Wednesday, January 12, 2011

And these children that you spit on, As they try to change their worlds, Are immune to your consultations, They're quite aware of what they're going through

Facebook has been wonderful for getting in touch with old friends from high school, college, and former jobs. It's also been an eye-opening experience in many ways.

In conversations with many of my high school friends, I have heard myself referred to as the "nice" cheerleader. The "sweet" one. This really amuses me because, well, I'm not really that nice. I can be snippy and sarcastic. Plus, I think it's a bit like saying someone was the "nice" Nazi. I mean, it's not like the bar was really all that high, ya know?

I don't really have warm, fuzzy, happy high school memories. To be honest, I never really felt like I fit in. I always felt awkward and gawky. I never felt like I had the right clothes, or if I did then I always wore them the wrong way or on the wrong day. I was self conscious and uncomfortable. 

So it amazes me to hear friends say that I seemed happy and confident. I wonder how they could not tell that I was dying inside with embarrassment. I was gauche and uncertain. I was every cliche of an awkward, self conscious teenager.

The truly astounding thing I have discovered however, is that we all felt that way, at least to some extent. The smart, confident honor student who seemed to have her life all planned out? The happy, bubbly girl who was friends with everyone? The laid back, witty girl who seemed so amused by the dramas unfolding in the hallways? Every single one of us felt out of place. Every single one of us felt like we didn't fit in.

I wonder why people look back on high school as the best time of their life. It wasn't for me. It wasn't until I was in college that I began to feel confidence in myself and my abilities. As I have gotten older (and we won't even talk about how much older), I have become more and more comfortable in my own skin. I respect myself and my abilities. I have learned enough to know that the ones who belittle others do it because they themselves are insecure. I know that anyone who would judge me because of what I am wearing is not someone I care to associate with anyway. I wish I had known these things back in high school.

My son is in high school now, and my daughter will be starting high school next year. I hope things are different for them but I suspect things really haven't changed that much. I suspect that high school is still full of cliques and mean girls. I suppose that as much as I would love to protect my children from ever feeling that horrible self-doubting, awkward embarrassment that followed me all through high school, I won't be able to. I think it is a part of growing up. Perhaps it is necessary to experience the uncertain and ungainly purgatory of high school before they will be able to blossom into the confident, secure adults I hope they will become.

I want my children, my almost adults, to know that high school only seems important while you are there. Once you graduate you realize how vast the world really is, and there is a place in it for everyone. It doesn't matter what you wear, or how you think. You don't have to be like everyone else. Out in the real world, creativity and originality are valued. I want my children to know that they can think and be anything they want. I want them to know that it is OK if they don't seem to fit in. I hope they are more confident than I was.

So I am taking a poll. Please tell me about your memories of high school. Were you happy or awkward? Did you love it or hate it? Was it the best of times or the worst of times...???

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