t have rubbish of my own. One of my more observant friends offered to walk around the playground with me so I could collect some rubbish but I declined. Some of my other friends offered to share their rubbish with me but I declined that as well. Everyone was getting really excited about what they would stick on their monster and I sat silently and watched as my friends compared garbage. The bell rang and I had collected nothing. I walked back to the classroom hoping that my teacher and classmates would forget about the garbage monsters but of course they didn’t.
My teacher was angry with me. I was the only student who failed to do the task. I pretended I was more interested in colouring in my monster and I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself. I was asked why I didn’t collect any rubbish and I had no answer. I still don’t know why I didn’t do it. I don’t think I was very aware of germs back then so it wasn’t out of disgust. I had plenty of time to get the rubbish but I didn’t. Maybe it was because it was so easy for everyone else and I didn’t want to look like I had to make an effort. Maybe it was just like how I rarely did any homework and had trouble handing permission slips to my parents and back again to the teacher. I wasn’t rebellious or a bad kid, I just needed a good shove and encouragement to do anything.
My teacher didn’t make me upend the garbage can in the room. Instead she gave me little scraps of crepe paper to use as my “rubbish.” When everyone was finished, we held our monsters up in the air and made them dance to music. My monster was different to everyone else’s and so was the smile I forced to stop myself from crying.