Looking Back: A Reflection on The high school years

Radiant FilmstripBecause I read Kevin Brockmeier’s A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A memoir of seventh grade this weekend, I have actually been thinking back quite a bit to my high school days (seventh grade for Kevin was the first year of Junior High). I’ve looked back probably more than I should, or need to.

I have been a bit bogged down by the crappiness of that time (which there definitely was a lot of), but also I’ve been pondering over the dynamics of the friend group that I did belong to, and the influence that those girls (yes we were guyless, at school anyway) and the misadventures that we experienced together, have on me to this day.

I remember how much we laughed.

The inside jokes, the drama, the knowing each other so well you could peg exactly what your best friend was thinking. The elaborately folded notes passed in and between classes (do teens even do that anymore, or do they just text? Tell me if you know!). Sitting on the floors of the hallway against your lockers (because you manoeuvred to be all together so you could see each other just a little bit more) watching people, conversations always creating more inside jokes. The awesome feeling of laughing uncontrollably at something that no one besides the two (or three) of you get.

I remember how we would engage with teachers, and consequently were very well liked.

I was very lucky to have the friends that I did for this one. We all did well in school, and so, why not be friendly to the teachers? They were good to us. We got good marks, they liked us, we worked hard. Grade 12, my senior year, was a different story though. My parents separated, I stopped going to school. I dropped three of the five courses in the final semester. I wasn’t even considered a full time student at two courses. The number of days that I skipped out on school was considered enough to make me fail. Not graduation. Have to come back for another year. And I know of at least one person that was the case for.

Fortunately, I had a little bit of credit with my teachers: four and a half years of proven intelligence and commitment. They were very compassionate with me. They allowed me the grace to make up missed marks, they did not shame or nag me. When I think about how my teachers navigated through my stupidity, I am so thankful. Were it not for them, I would have been forced to return to school the following semester. I do not take it for granted. I do not laugh at them or think of them as suckers (although there was that was that one situation in 9th….). I think, “I want to be that kind of support to my kids, and I pray that their teachers will extend grace as well, when needed.”

I remember how important it was to act a certain way, be a particular you.

The toughest thing about high school: so much to remember. The slang, the gossip, maybe the stories you have embellished to sound more cool than you actually are. Who to never cross. Who’s dating who, who dated who, who you can’t date because so and so did, and the war that would ensue if you ever did. What everyone was wearing yesterday so you can imitate it, but not too closely because you might be found out.

What that thing was that you said and elicited laughter from the entire class, the bad kind, never say anything like that again. That thing that you said where everyone thought you were hilarious, in a good way: now how to expand on that?

Can’t be too fat, too thin, too tall, too short. Wouldn’t want to trip in the hall, or drop your snack. Don’t talk to those guys, they are weird. Make sure you maintain a constant stream of interestingness and/or witticism during all interactions. Never be too enthusiastic about anything, except maybe making fun of the poor kid who is eating her lunch alone. Never ask too many questions in class, in fact it’s probably safer not to say anything at all.

And on and on and on it goes. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. How did I do it? I think maybe I was pretty bad it all….

I remember how mean we were.

We ganged up on those weird guys and the girl on her own at lunch. We purposely excluded people from parties and social gatherings, and then made sure to shove it their face. We made fun of our own friends behind their back, and to their face!

We snickered at the guy with the bug eyes (how could we know it was hypothyroidism!?), the girl who wore pants that were too short (we didn’t know her parents wouldn’t provide anything else!), the girl with the acne problem (who cares if she cries herself to sleep?), and the guy never speaks to anyone (I am sure that he was was never neglected or abused by anyone!).

We spread rumours about the girl that was dating our crush. We made up stories about the guy who was too shy to return our affectionate attention.

My goodness we were immature.

I remember how glad I was to be done with it all.

What a synthetic society secondary school is. It makes me sad.

Of course, there were many good and carefree times. Some of the closest relationships I have ever had outside of my family were the product of this time. I learned the value of a true friend, and how to be one. I gained an understanding of who I wanted to be, and also who I did not want to be, when I grew up. I am thankful for the shelter my friends provided from the storm that was school, and I am so glad we got to experience the things that we did. I have many memories to cherish.

But man, I am so glad to know that in disparity with what some adults told me at the time, high school has not, I repeat, has not turned out to be even close to the best years of my life.


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