Monday, September 3, 2012

Reflections From High School

I just got home from my Twenty-Five year High School Class Reunion.

I went to a small 1A school. I graduated with 19 people. Eleven returned for the reunion (one is not in this photo). There were around 300 students in my school: kindergarten to 12th grade.

Part of the reunion was a tour of the school. (Who would have thought that one of our classmates would grow up and be on the school board!) As I walked though the hallways and class rooms, it occurred to me that even in a small school, getting through high school was rough. As classmates were sharing stories I realized I must have blocked a lot of what they were sharing from my memory.

So, in reflecting, I started coming up with these thoughts on how to survive high school. They are lessons I have been teaching The Boy.

 Being New is Hard.
I started Kindergarten with this group, then moved away. I rejoined them in fifth grade. I think on my first day in this new school, we had PE. We shared a PE class with the sixth grade so I not only had to fit in with my class but now the class ahead of me. 

I came from a school that had never, not for one day, played a game called kick-ball. Where I came from we played tether-ball and I was actually really good at it.  But tether-ball was not being played at my new school; kick-ball was. And I was immediately odd because I had never played it. I was an outcast because I had never even heard of it.

The Life Lesson:  Do not prematurely judge someone you do not know. They may not have some skills but they probably have other skills. (I anxiously awaited the school year to play tether-ball again and show this new school that I had skills in other areas but I never played again.)

You Don't Know What You Can't See
The odd thing about emotional scars is you can't see them. But they hurt deep. What no one at that school could see was that my home life was rocky. My Dad was a drinker and more often than not did not come home because he was out drinking. Up to the fifth grade my mom had been a stay-at-home mom but when we moved to this new town, she decided to get a job (I am sure we needed a stable reliable paycheck). She could only get the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift. At the age of 10 and 7, my younger brother and I were home alone, almost every night after school, and I do not mean for a few hours after school.  I remember my Dad being home sometimes but mostly I remember being alone. When Dad would come home after work, he was often intoxicated, which meant he was either the life of the party or ready to fight. 

But the kids at school knew none of this...and let's be honest, they did not care. They just saw a girl who was odd.  She felt inferior to every one else (in dress, speech, hair style, physical abilities, ect). So when she did interact, she did not use the right words, she did not look the right way, she just did it wrong.  She did not have role models to help her. She was trying to figure it out all on her own. 

Life Lesson: Be nice. To everyone. Be open. You never know when just smiling at someone and saying hello will make their entire day.  You never know what a person holds inside them. 

It Just Takes One.
In the sixth grade, I made friends with another girl in my class. She was quiet. She looked about as alone as I felt (or is that my distorted memory?).  We became friends. And my entire outlook changed. I was excited to go to school and see her. Excited when she invited me over to her house after school. She and I have remained friends all these years. She has no idea how much she "saved" me. 

Later, in high school another one came along. I had no plans. No dreams. I did not think kids from struggling homes had that opportunity. One teacher went above and beyond and made me make a plan. Not a day goes by when I do not credit her for the two degree's I hold. Every time I accomplish something new, or rock out a great project, or execute a killer cake I thank her.

Life Lesson: Be that one. Be the one that changes the world for a person. Or at least, do little/no harm.  

The Tide Always Turns.
You grow comfortable in your own skin. You establish your own relationships. Circumstances change. I have so many wonderful memories of my later years of high school! Despite whatever bumps we had in elementary school, we were a cohesive group by high school. I can honestly say I enjoy speaking to every single one of my classmates. I have great memories and experiences with nearly all of them. And, I am happy to say, we are still making memories. 

Life Lesson: I think this is important to remember, things change. I know at times it feels that the situation can't get any worse or things will never change. But they do! Nothing in this world is permanent. (Not even that crazy tattoo you got that one wild night!)  So, never give up!

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