My high school experience in 25 random-ish, stream-of conscious-y memories
The topic this month is high school (not exactly the highlight of my life). But I made it, and here are 25 random-ish, stream-of-conscious-y memories that still sit with me (for whatever that's worth):
1. Attending a private Catholic high school and realizing for the first time how poor our family really was. Like, I knew we were poor, but I was able to truly see it by going to school outside my “bubble.”
2. Working full-time freshman year, trying to save up for college, feeling guilty my mom was working 70 hours/week to keep me there.
3. Getting straight Ds freshman year because I was working too much and ill-prepared for the rigor.
4. Constantly staying after school for extra help, trying fill-in gaps for stuff I should’ve known.
5. Recurring nightmares about forgetting my locker combination.
6. Wanting desperately to be a writer, but feeling I wasn’t smart enough, talented enough, from the right circumstances (my reason for later attending business school).
7. Imposter syndrome for being at a private school, with people who got their hair done in a salon (not in their kitchens), and wore brand-names, and bought designer food (not “Generic Corn Flakes” and “Generic Cola”), and traveled over holiday breaks.
8. Imposter syndrome when I was finally permitted, senior year, to take one honors course. I didn’t feel smart enough – and didn’t understand the “intellectual” humor of my classmates.
9. Being put into the “quiet and shy” box, when that box might’ve been more accurately labeled “not confident and fearful but smart, creative, observant, and aware.”
10. Constantly working out, restricting calories, feeling unattractive.
11. My first kiss.
12. My first skiing experience.
13. My first period (and making it past six classrooms and up a flight of stairs before someone told me the back of my pale blue sweater-dress was completely covered).
14. The death of a friend’s mom and getting dismissed from school to go be with her.
15. My sweet sixteen, and friends from my hometown chipped in to get us a limo for the night. I cried at their generosity and thoughtfulness.
16. A pure loathing for gym class and a pure love of snow days.
17. Coffee-talk with friends at Denny’s at midnight.
18. Getting arrested with friends for “minor in possession of alcohol.” It wasn’t even my alcohol and it wasn’t even opened, but it didn’t matter. Teachers at school saw my name in the paper which made me feel I’d failed on a whole new level.
19. Low SAT scores (I could never seem to finish that stupid, stupid test in the allotted time. Plus, the passages were too dull (mating habits of the mosquito), and my brain was too creative: chair is to desk as banana is to…? Honestly, the possibilities are endless.)
20. Driving a 1978 Chevy Nova that left me too many nights in a dark parking lot (at the place where I worked, after the closing shift), with a flooded engine, and no cell phone, and the nearest pay phone was on the other side of the deserted parking lot.
21. Three proms. Two good (one with friends and one with a crush). The other was with someone in my hometown, who turned out to be a bit “lost.” No judgement. I was a bit lost too. I now see that person every so often, walking the streets with a shopping cart. He’s been homeless for the last twenty+ years.
22. Cheerleading. Probably the most surprising on the list – at least for me. One of my older brothers played football and I’d go to the games. Admittedly, I hated sitting there, in the freezing cold, on those stone-cold bleachers, with the incessant whistle-blowing. The only thing that got me through the games was watching the pretty cheerleaders dance. Eventually, I became one of them (but for basketball, where it’s indoors and warm). (And, P.S. I still dance: a choreographed adult class that reminds me of some of those routines).
23. Being pulled aside by a nun at the school (I’d never met her before but, somehow, she knew me). She brought me into her office and told me she was going to make a “special phone call” to a prospective college (where I ended up going) to ask for a scholarship that would make the tuition feasible. I worked my way through college, living at home, and paying the tuition, semester by semester (I still remember giving the bank teller the exact amount of the bill, right down to the coins, so that I could write a check.) The scholarship made that possible, and I am forever grateful to that fairy-godmother of a nun.
24. High school graduation and my mom came. My aunt and uncle did as well, and took me out to a fancy dinner afterward. I still remember my uncle telling us he was going to pay the bill. I also remember him insisting I have dessert. I came home and cried over his generosity.
25. Returning to my high school years later, having been asked to speak at the National Honors Society’s induction ceremony (an organization I was never a part of). That whole notion was a big theme in my speech – the boxes we tend to put people in and how limiting that can truly be.