Growing up, first in Malibu and later in Santa Monica, I attended a wide variety of both public and private schools. Maybe because I was the first born in my family, my parents never seemed to be satisfied with the preschools I was enrolled in, so they switched me to a bunch of different places.

Ben Lee of Ben Lee Properties in his younger daysFrom Crestwood Hills Co-Op to The First School (where, incidentally all three of my kids attended) and a few in between, I bounced around a lot. Elementary school was kind of the same story. Point Dume Elementary, SMASH and Palisades Village School were just three of the schools I attended in my formative years. For junior high I went to Crossroads and then switched to and graduated from Samo High.

My wife, who also grew up in Los Angeles, went to Kenter Canyon, Paul Revere and Palisades High. For one year she went to Palisades Village School at the same time I was there- we still have friends in common from that time even though we were a grade apart. For all I know, we passed each other in the halls, she in first grade while I was in second which is kind of fun to think about. Today we live in Cheviot Hills and after our boys went to The First School for preschool, we enrolled them first at Castle Heights Elementary and now two are at Mirman.

It feels like we have some knowledge or experience at half of the schools on the Westside. I think about this a lot- was it a help or hindrance to go to so many different schools? I think yes and no. It was probably a little bit similar to what ‘army brats’ (do they hate that term? I think so but I can’t think of a nicer expression to get the point across) experience. I always found myself in the position of being the new kid, needing to meet a whole roomful of people, hoping they’d like me and be nice. I had to pretend to be confident even if I was nervous, learn new systems and rules of the road so-to-speak. I think the qualities I inadvertently picked up through these experiences have served me well.

I certainly didn’t know back then that I’d take many of the skills I learned being the new kid on the block and utilize them in the field of real estate. But every day I’m out there meeting new people, representing myself to them, hoping they’ll be nice(!) and accept me into their lives, even if it’s just for the duration of a business transaction. Having been in so many schools also exposed me to a really wide variety of people. Such that when I meet new people, it’s often a fun game of one or two degrees of separation of who we have in common. The city actually becomes really small when you grow up here and go to so many different schools.

So, how was the experience a negative? Probably just the nerves associated with having to enter those classrooms with all brand new faces staring back at me. At the time, I really dreaded it but now I think it’s made me a stronger person. And when our son switched schools going into 5th grade, those same feelings came right back to me as if I were living it all over again. But, in the end, you do what you think is right for your child and hope he doesn’t blame you too much for it. I think it was scary for Mason to switch schools but now that he’s there, he’s very happy. And maybe that means he’ll be a real estate agent like his dad a few decades from now? Lee and Sons Residential Brokerage has a nice ring to it!