When Mark had an alumni homecoming at UPIS, he was so excited. He wanted to bring me along and show me where he spent his childhood to teenage years, with the people he considered closer to him than his siblings. For the life of me, I couldn’t grasp this line of thinking. I didn’t go and he got mad at me. It took me a few days to wrap my head on what the big deal is. My friends also enjoyed high school, and I know they still keep in touch with their friends there. My siblings still hang out with their high school buddies. High school was where they gained confidence about themselves and started to become the person they wanted to be.
I don’t talk about high school much, the only person I’ve told detailed stories of my high school years is Mark, and it only came out after we were married. And now here, because its my blog.
I don’t mean to say it was horrible for me, it wasn’t really. Before HS, I knew who I was. I was confident, I was smart and I was ready. When I got there, I realized that being any those things wasn’t enough. It was an entirely different ball game and it didn’t matter if you were at the top of the class, people wouldn’t automatically like you for that. One of my best friends, Yella, always tells me what a failure I am when it comes to interacting with other people. I know this now. In grade school, it didn’t matter- and I am not saying this to brag, just showing how different grade school was and how difficult it was for me to transition to HS- I was popular, I led the student government, I was an editor for the school paper, I got the good parts for performances, students from other grades liked me, I was dating the cutest jock. My best friends then were bookish and straight to the point too, but they left for science high schools.
Where I went, during my time, it was better to blend in than to stand out. I didn’t realize this at first, so I gained the ire of some of them. I was too cocky, not demure, I don’t say the right things, my dry humor didn’t appeal to anyone, my sarcasm wasn’t acceptable, I don’t wear the proper clothes, I don’t know any Bible quotes by heart. I thought if I continue to be the top of my class, they’d like me better. Obviously not. It was a Christian school, fairly small and I don’t know how to explain it, but you are expected to behave in a certain way. Some people tend to be judgmental and a tad self-righteous. I am sure most of you know what I mean. I am not spreading any falsehood, I am just speaking from my point of view.
It got to a point where I’d spend my breaks alone in the classroom, sometimes I’d offer our adviser assistance with anything just to keep myself busy. I don’t think she liked me much, either. She was really conservative and didn’t like changes. When my mom talked to her, she told my mom it was because I wasn’t trying hard enough to fit in, that I had a problem with my attitude, that maybe I had to change so I will be liked. Apparently, my personality was too strong, I had to tone it down, be someone else, be like everyone else.
My mom was fuming. When we got home, she told me not to believe any of that bullshit, I knew who I am and there is nothing wrong with me. Except that I let these people get to me.
I was supposed to go to a different school, but I had to attend all religious activities since I wasn’t a Catholic. And the HS I went to offered me 100% scholarship, so there wasn’t any competition. My parents tried to transfer me during Sophomore year to my sisters’ alma maters but they wouldn’t accept me either because of our religion. My parents told me I had no choice but to stick it out. I know I had my faults and but at that point, I was willing to shed who I was to be accepted. I was hopeless.
The teachers weren’t bad, most of them were really cool and they were good at what they do. I loved my classes, I loved learning. Somehow, whenever the bell would ring for the start of each period, I felt reassured because I was reminded of what was real and what wasn’t. They couldn’t take what I know from me, I could pretend to be someone else, but in my papers and homework, I am who I am.
Anyway, there were girls who took me in their group under a sort of “probationary status” but I found out I wasn’t really going to be a part of them. They’d talk about my wrongdoings behind my back. They’d have sort of meetings about my behavior, and other cliques would also know before I knew. They had good intentions, they’re trying to help me become better, they say. Everyday was a test and I always came up short. Sure, I now had people to eat with, but I wasn’t me anymore. I was trying so hard to be a part of something that I was willing to let go of who I am to get this. I’m one of those people who loved school. I loved getting the answers right. I loved reading my textbooks even before school started, that was the best part of summer. But I started hating it. I started raising my hand less, I hunched my back more, let my grades drop a few points.
I won’t go into any more details, but it isn’t entirely sad. I took what I can get and things got better eventually.
After a months, maybe years, I learned to act the way I’m expected to, to say things that are acceptable, to do things that are considered normal. I made a few good friends who liked me as I am, but I wasn’t really who I am, so… Well, whenever I would tell my mom about my friends, she’d go- are these the same ones who were mean to you at the start? I’d immediately shut up. Some people change, some don’t. I’m not going to judge. I was thankful for what I had so I didn’t question any of it.
Senior year was infinitely better than my Freshman year, that’s for sure.
College was a sweet release. The best days of my life finally began. I slowly rediscovered myself. I learned to trust people again and stopped questioning their intentions. But some wounds don’t completely heal and in some ways I’m no longer the same. I made friends who totally love me for who I am- horrible attitude and inability to fit in and all that unholiness. They tell me when I’m wrong to my face and they don’t judge me. They liked me from the start and they still like me now. They don’t like me ALL the time, but my girlfriends are the best. I treasure friendships now more than ever, I am fiercely loyal, sometimes to a fault. I still think these things don’t come easy, like how a third world kid probably feels about water.
My husband knew who I am from the start, we were friends first and foremost. He used to tell me how maarte I am and how my sarcasm compares to none. I am demanding, mean, blunt and crazy, but he accepted me anyway, didn’t judge me and eventually came to fall in love with me. Faults and all- morning breath, zits, freckles, unshaven legs, crazy lady times- I am accepted.
I still don’t know how to talk to people, but now I don’t hide anymore. I’m not a clean cut version of what a good person is, but I am who I am. Everyday, I try to be a better version of myself, but the basics remain the same.
When I think back, I now wonder why I did all that. To be a part of what? Blend in with what? Gain acceptance from who? From God? But I don’t need others to tell me what God thinks of me, I don’t need other people to verify my relationship with Him. From my peers? But they don’t know any better. Who are they to judge? Isn’t that what these verses they recite say? He who cast the first stone, yadda yadda? Did I want to spend the rest of my life pretending to be black and white when I’m all over the color wheel? Would doing these things make me happy? Of course not. I got so lost and I was so sad. I know all these now, I know how silly all these has become. But I didn’t know it back then. Or maybe I did, but somehow I forgot to hold on to what was real. Maybe everyone else was pretending, too. Maybe we were all trying to find our own place and we simply thought we were supposed to adjust and re-wire ourselves until we fit a certain mold.
Would I give HS a do-over if I had the chance? Part of me impulsively screams, Heck no! I wouldn’t go back there. I’d go somewhere else. but when I think about it more carefully, I’d say sure. I’d change a lot of things I did at the beginning and I’d take better care of friendships during the end. But I wouldn’t change who I am whether they like me or not.