I went to traditional public high school for about a year and a half; of that year and a half, I attended classes maybe close to a full year. It doesn’t sound like that much time now, but that was a very crucial time, developmentally speaking. It was the basis for how I *thought* the world saw me, who I was and what (if any) place I had in the relevancy of the social structure of high school in the late 80’s. I felt like a fish out of water, someone who clearly didn’t belong. These Beautiful People with their BMWs from Daddy and Mommy and their summer vacations to Hawaii or other places I’d never heard of. What planet did these folks hail from and why on Earth did they decide to land in Sacramento???
Now, if you know me now, you may see me as someone with good manners, somewhat of a sense of personal style and a certain grace and class (channeling Audrey Hepburn always) but in high school, I wasn’t any of that. I was hand me downs and thrift store clothing before thrift store clothing was social acceptable and environmentally responsible. I was no style other than someone else’s style and I wore those clothes like they weren’t mine because I didn’t own my style or my body or much of anything else. The only things I carried in my pockets were fear and anxiety, my twin companions throughout my teen years and into my 20’s.
I came from a Catholic school, where I had been going since first grade. My largest class was probably 30 students, most of whom I had been at that school with since the first grade. We didn’t have lockers, we didn’t switch classrooms until we went to the transitioned to the next grade or went to music, P.E. or mass. It was a mostly quiet school, small and where my siblings went, as well. The all-girls Catholic high school was right next door to the 8th Grade Field. Only really connected and special lower class would be allowed to set foot on that field and I was one of them, by association with my three big brothers. We looked out for each other on the playground and if someone messed with one of my little brothers, watch out. I wasn’t playing when it came to my brothers and it holds true today. (In case you were doing the math on the big and little brothers – I have five brothers total)
Come for my brother(s) and I’ll come for you.
At any rate, this is the world I came from and public high school was nothing I was prepared for in any way. Changing classes, huge campus, complicated schedule, loud bells ringing, tons of people; teachers, counselors, janitors, students, students, students. I think maybe two people from my tiny little school transferred with me and I had zero classes with either of them. There were some nice people, like anywhere else and there were some really not nice people, also like anywhere else. I could tolerate the guys with their lewd remarks and suggestive comments and gestures; that was just normal. Guys are guys and it’s all about what it’s all about. We’re all adults here, so I won’t go into more detail.
It was the girls; oh sweet baby Jesus save me from the GIRLS!!!!!!! MEAN GIRLS, PETTY GIRLS, VICIOUSLY, MALICIOUSLY WITH NO EMPATHY, MEAN GIRLS. Absolutely would tear to shreds anyone who made eye contact, which reminded me of Medusa, who would turn you to stone if you looked at her and her head of snakes. If you weren’t wearing the right jeans, if your clothes were worn or torn or tattered. If you had your brother’s shirt on, they would taunt and ask “Are you a girl or a boy? Or don’t you know?” If you were single and didn’t have a boyfriend, you were “the sad, lonely girl who no one likes..” I could go on and on; I’ll just assume you get the idea.
Fast forward to present time. I survived that year and a half (year served) went on to Independent Studies, where I worked at my own pace and basically finished the remaining sentence in less than a year, got bored and stopped 7 credits short of getting my high school diploma because I was already working full-time, in the “real world” and the diploma was like buying into the crap that high school was peddling and I was having nothing to do with it. Eventually, I got my GED and closed the book on high school with a mighty “Praise the Lord!”
What I didn’t realize at the time and am now coming to understand, is that the spirit of high school lives on in alot of people. They may have left high school decades ago, but that high school spirit is alive and well and driving the meat suit that is Mean Girl Samantha, for example.
Samantha was the shizzat in high school; cheerleader, Most Popular, prom queen, etc., who married the All-Star Quarterback (now used car salesman and full-time alcoholic) and are living in the house of her dreams, drowning in debt and status and Instagram-worthy lifestyle so everyone can know HOW GREAT her life is. You would think, from all outward appearances, that this person would be happy, but no. Samantha treats her housekeeper worse than a redheaded stepchild, makes her work harder than necessary, doesn’t give her paid time off even though she’s been with her for over 20 years. She doesn’t allow her to have her grandchildren stay over, even though she’s a live-in and there are more empty bedrooms in that house than grandchildren. She has it all and even with all those possessions, she can’t buy compassion or empathy. She can’t afford to have grace enough to share her riches, to take the time to ask her husband why he drinks so much or ask herself why she has to be so mean??
Well, I’ve met more than a few of these Mean Girls in real life and I am here to tell you, I do not like it any more than when I was in high school. But thankfully, I am not that girl anymore. I will not cower while someone beats me over the head with meanness. I will not get up and punch them in the face repeatedly….no, I won’t. Really. I promise????
But I will let them know I see them for who they really are, behind the meanness. A hurt, frightened, out of control, emotionally constipated, confused little girl who never had to grow up. Who never learned how to communicate their feelings, how to be vulnerable and how to be kind. How to heal when wounded, how to forgive when wronged and how to think about others at least as much as yourself. How to give, as well as receive and how to share; grief, gifts and glory.
No child is born mean or cruel; it is my belief that this is an absolute truth. We as a society either encourage hate to grow or encourage love. It’s like many sayings and proverbs, etc. what you feed will grow. What you think will become. What you seek you will find.
I seek peace and quiet and a drama-free workplace. I am really hoping this will find me. If not, I have a massive sage and I’m a-gonna set that baby on fire and have myself a real life exorcism and banish the spirit of high school once and for all.