At high school reunions we like to sit around and speak fondly of our high school years and recall our friendships and accomplishments. We bask in the memories of game victories. We discuss in glowing details the night of the prom or graduation. But there is a dark side of high school that I’m sure many of us remember, especially as we see other family members go through it.
High school is a time of uncertainty and vulnerability as teens search for their true identities and test their values. High school is a time of cruelty and violence. It is a time for depression and eating disorders. It is a time for serious temptations that can ruin lives.
I look at this photo of me, taken in science class, and I remember the struggles I had with other students, with my family, with my insecurities and I wonder sometimes how I survived those four years without more physical and psychological damage.
I began my high school years in California at a huge high school where my freshman class numbered 1,200. I was lost in the crowd and often felt overwhelmed. There were dangerous people on our campus. There were places you just didn’t go and students you just didn’t speak to. There were gang fights and threats of more violence. One day at lunch I witnessed a fight between two boys armed with bicycle chains. Another time it was girls with pointed combs. I enjoyed my friends and some of my classes, but there was always a “tension”.
I thought our move to Caddo would solve everything, but it didn’t. There were still relationship problems and fights between boys and after school drinking and the usual teen problems. I didn’t know who I was or where I fit in or if I even wanted to. I spent hours crying about things other girls said, things other boys said, things my mom said.
I survived a lot of the problems by lying. I felt terrible, but I learned that telling my mom what she wanted to hear made her much happier than the truth would have. And I lied to other people who didn’t seem like they could be trusted with the truth, especially the truth about my feelings. I guarded them above everything else. I was terrified that if most people knew how I really felt they wouldn’t like me. And in high school not being liked is the ultimate punishment.
Oh, I didn’t tell big lies. I was never a real risk taker. I snuck out my window once to ride around town with a group of friends. I told my mom once that I was with “x” when I was really with “z”. I told the kind of lies that made people think I was a little nicer and more confident that I actually was.
As my children have become adults they have revealed some of their own high school lies to me. I suppose it is the survival instinct that makes us lie, especially during our most vulnerable years. I don’t bother to lie anymore. Too much angst over remembering what I said when to whom. Too much guilt. Much more confidence. Besides, Robert says I lack the “poker face” necessary for effective lying. I wonder what the criterion is for “effective lying”. I probably don’t want to know.