One morning a couple of years before my dad died, 2010 (I can’t remember exactly what year this happened), I was in the grocery store one morning and as I was standing at the checkout the song ‘Come As You Are’ by Nirvana came over the store speakers (yes, this store does play music that cool). The girl checking me out started grooving out on the song and said she loved Nirvana. I told her it was a cool song and I remembered when it came out back when I was in high school. She then looked at me with very wide eyes and went, “I’m in high school.”
At that moment, I felt like I was seen as an old person for the first time. I later told my father about this and he started laughing his head off (yes, I went looking for sympathy from the wrong person). He then told me, “Now you know how old I feel sometimes.”
Looking back, I have to say junior high and the first two years of high school really sucked for me. The bullying in elementary school was tame compared to the razor-sharp precision it was carried out on me in junior high and the first two years of high school. When I started junior high, I was put into advanced classes and those kids just really made me feel like shit. I was smart enough to be in those classes but for some damn reason, they didn’t think I was worthy of being there. I eventually started dropping out of advanced classes and at the time I felt like it was the right decision but looking back now I’d love to go back and kick some ass because I had valuable opportunities denied to me because of that bullying-bullshit.
But I also look back and wonder if I would have survived those times if there had been social media to stalk me with, and also being told to go kill myself like kids are told to today. Back then I was just told to go away and that if it looked like I was going to cry that made it worse. Luckily, I didn’t have to deal with social media back then and I got real good at not showing my emotions to anyone past a certain point.
Now junior and senior year of high school were a lot better. I was in regular classes and I got to know a lot of good people. These were fellow students who were just genuinely nice and kind to me. I even showed them some of my writing and they were blown away by it. I had people come to me for help and who worked well in groups together. I didn’t hang out with anyone too much or date but I liked the people I went to school with in those years a lot.
One thing I remember though about my senior year in high school was how the school administration was a bunch of threatening bullies. There were always whispers that if anyone tried anything like a walkout protest or something we’d be suspended or some shit. And at graduation rehearsal we were told multiple times not to do any crazy shit, or clap since there were seven-hundred and thirty-nine people in our class. But at graduation we gave each person a single clap as an act of defiance then cheered when the last student walked the stage. I graduated high school with a healthy disrespect for authority.
And another thing, I think even back then we knew our education could have been a hell of a lot better. History was a whitewash job and bad teachers were hard as hell to get rid of. Also, girls were treated worse than boys and yes, there was a shit-ton of racist crap, too. I look back and don’t feel discussions in class were nowhere near as honest or as though-provoking as they should have been. Here in Texas where I went to school, standardized testing was emerging as the be-all-end-all of student life back then in the public school system and I’d love to see that completely dismantled.
My adolescent and teen years were like my childhood in that I still felt like there was so much shit you couldn’t talk about. I think a lot of us knew the Regan-era 1980’s were based on a lot of conservative bullshit that has just gotten so damn much worse now. It’s why I think we latched on to Bill Clinton and Al Gore as hard as we did yet didn’t call Bill out on his behavior like we should have either.
I think we wanted to change the world and be rabble-rousers like the kids of the sixties were but I think we also saw how so many of those sixties-hippies turned into eighties-yuppies that we thought the same would happen to us. Or that it didn’t matter if you raised hell when you were younger because eventually you’d become an adult and have to stop believing you could really change things.
In my next decade, I would see a lot of my idealism destroyed by a president who couldn’t tell the truth about a blow job. And also, bullying would take on a new form against me that made what I’d been through before look pretty good.