Episode #121: Being Brave Even in Uncertain Times with Sean Arnold
Sean Arnold has had a number of roles in his life from construction worker to actor to musician to salesman to a bartender to tv news crew and a number of things in between. He is also a special educator and STEM Coach who has taught in New York City’s District 75 citywide special needs program since 2005.
I’m not originally from New York City. I was born on the south side of Chicago, but my family moved around a lot. I had been in 8 different schools by the time I was in third grade. It was difficult for someone who was fond of patterns and consistency. So while we moved to the suburbs at a point and even a rural farm eventually, I still felt like a city kid.
I grew up as a middle child with two energetic brothers. That led to multiple black eyes, a number of stitches, and countless bruises. But I think we generally had fun even if we were all very different. There was my daredevil older brother literally juggling knives and jumping off roofs, my sensitive younger brother rarely speaking and needing help in special education, and me-the responsible academic one and always the intermediary.
Despite our challenges, we bonded, perhaps due to our collectively diagnosed ADHD (which for me would later be adjusted to put me on the spectrum) or due to a variety of shared traumas. I won’t go into all the details as there were a number of them, some greater and some less. One interesting incident that falls somewhere in the middle of that hardship spectrum was when we were at home and our house caught fire. Gladly we knew what to do despite my parents being away because my mom was on duty as a firefighter that very night. I think her independence and strength in areas that were often stereotypically male have also led me to always seek strong women as many of my closest friends.
Ultimately, we left the city to go to my father’s hometown in rural Barry, Illinois when I was 14. Before that, we just visited in the summer where I was put to work bailing hay or slaughtering a pig. It was still a big culture shock though to me when we moved fully. But I think my having to adapt to a variety of social spaces is why I’ve always felt a duality to my nature. It has involved connections between urban and rural, athletic and artistic, quietly focused and explosively loud, introverted and outgoing, or masculine and feminine. And I guess that along with what friends describe as my eccentric nature, are what have made me feel capable of existing almost anywhere but comfortable almost nowhere. And so I’m always seeking to improve myself and the world around me perhaps in some deep need to find that comfort or meaning in the madness.
School always came fairly easily to me academically. The kind of monotonous tasks for taking tests or memorizing facts, which it seemed most of my education was for me, was right up my alley. The problem often was though that I would get finished with work quickly and then get in trouble for being disruptive. That happened a lot. I had some great teachers who gave me sketchbooks I could use when I finished or engaged me in ongoing tasks.