Tuesday, February 8, 2011

High School

After the Super Bowl I watched Glee for the first time. I wanted to see what all the hype was about. Why everyone seemed to love the program. I have to be honest, admit I kind of liked the show. The songs, the dances were enjoyable, the cheerleading coach was hysterical, the female football coach amusing but mainly I loved the show’s underlying theme, high school is a place where we all struggle to fit in. It is a place where we can either define our self or allow others to define us.

It seems no matter how much time passes, how different the music or fashion may be, how many years the calendar has clicked off, high school is still the same. It does not matter the year, the place, the state, 9th -12th grade are the years where we struggle to discover ourselves. High school is where we as little fish are first tossed into the big pond. Sink or swim, it was our option. Our freshman year, our lives, how we saw ourselves, how we fit in, for a time were ruled by seniors, jocks and the popular crowd. Anyone who says they didn’t care how they were viewed, lies. We all entered high school hoping to be accepted, wanting to become a member of the 'popular' crowd. Some of us were lucky, we had older siblings who gave us a free pass into the ‘in’ clique. Slowly we all found our own crowd, a place where we fit in on our own. A family of friends where we felt secure in our own skin. Some stayed in the same clique all four years of high school, others of us, floated between various groups not really sure where we belonged, where our perfect fit was. We were the people who had no true definition of ourselves. Or maybe we simply did not understand we were the lucky ones, we were accepted by all groups.

Jocks, popular, band geeks, nerds, potheads, rich kids, the cliques were numerous but everyone longed to be in the top two. The cafeteria had the strange designation of determining who fit into what piece of the puzzle. Where you sat at lunch characterized which clique you were part of. Thirty years later I can’t remember which table I sat at, yet some people have never forgotten they were not allowed to sit with us. I never realized the table I sat at was considered the popular table. I saw my friends as popular, but never myself. I always considered myself on the fringe of the group not really caring who I sat with or talked to. I was happy to have some one to hold a conversation with. For the first two years of high school I was labeled Debbie’s little sister. My last two years I was me, I lacked a definition. I took classes with the geeks. I went to the parties with the pretty girls and the jocks. While others had beer at cry baby bridge I drank my big gulp of soda, never feeling the need to conform and drink beer with the rest of them. I laughed and joked with the potheads in line at lunch but never once did they offer me pot, they knew better. I played in the concert band so I was a band geek. I was in the school play so I was a drama nerd. I was captain of the pom squad, took stats for jv football and basketball team so I hung out with the jocks. I fit in everywhere yet at times I felt like I fit in no where. I longed to be accepted yet at times really did not care what anyone thought. That was high school to me, a mixing bowl of clarity and confusion.

I took all types of classes in high school, physics, french, major British writers, pre calculus, 'family life' etc. they gave me the foundation I needed to help me earn my degree in college. To me, the more valuable lessons were learned in the halls and through the “extra curricular” activities. High school is where we all learned how hurtful gossip can be. We saw the first acts of revenge undoubtedly because someone liked someone else’s boyfriend/girlfriend. High school is where we first learn how to forgive, forget and move on. The halls were where we first learned of rejection whether it was from the posting of who made a sports team or being passed by that certain guy who you had a crush on without as much of a smile. In those fleeting moments we learned how to handle life's ups and downs. We learned right from wrong, how words hurt more than a punch. In a strange sad way, it was a time of conformity, trying to fit in, wanting to be liked, wanting to be popular, not understanding why. We all struggled to be mature while still holding on to our youth. It was the beginning of our freedom, the gateway to our adulthood.

High school had a way of separating the leaders from the followers. We all have stories of our many defining moments, some create a small part of our personality, while others illustrated our underlying character. Leaders were the ones who stood up, did what was right, no matter the consequence. Even it if cost them a spot at the “in” lunch table for a while. Eventually the followers realized they had the wrong leader and the ‘in’ table would change. High school was the revolving soap opera of life. A series of moments and events. Some events left us with small scars while others made us stronger. High school helped us to define our character, who we would eventually become. It is the place where we became autonomous.

I have learned time does not change the person we became in high school. Years later, the social queen is still the social queen, the flirt is still the flirt, the gossip still gossips, the jock is still the jock, the leader still leads and the followers still follow. This weekend as many of my high school friends and I gathered at the Irish Channel I found myself laughing and smiling at the realization of how much we had all changed, yet had not changed at all. At first we all mingled, caught up with each other. Then it seemed after the “ice” was broken, we were all back in the cafeteria of Arundel, everyone was sitting with their respective cliques. Thankfully unlike thirty years ago no one cared who was at the “in” table. At least I hope not!

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