Terra Nomad

Every day is like survival. You're my lover, not my rival.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

High School: I hope these aren't really the best years of my life.

Seventh grade: on to the big, scary high school. Again we got an influx of new kids, this time from the neighboring town that my huge crush was from, so now I got to see him all the time. I assume from this point on that my grade hovered around 275 kids. My niece was born this year, and I found a group of three other girls and we formed a cliche, finally realizing that just because we weren't popular, we could still have friends if we banded together. One of the girls in this group, Windy, decided she liked my huge crush, too, which caused some issues between us since she knew I liked him as well. I met my first official boyfriend in the math class they put me in, although we didn't start going out until the summer. He was from Pennsylvania, and we only dated for about three weeks, but we stayed friends throughout high school. I was the only girl in my Industrial Arts class, which wasn't as bad as it sounds. I learned quite a bit, even when I was lighting the oven to melt something, and I felt an explosion of heat across my face, because I'd left the gas on to long before lighting it. Everyone seemed pretty scared, but I didn't even think anything much had happened. The ends of my hair and eyelashes were singed, but there was no long term damage. Social Studies class was moderately interesting, since we had many debates over "issues" the teacher would present. They consisted of 5 of us doing most of the talking, and the teacher trying to engage the rest of the students who were too shy or apathetic to have an opinion. I joined the Math League (shut up) but didn't do as well as the older kids, who'd had Trigonometry already. We got to read Romeo & Juliet in Lit class, and saw about 20 minutes of the tape, since they wouldn't let us see the nudity and used the Fast Forward button with reckless abandon.

Back to the elementary school building, now magically transformed into a Junior High for Eighth Grade. In making a new school, the administration tried to be forward thinking about policies, which amounted to us all buying an official school version of the Trapper Keeper, and cutting the year into trimesters instead of semesters. This time, my homeroom was the Industrial Arts room, and consisted of both seventh and eighth grade kids whose last names were adjacent to mine. Science had us studying chemistry, denaturing wood, fusing hydrogen and oxygen into water, and running experiments on a mystery mix of stuff to determine what it was (pond water and wood shavings). I went to a MathCounts competition, where I took home trophies in one team and two individual events. Once during a study hall, a substitute librarian decided there were too many kids in the library and started kicking us out. I refused to go and ended up getting disciplined for "Insubordination" (learned a new word that day, too). I told the assistant principal why I had such a bad attitude and she decided I was bored and should read more books. Thanks lady, did you think I hadn't thought of that? I was trying to tell you how the system was failing me and you brushed it off, refusing to think critically about the bureaucracy you were perpetuating. This was the same woman who tried to ban us from wearing t-shirts that said "Button Your Fly" and handkerchiefs on our heads. All of us Bad Attitudes were ready to stage a walk out when they repealed the ban. Geography proved to be an entertaining subject, not the curriculum as much as the teacher. To call this guy a Beach Boy was not only accurate, but also something he would have taken as a compliment. He was one of many teachers who seemed to think injecting their personal opinions into lectures was a good thing. In his case, he used his desk as a platform to tell us our schools were underfunded and it was our parents fault for not wanting high property taxes. He seemed shocked at our apathy.

My romantic life sort of took off this year as well, and I ended up "going out" with eleven guys from September to May. Some of them were Summer Boy again, my huge crush from sixth grade, and a cute but shy swimmer. My best kisser of the year award would have to go to this skinny little blonde guy who had the sides of his head shaved and four sets of braces, (top and bottom, inside and out) when I met him. He was short and skinny, but oozed sex appeal, sort of like Prince. We got caught kissing in the hallway after school, when my Speech teacher walked by and made some comment. I look back now to see she was probably just teasing us a little, but we thought it was serious enough to move our good-bye sessions to the bike rack outside. We went out for a week in January and then 4 weeks in April and May. He broke it off because I confessed to him that I'd thought about cheating on him once after school. Cheating, at this point, meant making out with another guy. At the end of the school year, I started going out with one of my friend's ex-boyfriends. He'd rollerblade over to my house and we'd walk around the lake in the middle of town. We even went swimming at the city pool a few times.

The summer after eighth grade was when I joined Marching Band with Windy. This one time, at Band Camp... okay, I won't go there. Really, Marching Band is a bunch of kids (some with talent, some with too much free time) once again deciding they can still have fun even though they're not popular. This is where I met RichBoy, right in the midst of his break-up with a girl who was essentially me with glasses. He was about to be a Senior, had a car and was exactly my type. The band took a trip to Chicago, where we cemented our relationship by hanging out in each other's hotel rooms until curfew and sleeping next to each other on the bus. I got back from this trip and still had to tell the Rollerblader that it was over. It was easier when I discovered he'd also met someone else. We didn't really think of it as cheating, since we'd never made any kind of commitment. RichBoy and I went out for the rest of the marching season, which was through July, and then I met his friends. This was where it all started getting complicated, since I was liking him less and his friend Jay more. Windy and I found ourselves pulled into this little cliche of RichBoy's that seemed to consist of ten guys and girls all going out with each other, flirting with ones they weren't going out with, and making seven other people jealous in the process.

Ninth grade started with Jay asking me to go to Homecoming with him, but we broke up and RichBoy asked me to go with him instead. It was the last high school dance I'd attend, since I really didn't see the point other than an excuse to dress up. It was much more fun to go out with a bunch of people and bowl or hang out at a restaurant. My social life for the first few months of ninth grade was pretty much Jay, Windy, RichBoy and I breaking up, making up and then driving each other crazy again. Summer Boy and I got into an accelerated Math class that took place after school once a week. This helped us stay close for the next two years. I had been lusting after one guy in particular since the beginning of the school year, but I thought he was way too cool for me. Not in the "I play football and drink too much" way, but the "I have a skateboard and listen to Alternative Music" way (this was 1991, Nirvana was just hitting it big). I'll call him Sky, which works because that's his real name. The friend who had dated the Rollerblader before me was now dating Sky's best friend, who was a big geek, and might have just been a weed connection for all I know. Somehow, I ended up hanging out at her house with Sky and his best friend quite a bit, which led to us going out for two months. Once while at his house, he told me about this cool band he loved so much that he'd worn out the lettering on the tape. I thought he said they were called the Violet Fence - only later did I realize he was talking about the Violent Femmes. We were all hanging out a the local skating rink quite a bit these days, and that ended up being our downfall. One cold day in February, I got to the rink to see that none of my close friends were there, not even Sky. There were two guys that I knew, so I sat with them. I'd had a thing for one of them earlier in the school year, but I sat with the other one and ended up getting very cozy with him through the evening. I'm still very much dating Sky at this point, and I confess this to him, but he has no reaction and says we should just move on from it. I was relieved at the time, but maybe I should have seen that as a warning sign. We grew apart and I had my friend, who was still with his friend, break it off with him two months to the day after we started going out. I probably owed him more than that.

Academically, ninth grade meant that I got to take a Russian class as well as General Drafting and Graphic Design. The Drafting class showed me that I probably didn't want to be an architect, like I had been planning. Russian was enlightening, because I got to learn the Cyrillic alphabet and sit by a dreamy junior with long blonde hair and an extremely sarcastic sense of humor. Last time I saw him was at a record store in my hometown. I had Science and Civics with this hot, preppie guy that I always seemed compete with for the highest grade in the class. I wonder what happened to him. Anyway, this Science class was taught by a woman so humorless and morose that we called her Morticia. At one point I even told her straight out that the other kids weren't understanding what she was teaching, implying she was doing it wrong. She reacted like any adult would when told by a fourteen year old that they're wrong, by telling me to keep my opinions to myself and telling the class to come to her if they had trouble. They didn't listen to her and kept asking me for help instead.

The next summer's marching season introduced Windy and I to a new cliche of girls, one of whom was the older sister to an ex-boyfriend of mine. There were six girls and one guy in this cliche, and he was younger than all of us. I had a mad crush on this guy, as did one of the other cliche members (surprisingly not Windy this time), so we played it off by teasing him mercilessly about having a thing with one of the chaperones. These girls introduced me to the humor that is Dr Demento.

I don't remember all of the thinking and decisions that led to me attending private school for tenth grade, but I know being bored out of my mind in public school was part of it. This school was about 45 minutes away from my house and was a Catholic school that helped prepare students for college. There were kids from the surrounding towns who bussed in, and also a large number of residential students from other states and countries. We had maybe 150 students in 9th-12th grades. I was still taking accelerated Math after school, was in accelerated German, took a Law class with Seniors, had to take a Theology class and was pretty well challenged the first semester. To help pay my tuition, I worked the snack bar every other lunch hour, cleaned the school on Saturdays and even helped lug equipment for the soccer team. I had one best friend, and through her I had a close circle of about five more. Girls were in the minority by about 4 to 1 at this school, but I still wasn't able to make any guy friends, much less get a boyfriend. It seemed like I was surrounded by hot guys, but I was just not comfortable enough with myself to make a connection with any of them. I had put on some weight, due to stress I think, and was generally unhappy by the time Spring arrived, so I told my mother I'd like to go back to public school. RichBoy and I were still friends and he sensed how unhappy I was. He wanted us to start seeing each other again, but I turned him down. To his credit, it didn't make things weird between us. During this year, the Good Kisser, Windy and Sky all ended up dropping out of school. In retrospect, going to another school probably shielded me from being involved in some of the more criminal activities that related to their departures.

Marching band over the next summer was yet another cliche of seven girls and one guy - sensing a theme here? This time, Windy got this cute cymbal player, Mitchell, into our little group, which was up to ten when we included one of the girls' boyfriend and the guy who followed them both around. We usually took over the back of one of the busses and generally raised havoc. Mitchell and I got to be better friends, and in fact he was the only friend that lasted from tenth grade to post high school. I got my first job this summer as well, cashier at a discount store. It was nice to have cash, and the young guy from last summer worked there as well. He didn't go to my school and had quit marching band, so that was the only time I got to see him. I was still a chicken, however, and never told him I liked him. That's probably a good thing, since it's possible that he's gay. I had no gaydar back then, but I think if I met him now, I'd assume so. The same is true of Mitchell, except that he has actually told me that he's gay, but not until just a few years ago. Of course I wish these guys would have felt they could come out to me at the time, but I also realize they had their own stuff to deal with that had zilch to do with me.

Eleventh Grade brought me back to the public school I'd attended in seventh and ninth grades. I was on the Yearbook staff, since my sister was the editor, and I took classes at the local college for the first half of the day. I took an entire year of College Russian, a quarter of German and one of African Literature. I also did poorly in Chemistry class that year. My friends were a cliche of girls that I all knew from different places, a few from marching band, Summer Boy's little sister, and two girls from my church. We ate lunch together and did crosswords puzzles in the library after our homework was finished (wow, that's enough to put you sleep). I stupidly took an AP History class this year, instead of regular one, hoping to get some College credit. My teacher did a good job of mixing his political views with the dryness of American History, and I did a good job ignoring him while cross-stitching in the back of the class. I'd never needed to study before, but this was the rare class where the required reading really was required. I think I managed a C-. There was really only one guy that I hung out with that year. He was a bit of a geek that had a crush on me in seventh grade. We saw each other at school and talked on the phone, but never actually went out for some reason.

During the marching season after eleventh grade, Mitchell and I made a small cliche out of Windy's cousin and the Drum Major's little sister. Sometimes we included two other friends of his, a very skinny girl and a chubby guy. Mitchell had switched from the cymbals to the trombone, and I was now captain of the Honor Guard because I was the only veteran. I got to carry around a saber and whip it around when I saluted. Too bad it was only sharp at the tip! I quit my job at the store in August so I could go on a trip and take Driver's Ed. In October, I got a new job at a fabric and crafts store.

In Twelfth Grade, we took the ACT and my score was a 33 out of 36. I don't know how that translates to an SAT score, but I do know it's pretty good, even though my counselor just said I did "a good job" in a weird, non-encouraging way. I was taking a few college classes and some back at my high school, but it was just too easy to take a day off here and there. My sister had gone off to college, leaving her car behind, and I taught myself how to drive after I got my permit. I found that I had all the mechanics and rules down, I just needed practice driving so closely to other cars. I had a poetry class with one of Richboy's friends, who recognized me and brought me over to the dining hall with him one day and I got to see Richboy. I knew he had recently become a father and got an invitation to his wedding, which I had skipped for some reason.

I was bored - as I had been for most of the last thirteen years. I didn't see the point to all of this, so I started skipping two days here and taking an afternoon off there. I wrote myself excuse notes and made up any homework I'd missed in the two high school classes I was still enrolled in. The irony is that some of the days I skipped my school, I hung out with Mitchell and his friends at their high school. Finally I didn't go for 5 days in a row and the school called my mother at work. When she called to see what was going on, I told her how bored I was with all of it, and that I really didn't think I could take it anymore. She was great about it all and didn't make me feel as if I'd disappointed her in any way. She said I had to see a shrink and talk to my counselor at school about my options. He gave us some guff about them "giving me all kinds of opportunities" and basically defended the system again. I told him I just wanted to finish what I needed to and get my diploma, since I had enough credits but not all the required ones. For the last few months of my senior year, I went to the alternative high school where so many of my friends had ended up. I even saw the Good Kisser and Windy a few times. The set-up was that I had two credits of English and one of Social Studies to finish, so I got about 10 minutes with each teacher on the days I chose to come in, and after about 15 assignments, they'd grant me one credit. The 10 minutes consisted of me handing in my homework, a little discussion and them giving me the new assignment. My English teacher had me read A Thousand Acres, Jane Eyre and King Lear, which quickly became my favorite Shakespeare play. All in all, it seemed like this is where I should have been for the last two years. But I had not put my slacker ways completely behind me and I didn't exactly finish both of my English credits by the end of the year. They let me go through the regular ceremony anyway, but no diploma. I never went back to finish that credit, and ended up getting my GED in 1998.

Maybe I'll have some reflective analysis on this soon, as I've never written it all out at once like this.

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