Friday, May 13, 2011

High School or Hell?

*This post is inspired by Mama Kat's weekly writer's workshop. The prompt was "If you could go back to high school, what would you do differently?"

Anyone who knew me in high school knows I was shy, self-conscious, and just plain dorky…to put it lightly. Don’t get me wrong. I had an amazing, select group of friends who gave me memories I will always cherish. To you girls: I will love you forever.

But for the most part, the first word that surfaces in my mind when trying to sum up my high school experience is...Hell.

Besides to those few who knew me well, I kept myself locked inside—because in all reality, I didn’t know who I was to begin with. Every negative experience, every setback, was utterly traumatic to the emotional teenage girl I was, and since I was shy and closed-off, my teenage years were filled to the brim with them.

Just walking through the crowded hallways between each class was unnerving and gave me anxiety. Being looked at or recognized by anyone was scary—even by the boy I’d been crushing on at the time. Crazy, right? What teenage girl doesn’t thrill at that “cosmic, I’m-gonna-mary-him” eye connection? Well, even though I gushed about it in my journal, I just plain hated it. Hated the vulnerability, hated the exposure. Even from Bill and Bob*, the two guys I was sure I’d end up marrying someday.

And no, I didn’t. (No regrets there, by the way)
*We will give them fake names in order to avoid embarrassment on both parts...or maybe just because these were the actual code names my girlfriends and I used.

To those boys: Even though I’d shrink and run the other way when you’d make eye contact with me in the hall, really I was pathetically, madly in love with you…

Because instead of adoring myself, I put all my emotion into someone I spoke no more than one word to on a daily basis and claimed it “love.”

Atrocious haircuts, awkward-fitting clothes, no sense of self-worth, zero confidence: I was the very definition of the term “crawling in my skin.” It was a sad, depressing time, really. Letting my raging teenage emotions get the best of me, letting them affect friendships, opportunities to branch out, and—back to those boys again—even boyfriends.

Oh wait. BoyFRIEND.

Yes, that’s right. One. And I’m surprised I even had him, though I only had him for a month. I was so uncomfortable and unsure of who I was that I didn’t know how to act in any intimate setting. My dearest friends knew me and loved me, and when with them I could be the strange, silly, and funny girl I was...

...Or even the empathetic girl I was—always the first one there when anyone needed an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on.

But put me around kids who loved being the center of attention, loved bringing other people down, and insults and glares would brutally throw me back into the dark hole I’d dug since the first day of middle school. The hole that had become home. Home, sweet-nauseating, home.

Gabby girls linking arms on the way to the cafeteria: keep those loving limbs away from me and my insecure bubble.

BoyFRIEND going in for the kiss or the hand, especially while walking through the hall swimming with judgmental teenagers: forget it. Kill me now, and What do I say, and How do I act running in a panic stream through my mind.

What would they—the beautiful, bold, cheerful and sometimes mean students—think of the star basketball player touching the girl with uneven dishwater hair, a baggy sweatshirt, and jeans too short for her daddy-long-leg legs? What would they think of the nobody? Surely they’d see the couple as a misfit, just as she so clearly does.

And so they did. And so did he. Do I blame him? Not in the slightest.

So what would I do differently?

I’d love myself. Pure and simple.

And not for those boys or even those teens who smashed my self esteem into the ground, but for me.


Jessica said...

you are such a good writer Jen!! I love this! Thanks for sharing:)

Sarah said...

This is beautiful. And so totally described my own high school experience, I could have written it myself.

~Beck~ said...

Like Sarah, this could have been my high school experience. I'm so glad that I was able to get out of high school. Anything and everything past that was so much more enjoyable for me. :)

Your writing again, is beautiful and wonderful and can hold so much feeling to it!

Style Maniac said...

I think what you describe here so honestly is the universal description of being a teenager. Did anyone love high school?? Really?!? Me, I couldn't wait to get out of there.


It's so funny because when I was in high school I had fun, didn't think it was too bad, had minimal amounts of angst. But when I think back on high school I break into a cold sweat. I would never in a million years want to go back. Instead of thinking of all of the fun times I had, I think of all of the awkward moments, the bad clothes, those eyebrows that took over my entire face. Seriously, why didn't anyone tell me to wax?! Yep, definitely glad high school is over.

Jack said...

Most of my high school experience was good- but when it was bad it was simply awful.

Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Nicely done! My high school years were partly hellish for me, and I'm sure I made it hell for others.

Jackie said...

It seems so simple, right? Just love yourself. Looking back I was cut from a similar cloth. I think back now, and realize how timid I was, and want to kick myself! UGH!
Great post!

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

This is good! It's good that you see that in yourself and know that you have conquered it now!

Kindred Adventures said...

High school was a tough time for me too. So hard to be confident of who you are when you are not sure and still growing up. So nice that you could look back now and reflect so well on what sounds like some pretty great times even though it was a tough time for you. -Laverne