Sunday, June 12, 2011

10 years ago.

So, I have been taking photos of my garden with the Dude's spiffy camera, but I don't know how to get the pictures off said camera. So all I can say at present is that the garden is green and growing and you'll have to trust me that I haven't killed everything off brown-thumb style and am covering my tracks.

The other day the Dude and I were talking about what sports our old high schools had and I hadn't thought that we had certain teams and he was sure we did. So, out came the yearbooks and of course this led to browsing them for memories.

And I had forgotten just how much I hadn't enjoyed high school. But not to worry, it all came back to me as I was flipping pages and becoming increasingly sad. Well, perhaps "sad" is the wrong word. It's more of a muted sense of isolation, inadequacy and stress.

In the 10 years since graduation no other place or era of my life has managed to generate the same response from me.

In college I made only a few friends, but they're friends I've not only managed to keep, but have become even closer to over the years. And there was no bullying, no distinct cool people looking down their noses at anyone, and everybody was free from being the person that everyone thought they were based on perceptions formed from five years ago.

There were times then I felt left out or lonely, but I'm introverted and that's my lot in life sometimes. I never felt open contempt for who I was, and that was the stark difference.

When I was in high school, I started out with a group of friends from elementary school. One dropped me completely and the others never truly seemed to want me around by the end of grade 10. Perhaps we'd grown apart, perhaps newcomers to our circle changed the dynamic and I no longer fit in. Maybe both, maybe something else.

Within days of grade 11 starting, I had a whole new set of friends. It had been gradually coming on in grade 10, and after being ignored most of the summer, it seemed our old connection was dead. And my new friends were odd people, so in a sense I was home.

But having some key friends doesn't prevent you from being harassed. Boys started quacking at me, an old teasing tactic from grade 6-8. I'm bow-legged and my knees and feet aren't aligned straight. I walk a little off-kilter with my toes pointed out, like a duck.

So a chunk of grade 11 was spent being quacked at by boys I grew up with, and eventually by boys I didn't even know. Everyone knows this type, a sort who jumps on a bullying bandwagon: they're not terribly intelligent or good-looking, perhaps they come from money and they have a misplaced sense of their own importance which translates into a really snide arrogance.

If not for the fact my mom had cancer at the time and I had to go home each day and see her sick body and try to sleep at night, occasionally listening to her vomit from chemo, I might have had an easier time handling the additional stress of social nonsense. But such as it was, in addition to the teenage angst, it was a troubling time.

I flipped through the pages of my last years of school and reflected on how I was only ever merely there at that school, and never a part of it. I'd show up, sometimes get made fun of, fall asleep in my classes, talk to my friends, do my time and leave. I left for a semester and while I was gone my mom died. And amidst the strangers in my class I felt a sense of community, something that I know I wouldn't have felt at my "real" school, not surrounded mostly by people who looked at me and saw a loser.

I had friends at my old school, but when the people who don't like you seem to outnumber the people who do, or at least when it feels that way, being surrounded by people who either like you or don't know you is a bit more comforting.

I think that's what being taunted by your classmates does to you. And it came back in waves as I turned the pages. And so I closed the book. I immediately felt better. It's amazing how easy it is to go back there, emotionally, but it's thrilling how simple it is to make it go away.

I love getting older. And I guess I'm thankful my glory days weren't in high school because life has only gone up since leaving. So, maybe it was nice to take the time to appreciate that.

Kids are graduating high school right now. It's been 10 years since my grad. The Dude and I were browsing tuxes for the wedding today and I saw a teen looking for a prom suit. Sometimes that sort of thing makes me feel old. This time it made me feel grateful.

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