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As a kid, I was a talker. I can blame genetics – aunts and cousins who chatter, and a great-grandpa whose almost-epic, pre-dinner prayers threatened to leave us with cold food – but the evidence was there:

I was a yakker.

Back in the day, my grade-school teachers selected from several pre-approved comments when it came time to fill out report cards. “Is a good helper.” “Listens well and is attentive.” “Follows instructions.”

One of their choices for me?

“Talks too much in class.”

This was before the advent of offering a mushy, positive comment to offset the sting of the negative one, so I rode the bus home, filled with the knowledge that while my parents would certainly be happy about my grades, we’d have yet another conversation about my chattering in class.

Report cards focused on a variety of traits in a student's career

A bit like my report card…

“Hon,” my mom would say patiently, one hand on my shoulder, “don’t you think you should start listening to the teacher?”

My dad was more blunt.

“A little more of this,” he’d say, pointing to his ears, “and a little less of this,” with a jab to his mouth.

Sigh. I had heard it before, and I’d hear it again, but one truth remained:

I was a gabber.

But like any trait, it can be useful. Fast forward thirty (well, maybe closer to 40) years, to yesterday, when I interviewed a talented glass artist for an article I’m writing. She mentioned that, back in the day, her teachers suggested she “stop doodling in class.” She comes from a family of creators – woodworkers, knitters, painters. A bunch of doodlers!

Now, her artistic tendencies have come full circle, helping her create absolutely beautiful pieces of stained and fused glass. Light spills through them, colors dance, moods appear.

Willy WonkaOur interview wouldn’t have been half as enjoyable if I had been shy or closemouthed. My gabbing tendencies, while they exasperated my teachers (and my parents, I’m sure) have moderated and abated slightly, but I need to be talkative at times to learn more about life, people, art.

I didn’t need therapy for my early grade-school transgressions, and even today, I sometimes fight the urge to keep my thoughts to myself. I do, but sooner or later, things tend to spill out. Just the way things are, I guess.

Tell me about your early labels. How did they shape you? How have they served you?