Seems like such a long time gone...or yesterday. Time is a funny thing, isn't it? But I was thinking about school today, the people I knew, the people I didn't, and how our time in high school, though relatively short in duration when compared to the rest of our lives, has such lasting impact. I know this is something that everybody in the world has written about, there have been books, movies, etc, but what the hell, I may as well add my cent and a half.
My take on high school may be slightly skewed by the fact that I attended three. Yep, three. Nothing quite as fun as starting fresh for your senior year. Oh boy. In fact, between kindergarten and high school, I attended eight schools. Was this good for me? Of course. And of course not. Depends on the how of the question. I was (and remain) virtually rootless, though I'm trying to grow some now. I didn't have the close ties to long-term friends and community that most kids did, and I think this left me (and those like me) without the tethers that keep many people grounded. Of course, a tether can be an anchor, too, can't it?
It's true that, to this day, I'm not very social--my wife would call that a gross understatement--and it's true that I have practically no knowledge of friends or neighbors from my childhood, beyond just a few with whom I've recently become reacquainted. It's true that I could count the number of people I consider friends, real friends, on one hand, and those few discovered in adulthood, none from before. But I did leave my childhood resilient. I don't break. I don't quit. I'm not much of a follower. I go my own way. I can stand alone. Beyond my immediate family, I need little, I'm a happy island, and of course, like all the rest of this crap, that's good and bad; islands weather many a storm, but they do it alone.
So, high school.
Obviously, much of our adulthood, where we live, how we live, our financial and/or emotional prosperity depends on after high school--what we did, how we did it, our employment/education decisions--but today I'll just babble about high school and where it is in my head.
Much of our high school experience, and the flavor it leaves in our mouths, good or bad, begins at home, of course. My home-life was probably not typical, but neither was it too different from that of many of the peers that shared my rung on the social ladder. Unfortunately, my rung wasn't near the top of that ladder, or again, maybe that isn't so unfortunate, depends on outlook.
Anyway, my family didn't have much money, but we got by. Did I have cool clothes, a car, the family and/or financial clout that is often the ticket to upper-rung status? No, I didn't, but most of the time--not always, but most of the time--that didn't bother me. I had other things. I hunted. I fished. I loved the woods. I read a lot. I had a ten-year-younger brother I spent a lot of time with, and I wouldn't trade that for anything.
Like many, I'm sure, my home-life at that time was rocky. My father worked out of town most of my childhood, coming home only on the weekends, and he and my mother, back then, really struggled in their marriage. Bitter arguments were not uncommon, tension hung thick in my house, and I can remember wishing they would divorce, just so I wouldn't hear it anymore. Still, they stuck it out, and I'm glad now that they did, but to this day I can't stand arguing in my home.
In my family, toughness was expected. No, maybe not expected. Demanded? Maybe not even that. It was just us. It was how we were. Not thuggish, bullying toughness, that wouldn't be tolerated, but mental and physical toughness, the ability to endure pain, discomfort, harsh conditions--these things were taken for granted, and I am thankful for those expectations, now. So, if I didn't always have the easiest home-life, I did have two parents who loved me, a roof over my head, food in my belly, and a strong mind--I was fortunate.
My Achilles heel was (and still is) my lack of social skills. I didn't mix well. I tried, or I think I did, and I could give the appearance of ease or relaxed interaction, a facade I'm sure I was not alone in presenting, but inside, inside I was still on the outside. Social status has a lot to do with our self-image in high school, and mine wasn't great. Doesn't faze me now, but in high school those who have definitely have an easier path than those who have not, don't you think? Comes back to the financial niche, the clothes, the looks, the athletic ability, or the family name, most often, and while that doesn't always seem fair to those who have not, it's as natural as natural can be. Just ask Darwin.
So I had a few friends I hung with in high school, a medium-rough crowd, I guess, mostly guys I knew from sports, maybe a touch redneck, but even with them I wasn't at the center of the friend-group, I was more on the edge. I often felt more like a spectator than a participant. I was a fringe person. And that's okay, because everything we experience shapes us, does it not, and while my life now is not perfect (what is perfect?), it is good, and I am happy.
Do I want my children to have the rootless, socially inept life-experiences I had? No, I guess I don't. I want them well adjusted. Socially confident. I want them to have roots, a sense of community, lots of friends, decent clothes, fun, and college. But now, almost thirty years after high school, would I change anything? At first thought, a lengthy list of changes come to mind, but upon deeper consideration, I guess I wouldn't change much. I am who I am. To change anything in my past might take me from where I am now, from my family, and I wouldn't want that. Though I have envied those with roots, I've also lived in many places, seen many things, met all kinds of people, and couldn't trade any of that for the permanence I envied.
Do I have fond memories from high school? Yes, some. My first love, a much better girl that I deserved, came early, and I spent the rest of high school missing her. There were some good teachers, but the one who affected me most was the one who liked me least, Mrs. Patterson from Seventy-First. Do I have less than fond memories? Sure, but again, I guess I wouldn't trade them away.
When I look back, I wonder less about the names and faces everybody knew than those more nameless, faceless folks like me. I wonder what happened to Seminole's "Slim" from New York City, my first black friend, who seemed to feel just about as out of place as I did. I wonder about Maryanne from Seventy-First. She had a strawberry birthmark on part of her face and neck, was cute as hell, and I had a crush on her my senior year. I think about Mrs. Carter from Sanford Christian, a tough old gal I liked a lot. I think about how self-conscious I was, but only in the last few years realized that most of us probably were, some only hid it better.
But I most often think about those few beleaguered souls, who, through no fault of their own, found themselves at the very bottom of the social pool, who looked, even then, intimidated by life and their fellows. They saw very little kindness, I'm afraid, and I hope that, more than anyone else, they did well and can look back at it all with a survivor's smirk. Those are the folks, I guess, that in looking back I admire most, because theirs was the toughest road to travel, and for the most part they did so with great courage.
So where does all this leave me? Hell if I know. Rambling, as usual, but pleasantly rambling, and at peace with myself, my few friends, my life, my past, and my quirks.
Best to you all.