What do you think about when you hear the words “high school?” Do you have wonderful memories of friendships, proms, sports, and good grades? On the other hand, are you one of the people who would rather forget that time altogether?
My grandparents sent me to a very small, private, Christian high school. I had only 42 in my graduating class. My insecurities and lack of self-worth followed me into those high school classrooms. I felt like an alien who had been dropped into a community without the benefit of a handbook to understand the rules.
The school was downtown. We all lived in different parts of the community so we didn’t have much opportunity to socialize outside of school. There was no football team or cheerleaders. The only sporting activity was basketball. I didn’t have the grades to hang out with the smart kids. My clothes were often handmade or those purchased were less than stylish. I didn’t come from an affluent family, as did many of my classmates. I spent much of my high school life trying to hide in the middle of a classroom.
I struggled to get passing grades. My teachers labeled me an underachiever. The teachers said I was very smart and the standardized testing proved them right. They said all I needed to do was apply myself. As an adult, I would discover the underlying problems that attributed to this dilemma, however at the time I didn’t understand. (You can read more about that here.)
Mandatory events and simple things like lunch made school even more difficult. Classmates typically gathered in groups of three or more. The laughter, whispering, and intense discussions of the clusters made the isolation even more evident. I usually ate lunch with two other girls who seemed as much out-of-place as I did. We mumbled about the food or our teachers; we never talked about anything more insightful.
I rarely pull out my yearbooks. We had to pass our yearbooks around the classroom and everyone was supposed to write something. The heartfelt comments from classmates don’t make me yearn for the memories. “Have a great summer.” “It has been a fun year.” “Good Luck.”
My college classes are only a few blocks from my old high school. As I entered my first college classes just a couple of weeks ago, I was not ready for the flood of memories and emotions from my high school days to come rushing back. I sit in rooms filled with students from 18 to their early 20’s. They gather in groups to laugh, whisper, and have intense discussions. I feel everyone stare as I walk into the classroom. I see the fear in the eyes of my classmates as the professor dictates partners for a project. “Please don’t give me that old person for my partner,” I imagine them thinking. Yes, once again I feel the alien beginning to show.
Yet, somehow, this time is different. I have come to like the alien in me. I may have some different challenges than my classmates, but I also have the benefit of life experiences most have yet to discover. I know that time is precious, friendships are to be cherished, pain is inevitable, and life is to be lived to the fullest. I know there will be a few who take the time to get to know me; what an amazing surprise they have in store.
You may have guessed that I am one who would rather forget about those good old high school days. I can’t go back and reclaim them. I can choose to make this time in college something I will look back upon with wonder and amazement. Maybe I am just an alien on a mission.
Nowhere am I so desperately needed as among a shipload of illogical humans. Mr. Spock in ‘I, Mudd’ Star Trek