In Desperate Need of Focus

My Real Memoir

It was like one of those “Kick me!” signs pranksters slap on your back. I’d had ADHD from conception (the doctor told my mother I was the most hyperactive fetus he’d ever seen), but nobody had a name for it back then. To me it seemed natural to simply focus on whatever caught my attention at any given moment.

During my freshman year in high school, I grabbed at every bauble I saw. First semester I got three Bs and three Cs. Translation: three things that mostly held my attention and three that usually didn’t. On written assignments, my teachers would praise my flamboyant handwriting and illustrations (above), and then remind me that these weren’t the focus of the assignment.

When my adorable new pen pal Judy (more on her later) asked what I most cared about in the world, I wrote: “I am strongly devoted to girls, art, writing, acting, horses, submarines, guitars, banjos, and MONEY. I plan to be an actor and an artist and an author.”

Acting became the top bauble after I heard “the roar of the crowd” during my first high school play. But I also drew mimeographed flyers for our play productions, and wrote and directed a bad adaptation of a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird for our Noon Theatre audience. Baubles, baubles…

I was passionate about music too, but, I told Judy, I played guitar “pathetically.” And singing? Well… When I auditioned for Bye Bye Birdie, our school’s first ever musical, the one performed by every high school in the known universe (“How did your audition go, Kleemurg2i9x” “I sucked, MotherUnit3v6z!”), I warbled off-key and was cast as the non-singing love-struck teenager Hugo.

My big scene came when I was kicked out of a local bar, drunk on milk. The bar was represented by a freestanding doorframe. My job was to fake being thrown and land on the ground outside. In rehearsals, I figured out how to leap from an offstage platform, fly through the doorframe, land in a somersault, and roll to a halt. Spectacular! Except that by opening night strands of beads had been hung in the doorframe.

As I flew through the air, one of those strands affectionately wrapped itself around my ankle, causing me to, 1) jerk to a halt mid-air, 2) fall straight down, smashing my face into the floor, 3) slowly raise my head as, 4) the wobbling door frame finally fell over and, 5) bashed into the back of my head, 6) smashing my face once again into the floor.

I was knocked unconscious, I later learned, but after 50 or 60 seconds finally came to.

It had been a good night’s sleep, except that for some reason my head hurt. I opened my eyes, expecting to see my desk and guitar, and instead saw 700 people staring at me. How had they all squeezed into my bedroom? And why did it suddenly look so much like our school cafetorium? And then I heard a voice, calling, “Hugo! Are you alright? Hugo!” I looked up and saw my actor friend Larry. “Oh, hi, Larry. Why are you in my bedroom?”

In an instant, I was whisked offstage and informed that I was, 1) a boy named Mitch (“Oh, yeah, that sounds right”) and, 2) in a high school play (“Neat! What play?”). “Focus, Mitch!” they kept saying…


My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to In Desperate Need of Focus

  1. What an amazing memory to share!
    At least you tried . If it wasn’t for those beads maybe? Otherwise a great scene.😊

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dramatic! But oh so painful! A memory hey! A time of high energy levels . I think energy should be spread out through life a little more evenly. ☺️

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Ouch! Memories of my high school days. We did a musical with 23 scene changes. Closing the curtains for each one would have been too tedious. So we had blackouts where we had 20 seconds to make the scene change. A couple of boys moved furniture in and out, and a couple of girls removed and set props. During one blackout, a boy finished pushing in a couch and whirled around. I was right behind with sofa cushions, and our heads hit with a sickening thud. (People backstage groaned.) I saw stars, but in the dark I had no idea which direction I was supposed to go. Someone grabbed my hand and yanked me offstage just as the

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Laughing out loud! Thanks for that, Mitch.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Double K says:

    You sure this “accident” wasn’t just an act of your subconscious that had been silently plotting revenge against being cast as Hugo instead of Conrad?
    “You think you’re the star of this show, Conrad Birdie?! Wait until I bring this play to a screeching halt with a stunt gone terribly wrong! A year from now… 10 years, 20 years from now, those in attendance won’t have the foggiest idea of whomever played Conrad Birdie, but they’ll forever remember the kid that went flying through a doorframe and ended up unconscious!”

    Liked by 6 people

  6. Ana Daksina says:

    What, no understudy? 😱

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It’s ‘Break a leg,’ Mitch, not ‘Break your head.’ 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  8. One time I remember how active son Dan was before birth was when “we” listened to a musical saw soloist at the Colorado State Capitol, where I worked at the time. I just remembered that yesterday as maybe my strangest experience ever. (Nearly 49 years ago)

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It’s a miracle you made it out of high school alive!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Your teachers should have given you extra credit for your great artwork and extra points added to your grades because you suffered a head injury during a school play.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. OMG! the calligraphy on your Biology assignment, your flowing handwriting, your Biology assignment book cover! I used English Black Letter to do a Social Studies report and I did my thesis for Renaissance Music History in French Black letter (which is the same as English but more swirls and decorations in the serifs). I think we would have been friends had we lived in the same part of the country! Better late than never. I tried out for the play and I got to work on the props and set. (Except I had perfect pitch. On the other hand, I tended to overact and forget my lines…)

    Liked by 2 people

  12. gizmos16201 says:

    I am so impressed with what I have been reading from you, I am following you now so I don’t miss any more posts

    Liked by 1 person

  13. revruss1220 says:

    Hilarious! Well, except for the being knocked unconscious on stage in front of 700 people part.
    I’m amazed you still have the artwork from your high school papers. Priceless relics!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Did you sue the schmuck who hung those beads in the doorway without warning you?

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      ;>) No, actually it was our art teacher who designed the set, and I don’t think she knew I was hurling myself through the doorframe like that. Plus, I actually practiced “flying” through the beads a few times beforehand, so it seemed safe enough. Until that night.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Jane Lurie says:

    Mitch, Your writing is honest, humorous and touching. Your description of “your big moment” is funny yet horrifying for a HS kid. Glad you made it relatively unscathed!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ann Coleman says:

    I love your biographical stories! But I have to say, you had a much more adventurous (and dangerous) childhood that most people!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. And now you have some understanding of what football players have been going through. God bless, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

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