High school. Four short years out of a lifetime, yet it’s earmarked in our minds even decades after it ends.
Some will tell you they loved it. Others hated it. And then there are those in the middle, who muddled through the day getting from it what they could, waiting for bigger and better times ahead. That was me.
I recently found out my fortieth high school reunion is in 2017. (I’m cringing…please don’t do the math.) After I graduated, I didn’t think much about my high school experience since I was overjoyed to move on to bigger and better things. But when my daughters entered, those years returned to me often–the memories not so great.
Back then, the rug of my life had been pulled from beneath my feet. My parents got divorced while I was in junior high. I felt like a stranger living inside my skin. Then at the end of ninth grade, my father committed suicide. I plowed through days in classes, observing those around me and searching for myself…on the outside of life and merely looking in.
As my own daughters went through high school, they seemed confident and happy. They played in band, sang in choir, joined field hockey, softball, winter guard. And yet every now and then, one of them would refer to a classmate as “one of the popular kids.”
I’d laugh and say, “Popular? You have friends. You seem popular to me.”
I’d usually get an eye roll and, “Mom, you know what I mean.”
Sure I did. Popular is defined as “liked, admired, or enjoyed by many people…”. I think what I felt for those kids was awe–more a little fear mixed with wonder at where they found the confidence to do the things they did. And a part of me resented them because I just wasn’t there yet.
A few years back, I learned that a member of my high school class had gone on to a major achievement. I always remember him carrying an instrument around the hallways–or so it seemed. But now, he’s the conductor of the Boston Pops–the infamous Keith Lockhart. I was thrilled to learn this news. I’d always told my girls that high school was only the beginning of their lives–a dot on the spectrum of where they could go. They shouldn’t fret about the idea of popularity. The night I learned about Keith’s achievement, I dragged out my yearbook and showed my daughters Keith’s picture. Then I showed them his website now and where he went in life.
A Mom-speech followed. “Never feel inferior to anybody in high school. It’s the journey after you leave that matters.”
And yet, as I sit here thinking about my own reunion, I almost forget the woman I am now along with the successes I’ve had in life. Graduating college. Having a thriving career in the business world. Raising two smart and beautiful daughters. Starting a new mid-life career as an author (with four published books to my credentials and a fifth on the way.)
Suffice it to say I have more happy memories after having left high school, and yet it’s left a mark on me.
What about you? Would you do those years over again if you could?