The most recent book I’ve read for English is Frederick Douglass’s autobiography, and I noticed that learning to read had a massive effect on the rest of his life. For instance, he learned the meaning of certain words, which changed the way he thought, such as abolition, freedom, Canada, North, friends, and many more. It also taught him the ability to write, which allowed him to spread his story and, thus, another compelling argument against slavery. He surely wasn’t the only one to have such breakthrough changes, but am I in that category? I honestly don’t think so, because nothing in my life has done that for me. At least, not one event all by itself.
There have certainly been ones that come close, such as my learning to read at age three, the death of Pop on Dad’s side, and the advent of swimming, but no single event did that. However, there was a very long string of events, induced by my want to do whatever I wanted, that did it. If you aren’t acquainted with my Years of Terror yet, here’s the story.
It all started seven years ago when Aden and I got our very first computers. Two E-machines, running Linux, that were already old at the time we got them. Then one day, we discovered that we could play a simple game called SuperTux, which was incredibly similar to Super Mario, except the main character was a penguin. I found it first and played it whenever Mom wasn’t in the room. Then my brother caught me playing and got it on his computer too. Then, one night, we both got up at around 2 AM, turned on our computers, muted the volume, and played the game on our respective computers. The machines were old, and the keys clacked like chalkboard erasers, but we tried to play silently. About two hours later, Dad woke up and came upstairs to shave his beard in the upstairs sink, and he heard keys clacking from the schoolroom. We had slowly forgotten to play quietly and were hitting the keys as hard as we could with our reflexes on twitch mode. Dad peeked into the schoolroom, and both of us, five and six years old, sitting in our underwear, playing videogames at 4 AM, were there. He then walked in, gave us both a spanking and a lecture, and sent us to bed again. That was the beginning of the Years of Terror.
Five years after that incident, and many times caught, I was the only remaining sneak. Aden had decided pretty early on that it wasn’t worth it and stopped playing and sneaking. Pop had given up the ghost, and there was a Vizio TV in the room. The TV was a smart TV with the YouTube app installed, so I got up that night after I was sure Mom and Dad had gone to sleep, grabbed the baby monitor that they had placed pointing at them, and turned on the TV. A few hours later, I missed Mom getting up from the bed. I heard her in the hallway and managed to deactivate the baby monitor and shove it somewhere before she walked in. She took one look at me, her eyes went to the Tv, then to the remote in my hands, then her face turned purple, and I almost got strangled on the wall.
Fast forward two more years, and it’s 11 o’clock, and I’m under the covers with the Wii U gamepad playing MarioKart. Twenty-eight minutes later, Dad storms into the room, uttering a curse and rips the blankets off me and the game. I quickly shove the gamePad under the pillow, but not before Dad sees it. He yanks it back out, grabs me by the ankle, and drags me yelling out of the bed. Two seconds later, I’m pinned against the wall with Dad’s forearm on my neck, losing air. By the time I’m tomato red, Mom comes up. Luckily, she doesn’t quite know what’s happening, though she has a general idea. She stops Dad from strangling me, though I’m turning blue by that time. I ended up just getting my rear beat up and down the hallway until my entire rump is black and blue, and a good portion of my thighs and lower back too. I couldn’t sit down for the next two weeks, and my near-death experience made me stop for about two years. I still do it every so often, and they always trust me at about the level of nil. So it had a pretty significant effect upon my life.
However, I don’t think it had as much of an effect as Douglass’s learning to read did. The reasons for this are because I haven’t lived under such extreme conditions as him until the event happened. My case is precisely the opposite of his – I was fine, then the incidents occurred, then I lived in some pretty miserable conditions – at least for me. And it still wasn’t as extreme as his circumstances were. He had to face hunger, torture, whipping, brutality, animal treatment, and death. I only had to face constant trouble, a lot of mistrust, and a ton of envy at my brother, who walked free and got away with a lot of non-allowed things, while I had to do my work by hand because they were so focused on patrolling me that they ignored Aden’s sneaks. Also, my time was significantly shorter. He held up against years of his conditions, while I only had to face three years of almost straight Blackout. (For those of you who don’t know, Blackout is a punishment that involves no electronics, toys, fun, games, or anything good except clothing and food. Basically: all work, no play, and if sneaky, add more time. At one point, I had one straight year, four weeks, and five days of Blackout ahead.) I still mess up occasionally, but I’ve been trying to take it down to the bottom notch and then stop altogether.
In conclusion, I had it pretty bad; Douglass had it worse. My trigger was not a single event; Douglass was. My case was the opposite of Douglass’s, in that I ended up worse after than before. And my story did not have as much of an impact on my life as Douglass did.