Eugene V. Debs Museum Tommy Miles via Compfight

The only major task I have to complete before the winter holidays is the author review of my book. I’ve received the version of the manuscript that the project editor has gone through and the copy editor has worked her magic on (I try to always end sentences with a preposition when they’re about copy editors). It’s my last chance to make any substantial changes before the book goes into layout. (An author who makes major changes after her book goes into layout becomes persona non grata, which is not a role an author wants to inhabit.)

This book is fairly personal, and so working on it lends to an alarming amount of time spent staring at my own navel. Yesterday, while doing exactly that, I suddenly found myself at my high-school graduation.

Good gods, I hated high school. I don’t remember much about my graduation, except for one part: the delivery of awards. There was the usual fare, like highest marks and various kinds of recognition from clubs and associations. I did well in school and participated in a few clubs, but I was not what one might have considered an overachiever. I was too miserable to overachieve.

So imagine my surprise when I won an award. It was a faculty award, I think – at least, that’s the only way it makes sense to me now, looking back. It was the Eugene V. Debs award for something-or-other. Can’t remember who Eugene V. Debs was from your history textbook’s brief mention of him? I’ll let Wikipedia fill you in:

Eugene Victor “Gene” Debs (November 5, 1855 – October 20, 1926) was an American union leader, one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies), and several times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States. Through his presidential candidacies, as well as his work with labor movements, Debs eventually became one of the best-known socialists living in the United States.

I snort out loud even now, reading this, imagining what the teachers who decided the award would think if they knew I’ve lived on the left coast of Canada for most of my adult life. Even though labour unions in Canada play a somewhat different role than in the U.S. to a fair degree because Canada has adopted a more socialist bent, I’m inclined always to side with them, even when I’m wrong. One of the reasons I was so uncomfortable living in the U.S. – as a born-and-raised American! – was that “socialist” is a horribly loaded idea there. But socialism is wonderful (when it’s done right, like anything)!

And so I’ve been smirking since yesterday about this. About how despite feeling entirely alienated and withdrawn throughout my high school experience, I had still managed somehow to convey enough of myself that by the time I graduated, my teachers had come to identify a very true part of me.

It’s something I’m going to try to remember – that even when I feel lost and alone and misunderstood, people might still manage to see me for who I am. If there’s anything more comforting than that, I don’t know what it is.