Wednesday, October 20, 2010

That's Why I'm Never Going Back to My Old School

Well I did not think the girl
Could be so cruel
And I'm never going back
To My Old School ~ Steely Dan

Probably one f the hardest lessons to share with your teenage kids is that, in the grand scheme of things, high school doesn't matter. I don't mean the education or the grades - obviously that's important. There will be people you will meet and hold dear to you through time but the social hierarchy that is "HIGH SCHOOL" (all caps, chiller font with foreboding strings attached) will become such a small part of your life that you'll wonder why you let them cause you such grief. My apologies to those of you who may have been cheerleaders or football players or homecoming queens who still feel those are the best years of your life. For some of us, dare I say MOST of us, they were not so.

At the time you live those years, you feel as they represent your life. Who you are and all you ever will be. Your life is dictated by those narrow parameters set years ago. You are categorized. The brains. The stoners. The geeks. The jocks....the rest of us. You vacillate between wanting to blend in and striving to be noticed but by the right people. If you were raised with rules and boundaries, you push against those boundaries, trying desperately to make a name for yourself among the crowds that are held in high esteem. What you don't realize is that those people will come out of high school and will be the little fish in the big pond of the real world.

When one's level of popularity is based on looks or athletic prowess, you never really learn to treat people well because you don't have to. Somehow, people hang around you even when you treat them like crap because, let's face it, they're afraid NOT to be your friend. High school is a small village where you really can't get away from the people that you don't like or that taunt and bully you. You may have to ride the bus with them or even live near them. You feel like your whole life will involve these people and don't realize that you can leave the village. Sure, some will become business people with some level of success based on their high school stature (if you're a fan of One Tree Hill, I'm talking Dan Scott, here), but in the end, most will spend their lives trying to be what they were in high school. You know what? There is just no real world equivalent of the homecoming queen and in the real world, if you're not a nice person people don't want to be around you.

As I've watched a number of the "It Gets Better" videos that are part of The Trevor Project, aimed at the kids who are being bullied because of their real or perceived sexual orientation, I've been reminded how it felt to be pushed around and scared at school. I won't give value to the the so-called friends that put me through those brief periods of fear or the ones that disappeared from my side when it was happening but I can only imagine how a teen going through years of this treatment would think that this represents what will be their life. How awful to think that suicide is the only way away from the pain. Guess what kids .... high school is NOTHING! I can't speak for coming out; I can only speak for coming into your own. - becoming who you are and being proud of who you are. Screw the people who don't like you or don't like who you are. You CAN get away from those people and find people who will take you for who you are.

And as a final note, I would like to apologize to Matthew Phillips. At Del Mar Middle School in Santa Cruz, Matt was that kid with goofy glasses, acne and high water pants. He was teased and I know I took part in laughing at him at least once. I remember it made me feel powerful to be on the other side of the taunts for a change. And it made me feel awful. I don't think I did it twice but still remember that one time. I am not proud that I didn't have the balls to stop other people. I am sorry Matt. I hope you came into your own, got tough, got rich and kicked a little bully ass.


julie.strub said...

Nicely said! It's interesting too how many people who are against gay marriage also say they are against bullying gay kids. I don't think they see the connection - that as long as society collectively labels gays as undeserving of marriage, then it is also telling kids that gays are deserving to be bullied.

Kristabel said...

Beautiful. Thanks, Beachcomber!

Anonymous said...

Well said!

Even though I was relatively well liked in High School and not gay, my first reaction to the It will Get Better video was personal. I felt exactly that sense of growing into my own after I left the narrow walls of high school. I think most people do. Hurray to all of us for making it through the worst years and making a life that we're proud of.