The A

Recently someone who had come across my book and noticed the way I put my name on the cover "Chad A. Owens" and decided to ask me:  "What is the A for?"

It sparked my memory to share a story and so, here is a story I've rarely told to people, and the reason is, though it may seem silly now, I still guard the A.  I suppose the cat's out of the bag as of this posting.

Let the story commence.

In the 80's Michael J. Fox portrayed a character called Alex P. Keaton whom I enjoyed a lot.  I loved Michael J. Fox's movies and I wondered why he kept using his middle initial like that.  When I was moved from Los Gatos High School after my freshman year, to Monte Vista Christian High School, I decided to re-invent my name a little and use my middle initial 'A'.  Being new to the school, as is my custom, I was quiet at first.  I tend to remain quiet, and learn my environment before participating socially in it.  I was only there a short while before one of the other sophomores asked me in what struck me as a suspicious way, but in reality was probably a friendly way, 'So what does the 'A' stand for mister Chad A. Owens?'  I replied to him simply "It stands for my middle name."

He laughed at that, thought it was funny, and moved on about his business.  His name was Tom Hernandez and he was one of the 'cool' kids whom I never aspired to become, but appreciated the attention from just the same.

A few days later Tom and I crossed paths again and again he asked "What does the A. stand for?"  And I replied "Why so interested in my middle name?"  He wasn't used to not getting answers to his pointed questions, and didn't know how to take it.  He chuckled and moved on, because he didn't have an answer.

Around the same time frame, I was in an English class and sitting next to a girl named Lisa.  She was also one of the cool kids, an attractive blonde valley girl who had gotten most of what she wanted in life, and behaved poorly in class.  She sassed the teacher, didn't turn in her homework, and otherwise lowered the bar for others.  

I was a medium to poor student my freshman year.  However learning my environment like I did, I realized that to succeed in English class, all I had to do was not do what Lisa was doing. Keep my mouth shut, speak respectfully when I had to, and turn in my homework.  That was a LOT easier than my freshman year, where I actually had to interact with a grumpy teacher.

Sophomore year was proving to be a breeze.  At one point my English teacher turned to Lisa, shouted 'You wench!  Why are you so disrespectful, you need to be more like Mr. Owens here! He's quiet, and gets his papers turned in on time!"

Lisa was very shocked that a teacher called her a wench, and I think so was he.  He backpedaled a bit but the damage was done.  To him and to me.  Until that point, no one had thought twice about me.
Moments after getting over the shock of the name-calling, Lisa turned to me and said 'hey, yeah! you are quiet! Why is that?  Are you some kind of brain or something?" Great now I was going to get in trouble talking in class.  I decided to shrug and not respond.  She took my silence as an admission of genius when all I was trying to do was avoid trouble.

Lisa and Tom being cool kids knew each other, and must have put their two pieces of information together.  "He goes by Chad A. Owens, like Alex P. Keaton does, and Alex is a genius, so I bet Chad's a genius."

Before long the entire class was calling me 'brain' and 'egghead'.  My freshman year I had a C- grade average.  I was no brain.  But a fool opens his mouth to remove all doubt… so I didn't open my mouth.

Every day or so Tom would ask what my middle name stood for, and every day I wouldn't tell him.  He asked me 'if I guess it right, will you tell me?'  and I replied "try me."  So he would fire a few names at me.  He never did guess it right, but even if he had, I wouldn't have told him.  I never said I would.

My grades were getting better, in fact I made the honor roll that semester, and then the following.  I was beginning to live up to my reputation of being called 'the brain'.  And it was simple, I did my work, and I remained socially unengaged with the cool-people.  I made one good friend, and we spent our time speaking about Shakespeare and the Bible. Before my junior year all of my teachers had recommended me for honors classes.

I didn't want to take AP classes because that meant more work for me.  But I was assured that on your transcripts a B grade is a 4.0 GPA in an AP class.  So I figured it would be okay to do more work if it meant higher grades because at that school every semester you were on the honor roll, you got a reward.  Sometimes it was a trip to the mall, or a free lunch or even a day off of school!  Being in AP classes meant I could get rewards and a higher GPA for basically the same work.  (no I never took the AP exams.. that was work, are you even listening?)

I was 'doing school' as the well known book refers to, not really getting a great education, but I was getting high marks, and in my head it was all because I wouldn't tell Tom my middle name, and I remained quiet.  At my church, Calvary, my nickname was 'little guy' as I wasn't tall of stature yet.  I was also a quiet kid, I didn't like our social activities, hated ice-breakers, and disliked our summer camp 'supercharge' because of all the attention and competition.  I truly was a quiet and small person in public.  Totally over lookable.  I know many of you who know me can't believe it is true, but it was.

By the end of my senior year, I had received several medals of scholastic achievement, was inducted into the National Honors Society which meant I graduated with a special tassle, at graduation I was given awards.  It was all very odd to me, because I wasn't a smart kid.  I was just respectful.

In the beginning of my senior year, some of my own 'press' began to seep into my sense of confidence.  As people said I was, so I became.  I started to realize, that all these people think that I'm something of a smart-kid.  Boy were they fooled!  Maybe that was what confidence was… believing about yourself what other people did?  I started to gain confidence.

Still Tom asked what the A was and continued to make a point of saying my name with accent on the A all of the time.  "Oh hey guys, look it's chad  EH owens!"  The more he did this, the closer I guarded the secret of my middle name, and the more people wanted to know it.

I enjoyed his regular jibes and guesses, it was our little game.  Sometimes people would witness it and wonder why it was that a cool kid was interacting with me.  I had been labelled and put into the 'smart kid' group, though I had often found the other smart-kids hard to understand and boring.  It seemed like a break in social etiquette for the cool kids to occasionally surround a smart kid and ask him questions.  

I took to spending typing class by writing fictional stories.  Being a computer hobbyist I had already typed faster than the teacher, so she put me in the corner and left me alone, I would occasionally surface to ace whatever typing speed test there was, (an A was 40 wpm, and I was easily surpassing 65wpm at the time.  Currently I'm closer to 110 wpm).

After class was out, I would pass on the stories to friends.  I had integrated my new friends into a regular episodic serial fiction.  Each day they would read more about themselves or an alter-ego of them I had created, and how they went through various adventures.  They became very interested in my stories, and as time progressed their reach grew and more people were reading them and passing them around at school.

This little occurrence is what began my formula for gaining friends through public writings.  (A trend which I later took to college using a pre-email like system,  then using a bulletin board system, and then applied to this thing called the Internet when it came into existence using a web page, which many years later, evolved into a blog.)  Yes, I was blogging before blogging was a thing.  I started with a typewriter and paper, and now I'm using a laptop and ether.

On the day I graduated high school, I stood many inches taller, both physically and mentally.  I had undergone a growth spurt and was now nearly 6'5" tall.  I had several friends, I was graduating with honors and accolades, small scholarships, and special tassels.  I had been senior class vice-president and voted most likely to succeed (though I was going for class clown… talk about missing the target! I mean how good can I be at succeeding if my goal was to be class clown, and I ended up most likely to succeed?)  

I had confidence that I took into college with me.  I had friendships I would value.  And I had a tested and proven formula for how to meet people and make friends.  If you are reading this and you too are a quiet person, well here's my formula:

Step 1: Whenever you enter a new environment, remain quiet, observe and learn.  Be teachable.
Step 2: Change the way you call yourself.  It'll change the way people see you.
Step 3: Communicate to people, tell stories, talk to them, listen to them, include them.  People grow close to you because of how you make them feel, so make them feel good about themselves.

And that is the story of my middle name.
As we prepared to walk down that aisle, as seniors about to graduate.  I turned to Tom Hernandez, having prepare a gift just for him, I said 'Tom, the A. stands for Aaron.  But keep it quiet, you're the only one in the entire school who knows it.'  He looked back at me, and said 'oh MAN! Are you kidding me!…. that's cool man."  It was the end of our game, and the end of our time in high school, but the lessons learned would last.

-Chad A. Owens
p.s. you say to me "But wait, Chad! You didn't go by Chad A. Owens in college! You broke your own formula!"  Ah, my formula says 'change the way you call yourself'… following that I did.  In college I became known as 'Gimpel'  (a pen name I considered) but that…. is a totally….different story.

ends with suspense!….

but the suspense isn't really earned, it's not a totally different story, it is in fact related but that… is a much less suspenseful way to end a blog.