High school: The start of where you really learn about life, who you are and who you didn’t want to be.
Being the nerdy, school-loving person that I was, I could not wait to start ninth grade. The shear joy of signing up for my choices, finding out how much time I would have to run from one class to another, discovering who would be my classmates for the next four months (or if it were a full semester class then for eight months all together.) Oh and the clubs! We could join clubs of all sorts. Really, I was a social butterfly that first year: Thespians (All the hazing during pledge week! Every time a member approached, Danny, Jennifer and I had to fall to our knees and loudly proclaim “Oh great Thespian I adore thee!”), Choir, FCA, Pep, French… and others that I can’t think of at all right now.
Bummer. I only made it in Girls Chorus. Oh well, I could sing Soprano there as well as in Chorus. And then of course I had to take the dreaded PE class that every upper classmen swore was better to get out of the way early rather than later in the high school way of things. But at least I had Mandy in that class. If I’m going to look like a dork in that ugly goldenrod t-shirt and those black shorts, we’ll at least do it together. But I did make it in all the AP classes I wanted, which was probably a miracle of sorts because most of my friends were smarter than me. (I’m not saying that I wasn’t smart; I know I was. I’m just saying that on the smart scale, I was on the lower end of the smart stick. Hey, I’m just keeping it real.)
First day there, I started making additional friends. Being outspoken and witty at the right moment can do that for you. (Or not, I have no delusions that everyone loved me.) But the transition from attending a school with 600 to a school with 1600 wasn’t too hard on me. Of course I worried about being cool and fitting in, but for the most part, I didn’t worry about being liked or making my mark. Amazing, when I think about it. Who goes into high school completely comfortable with who she is? Sure I worried about the *cough, cough* occasional zit and the complete lack of datability, but overall, I really liked who I was, where I was at and who was traveling that road with me.
Football games were fun and freeing. I often met my friends for the game. Cheering, laughing, yelling and enjoying those warm Southern nights… A Friday night really couldn’t get any better. Saturdays nights often turned into sleepovers or Youth Group activities. Oh, and it was due to sleepovers that I really discovered how weird I was. I was often awake and out of bed by 7 AM. How boring it was to be at a friend’s house when everyone slept until 10 AM. Sigh.
PE – not coed, thank goodness! Freshmen girls have a hard enough time dealing with the way they look without having any of the guys as onlookers as well. Mandy and I had a great time learning how to pretend that we could do anything athletic. Wait a second, athletics was an area where I was very insecure. I was 5’ 1” and a whopping 80 lbs, if that. I’d always been the shortest and smallest in class and therefore the last to be picked on teams (a tradition I loathe, by the way. Lucky for those elementary educators that I didn’t allow myself to be scarred for life and have traumatic emotional issues over always being unwanted…) But AHA! Mandy and I learned to kick boo-tay in Volleyball and guess who took first place in the Badminton Championship? Uh-huh! You got it! We bad! We bad! Hey, it made our entire torturous time in that class well worth it. Leave me be in my glory days.
One class that I couldn’t wait to attend was English with Mrs. Werner. Oh if only everyone had a mentor or encourager like her! She was the first teacher to bring English to life for me. She expected top notch and, if she didn’t get it, she would send your submittal back to you with instructions to do better. She encouraged reading and opinionating what you read. She delighted in reviews, creative writing and the idea that books are something to be enjoyed, not endured.
Girls Chorus was unique. There I made friends with a myriad, most of whom were named Jennifer pr some variation of the name. Some became really close buddies. We laughed, enjoyed music together and, well, mostly we felt sorry for our teacher, Mr. Svelte. Poor man. He tried so hard, but he had such a spineless way about him. This characteristic did not bode well for anyone teaching teenagers. I cannot count the number of times that year that he came to school in the same clothes because his wife kicked him out of the house and refused to let him enter, even for necessities. He was a nice man, but slightly off-kilter due to a number of factors. Our chatting, giggling selves couldn’t have helped at all.
I discovered the joy of working a play. Building a set, painting, rehearsals, long hours memorizing lines... and the camaraderie that is naturally built when working several hours a day together, only getting longer and longer as the performances drew near. These were the moments that I loved. With these surroundings came a kind of vitality on which I could almost feed. I just knew that I had found another niche, one that could bring me joy from a different perspective. Although I didn’t make it into any of the plays that year, I vowed that I would the next. That was a promise I intended to keep…