high school

Exit 244. Sunshine blogger award.

I had nothing to write about this week. Conveniently enough, Charlene at Curiosity & Confession nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Thank you! That means I get to answer a bunch of questions about myself, and then nominate people to answer different questions about themselves.  I know I’ve gotten nominated for a few of these before.  I don’t remember if I’ve done this exact one, but the questions are different every time, so it doesn’t matter.

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post/or on your blog.
  • Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.
    2019060315596039499737107020236528153170.jpg

These are the questions I got from Charlene. There were 12 of them, even though there were supposed to be 11, so you get a bonus question.

Where do you get your news? Mostly from the website for the major newspaper in my area.

If your job gave you a surprise paid three days off, what would you do those three days? I’m a teacher, so I have long periods of not having to go to work on a regular basis. But if it happened unexpectedly, I’d spend at least one day sitting around the house being lazy and catching up on cleaning. And if my friends were doing anything spontaneous, I’d be a lot more likely to go along with it than I normally am on a weeknight. Maybe I’d take a day trip to eat at an In-N-Out Burger I’ve never been to before (I’ve been to 116 different locations). But anything more adventurous would require a lot of advance planning and mentally getting myself ready, not something I can handle in three days.

What is something that you resent paying for? Other people’s abortions, via my tax dollars. (Please don’t argue about abortion or politics in my comments. A question was asked, and I answered it.)

What is the most expensive thing you have broken? A few women’s hearts. I’m not good at having the conversation when someone is into me and I’m not really into them like that. However, I’ve been on the receiving end of those conversations far more often than the giving end.

What was cool when you were younger, but is not cool now? Vanilla Ice. When I was 14 years and 2 months old, he was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I had outgrown him and his music by the time I was 14 years and 3 months old.

What is something that no matter how evolved we become will always be popular? Breathing. Breathing has been in style since prehistoric times. Either that or the Rolling Stones, since they’ve already been popular for over half a century.

Who do you go out of your way to be nice to? Going out of my way to be nice is kind of my default. However, if you’re openly angry about how much you hate people with my beliefs and opinions, then I’m going to go out of my way to ignore you as much as possible.

Who was your craziest/ most interesting teacher? What grade did they teach? I’ve had a lot of crazy and interesting teachers.  And this is a hard one to answer, because I’ve had a lot of favorite teachers for reasons that “crazy” and “interesting” don’t describe.  (I could say that I’m my own craziest teacher, because I’m sure a lot of my students would say I’m crazy and interesting, but that’s a cop-out.)  The first one who comes to mind was my PE teacher in 9th grade, because of the nicknames he would give some students (for example, there was a kid who always wore a blue hoodie, not sure if it was gang related or not, but this teacher always called him “Little Blue Riding Hood”).  He also made up names for some of the activities we would play; the flag football class championship was called the Toilet Bowl, and when we would have to run two miles on the day before a long holiday, it was called the Turkey Trot (Thanksgiving), the Reindeer Romp (Christmas), and the Bunny Hop (spring break, which included Easter).  I think those are the right names.  I wrote more about him, including a hilarious quote, a few years ago when he passed away.

What are some red flags to watch out for in your daily life? People who say they care about you but are always too busy for you, especially if said people are significant others.

If you could move one character to play in a different movie, what character would it been and to what movie/show? Barry Goldberg on Beavis and Butthead. That could be interesting…
Barry: “And so I pass into Hyperspace, Maybe you can follow me
Where I will be starting my own rap colony”
Butthead: ” “Uhhhh… this guy sucks.”

What actor/actress plays the same role in almost every movie or show they do? Jack Black comes to mind. He’s really good at that one role.

What protagonist from book or movie would make the worst roommate or spouse? There was this one character, I don’t remember what movie he was from, where he would interrogate his roommate every time his roommate had a new woman in his life, and lecture him about Christian purity and how great it is not to kiss until your wedding day (the roommates were both adults, it should be pointed out). And sometimes he would wander around the house talking to himself about how messy and immature his roommate is (the roommate found out because the guy didn’t realize his roommate was home). He told his roommate on numerous occasions that he was immature and weak in his Christian faith because he played video games, and how he was wasting his time by having friends who weren’t Christians and not was actively trying to convert them. I can’t remember… what movie was that from?… oh wait, it wasn’t a movie, IT WAS REAL LIFE.

I don’t like nominating people for these, so if you want to be nominated, go ahead and do this. 🙂 And if you are nominated, leave a comment below so people can go check out your blog. The rest of you, go check out some new blogs in the comments.  Seriously, don’t forget that part, because that’s the point of these blog awards.

My questions for you:

  • What place would you most like to visit right now, if neither time nor money were a factor?
  • What is the farthest away from home you’ve ever been?
  • What is the longest you’ve ever waited in line, and what was it for?
  • What is the weirdest or most noteworthy story you have about how you met one of your friends?
  • What is something you liked to eat as a kid, but you don’t like anymore?
  • If you could bring back one discontinued product, what would it be?
  • What was your least favorite thing about school?
  • If you could change one law/rule/etc. that applies to you, what would it be?
  • Who is your celebrity crush?
  • If you could change your name, what would you change it to?  And if you like your name the way it is, why?
  • What’s that band/singer/musician that you’re a fan of, but you’re kind of embarrassed to admit it? Come on, everyone has one.

Exit 238. The relationship goes both ways.

I saw a coworker the other day. Her children, two of whom had been students of mine in the past, were with her. The oldest one is now in high school. She was in my class three years ago, in that same memorable class as the girl who dropped precalculus, the guy I had no memory of, Protractor Girl, and the friendly guy I saw at the basketball game.

I waved. She waved back.

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“Good,” she said. Or something like that; I don’t remember the small talk part word for word. “How are you?”

All I could think of to say was, “I’m really stressed right now.” It’s true. I am really stressed right now. I have a lot of things at home that need fixing. My house is a mess. I have a lot of school responsibilities I’m trying to juggle.

“It’s okay,” she said. “You’ll get through it.”

There are plenty of stories out there about teachers inspiring students. Most people have a favorite teacher who inspired them in a particular way, whether or not this teacher even taught the subject matter that the student in question enjoyed. But, after almost two decades of working in education, I would venture a guess that there are just as many stories of students inspiring teachers. Students and teachers are a significant part of each others’ lives for a time, and the relationship goes both ways. My former student is correct here. I will get through this.

And so will all of you. Happy Easter/Resurrection Day, friends.

Exit 234. No good for an old memory to mean so much today.

The title comes from this popular song from my childhood.

My other blog (on which I use a pen name, in case any of you check it out and are confused by what my name actually is) is an episodic continuing story currently set in 1994 (about a decade later than the song I just quoted, so the song isn’t connected to this story except for the enduring relevance of that quote).  The main character in that story, currently an 18-year-old in his first term away from home at a large university, recently looked up something in a yearbook from high school and noticed some things that people wrote to him inside.  For the purposes of making the story authentic, I used actual words that people wrote in my 11th and 12th grade yearbooks for the yearbook signatures in the story.

When I was in school, the day that the yearbooks were distributed, and the following days when classmates and friends would sign the blank pages in the front and back, were always one of the major highlights of the year for me.  I’ve always struggled with feelings of being an outcast, feeling like no one likes me. And, not to sound like an attention whore, but yearbook-signing time is a way to get it in writing that people really have nice things to say about me.  And now, as a middle-aged teacher, I feel the same way about yearbooks.  I always enjoy and look forward to getting to read students’ wishes for me to have a great summer, and to wish the same to them.

As an example, one of the actual quotes I used in the story came from someone who I had just met during senior year.  A class I was in and a class she was in did a project together, with a few students from each class randomly assigned to work together.  I hadn’t thought of her in years, and I mostly only remember two things about her: that project, and the fact that she wrote something really nice and thoughtful in my yearbook at the end of that year.  It was the kind of message I might expect to read from someone I’ve been friends with a long time, not from an acquaintance two grades younger than me whom I had just met six months earlier.

I didn’t stay in touch with most of my high school friends.  The majority of people who sent me their best wishes for the future, told me how I would go far in life, and encouraged me to be confident and smile more, did not speak to me in my college years.  I tried to stay in touch with some of them, at least, but only a few responded, and after a couple years I didn’t hear from them anymore either.  For years, that left me wondering… did people really mean all the nice things they would write to me in the yearbook? Or did they just write nice things because that’s what you were supposed to do, and they were all empty words?

I don’t know.  Honestly, it was probably a combination of both, depending on the person.  And to be fair to my friends who didn’t stay in touch, it was a lot harder to stay in touch in 1994 than it is now.   There was no social media, no texting, and email was a new (or at least newly mainstream) technology that my friends weren’t using often, if at all.  Although I did try to stay in touch with some people, I didn’t try to stay in touch with everyone. I was even more socially awkward back then. It also felt a little inappropriate to me to make an effort to stay in touch specifically with cute girls who had boyfriends, unless I had been close friends with them for a long time (the girl I mentioned above whom I knew from the class project was in this category).  And I was pretty terrified of using the phone.  I should point out for any of my long-time friends who ever got a phone call from me in the 20th century that I probably sat there for at least 20 minutes agonizing over whether or not I should really call you, and wondering if you really wanted to talk to me, or if your parents answered and things got awkward if they knew who I was, crazy stuff like that.

I’ve lived a lot of life since 1994, and I’ve made and lost a lot of friends.  I have come to realize that, yes, there are a lot of people who will be nice to me to my face but not care about me once my back is turned, or once it takes effort from them to stay in my life, or once they have gotten what they need from me.  But I have also come to realize that sometimes people just lose touch from natural causes. Life is busy and hectic and chaotic and unpredictable. Yes, it is easier to stay in touch with people in the social media era.  And I’m back in contact with quite a few of my high school friends thanks to Facebook and Instagram, and Myspace before that.  But that takes time too, and there is only so much time to go around, especially now that my classmates and I are in our early 40s with careers and responsibilities and (many of them, but not me) children to raise.  There are plenty of good intentions to go around, but not plenty of time.

I like closure.  When someone disappears from my life, I like to know why, so I can learn from the experience if necessary.  But that doesn’t always happen, and that’s ok. I shouldn’t be dwelling on it.  It’s in the past.  Time to move on and focus on the present.

Exit 227. Taking my own advice.

Two unrelated things happened this week that, when juxtaposed, say something interesting about me.  

The first was a conversation I had on Tuesday with a former student who is now in high school.  I’ll call her “Lambda-2 Fornacis.” Lambda was in my class three years ago, the same class as Protractor Girl, The Boy I Have No Memory Of, and The Kid Who Sat Behind Me At A Basketball Game Once.  She was the kind of student that most teachers love to have in their class. She did her homework, it was neatly written, and she always was one of the top students in my class.  I think she had straight As all through middle school. I normally tell students that they can add me on social media after they finish middle school and go on to high school, but somehow (probably because these kids have older friends who talk) she found my Instagram (which doesn’t have my real name anywhere on it) and started following me the year after she had my class, when she was still in middle school.  I didn’t do anything about it, though, because I figured she wasn’t the type to cause trouble, although I didn’t follow her back until the day after she finished middle school.

Anyway, Lambda asked me something about a recent post on Instagram, I replied, and then I asked her how she was doing.  She mentioned that she had dropped precalculus. This year has been the first time she had ever struggled in math, she didn’t like the teacher she had this year, and she had been rethinking her career plans.  I have to admit, that was a little disappointing to hear at first, because she was such a great student for me, and I’m always disappointed to hear when people don’t love math as much as me. However, I completely understand where she is coming from, and I told her so.  I told her about hitting the same proverbial wall with physics my freshman year at UC Davis, how I struggled so much with that class at first, and while I still did well, it just didn’t feel as natural for me as math did. It was during that first physics class when when I decided for sure to major in mathematics and not physics, and I didn’t take any more physics after I was done with the minimum that would be required for the math major.  I told her that there’s nothing wrong with changing your mind about your future plans, especially since she’s only 15. I told her that as late as age 19, I was telling people that there was no way I would ever be a teacher. And I told her that I took all the most challenging classes in high school, to the point that I had some very long days senior year, but I wasn’t doing it because I had a career plan. For me, it was because I felt like school was the one thing I was good at, and I would be a failure if I didn’t.  This is not a mentally healthy outlook. I know that Lambda is going to be successful no matter what direction she takes her education.

That was Tuesday.  On Wednesday night, I got very little sleep.  I discovered another important thing here at the house that needed to be fixed.  I started to panic under the pressure of everything that needed to be done. I was behind on grading papers.  I had errands and chores that were piling up, and the kitchen sink was full of dirty dishes. I had now four important home repairs that needed to be dealt with as soon as possible, one of which was already making life more inconvenient in very tangible ways, and another of which had the potential to do so if left unchecked.  I couldn’t sleep, and I wasn’t sure if it was related to stress, recent changes in medication, other health problems I didn’t know about, lack of exercise, or what. It’s very hard for me to get these home repairs and chores done sometimes, because I’m rarely home during business hours and my schedule isn’t very flexible. I don’t get a lot of exercise this time of year, because I’m only home when it’s cold and dark.  And I couldn’t call in sick and take a day to recover from the lack of sleep and deal with these problems, because the classroom is such a mess that a substitute wouldn’t be able to find what they needed, and the kids would get behind anyway because my curriculum doesn’t work well for people who haven’t been trained and aren’t well-prepared.

I went to work on one hour of sleep (and I had gotten three hours the previous night).  I made an important decision while I was tossing and turning: long story, but basically I sent an email to the administrators saying that I needed to back out of one of my weekly commitments.  This would give me one more day of the week that I could get home a little earlier when needed, if I needed to deal with something before it got dark and places closed. Thankfully, they were very understanding.  But, I told the principal, I still feel like I do so much less than so many other teachers. Some of them are working on graduate degrees. Many of them attend more professional development workshops than I do. Some of them are department chairs, or serve on committees.  And many of them have young children of their own. I feel like there is something wrong with me, that I have such a hard time handling my own job, let alone all that extra stuff.

And then it hit me.

Why do I have such a hard time taking my own advice?

Just a day and a half earlier, I was messaging Lambda telling her that it was okay not to burden herself with hard classes that she didn’t need.  So why can’t I tell myself that it is okay not to burden myself with stressful commitments that I don’t need?

Everyone’s brain works differently.  I get more easily stressed and overwhelmed, and I’m fighting demons from the past that many of my coworkers don’t have.  If I really believe what I told Lambda, then it’s hypocritical to insist upon myself that I take on extra commitments that I don’t get anything out of.

It’s now Saturday, and I feel so much better.  Getting out of that extra commitment allowed me to leave earlier than usual on Thursday, which gave me time to make some phone calls to start the process of dealing with the two most pressing home repairs.  I didn’t get completely caught up on grading, but it’s now a three-day weekend, so I’ll have time to catch up.

I’m going to be fine.  :)&[4].

Exit 221. The best I can with the life I’ve been given.

Recently, one of my friends shared on Facebook that her daughter was pregnant, and that she was going to be a grandmother for the first time. This announcement was significant to me because of how I know this grandmother-to-be: she was in my high school graduating class.

I’ve known for years that this moment would be coming soon, and I’ve been dreading it. Having children was never on my radar, I’ve always felt like I was missing out on something special because of that, and now I’m old enough to be theoretically having grandchildren. It’s quite likely that she isn’t even the first grandparent in our graduating class. Quite a few of my classmates already have adult children (we’re in our early 40s currently), and at least three-fourths of my classmates I have heard nothing from since we graduated. I know of people my age and younger who have older spouses and step-grandchildren, and I know of someone in the class a year older than us who was a grandmother at age 39. But it hits home a little more when it’s someone whom I’m actually in social media contact with.

I’ve been dreading this because it is just a reminder of the fact that having children has never been something to consider for me, which in turn is a reminder of my failure to form or have a romantic relationship. I am constantly surrounded by reminders of this, and it makes me feel like there is something wrong with me.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. I can just keep doing the best I can with the life I’ve been given. And I have plenty of reminders of experiences I’ve had, and continue to have, that wouldn’t be possible had I had children. This isn’t what I naturally think about first when this happens, but I need to learn to change my thinking.

And besides, most of the greatest human beings who ever lived weren’t like everyone else.

Exit 143. That would be cool. Huh-huh.

As I suspected, the changing of the calendar from 2016 to 2017 has not seemed to slow down celebrity deaths.  But the passing of memorable and influential individuals hit home twice within the last couple weeks.  A coworker of mine who taught special education and was involved in a number of student activities left two months ago for medical reasons and ended up being a lot sicker than anyone thought.  I found out Tuesday morning that she didn’t make it.  There is much I could say about her, but my thought for this week concerns someone else who passed this month.  I hadn’t seen this other individual in over 20 years.

Mrs. J, as I’ll refer to her here, taught English at the high school I attended.  I never actually had her for a teacher myself, but I knew her because she was our class advisor.  Also, I knew her daughter, who was the same year as me.  I haven’t stayed in touch with her, or her daughter, so I just found out about this a few days ago when a friend from high school posted Mrs. J’s obituary on Facebook.  Although I never had Mrs. J as a teacher, she was involved with one of the most significant memories I have from that era, one which I still mention now as a major turning point in my life.

I wrote a bit about my high school experience a couple years ago (Highway Pi #26), and as I said before, I was pretty sheltered, and I kept to myself a lot.  I did homework during lunch, and I pretty much never saw people from school outside of school other than the occasional sporting event or dance that I would attend at the school.  A lot of people were nice to me, though, encouraging me to get more involved with the school.  About a month into senior year, I was sitting in the walkway reading when two other seniors walked by, reminding me that we had a class meeting during that lunch period to discuss Homecoming activities.  I didn’t usually get involved with that kind of stuff, but for some reason, I decided to go with them this time.  Maybe because it was senior year, and it was my last chance to get involved with school activities.  So I followed them to the meeting, in Mrs. J’s room.

I know that I have a few readers outside the USA… I’m not sure how it works everywhere else, but homecoming is a time in the fall when a variety of school activities are planned, usually in the week leading up to the first football game played at home against a league opponent.  It is tradition for alumni of the school to return home to watch that game.  At the school I attended (this part is not something that all American high schools do), we had a rally during homecoming week in which each class would perform some sort of skit, and planning the skit was on the agenda for this meeting that I attended.  Our class usually did a skit involving characters from some movie or TV show that was popular at the time (the early ’90s).  As juniors, our skit was based on the movie Wayne’s World, for example.

When the time came to talk about the skit, Mrs. J suggested we do something based on popular characters again.  “Like, maybe, Beavis and Butthead?” she said.  Several people started laughing and expressing their approval.  I scrunched my face into my best Butthead impression, and said, “Huh-huh.  Huh-huh.  That would be cool.  Huh-huh.”  Someone pointed at me and said, “I think he’s going to be playing Butthead!”

Beavis and Butthead aired on MTV between 1993 and 1997.  It was the brainchild of the brilliant dark satirist Mike Judge, who later brought us other brilliant satire like King of the Hill, Office Space (note: link contains inappropriate language), and Idiocracy (note: link contains a bare butt farting).  It was about the misadventures of two dumb teenage boys, their obsession with bodily functions and dirty jokes, and their commentary on music videos.   For me, the quiet kid who helped people with their math homework and sat in the corner reading during lunch, to get up in front of the whole school and act like Butthead surprised a lot of people.

And it felt so freeing.

It was the first time I had ever done something like that in front of a crowd.  And it was awesome.  Not scary like I expected.  To this day, people often ask me why I like Beavis and Butthead, because it’s so stupid, and after saying something about Mike Judge’s brilliant satire, I add that it reminds me of the first time I ever got up in front of a crowd and did something silly and out of character, and how it really did feel like life was going to change once I realized that I was capable of doing this.

Thank you, Mrs. J, for the suggestion.  May you rest in peace.

Exit 123. You’re tough.

Since I teach math, I have had many students over the years tell me that I was one of their favorite teachers, despite the fact that they hate math, or they are bad at math (they think), or both.  I know that feeling well, although as a student, math was never the class I hated.

I recently saw a post, on the Facebook group for alumni of the high school I went to, saying that a former physical education teacher and coach had passed away.  I’ll call him Mr. F.  I saw him much the way that the students in my classes whom I described above see me: I hated PE.  I was never very good at running or lifting or any physical activity.  But I loved Mr. F as a teacher, mostly because he was really funny.  Sometimes he would say things completely unexpected out of nowhere.  One time, I told him, quietly, nervously that my stomach hurt and asked if I could use the bathroom before we started running or doing whatever we were doing that day.  He pointed toward the bathroom and said, loudly enough for everyone to hear, “Yeah!  Go take a big sh**!”  I have not stayed in touch with Mr. F, I haven’t seen him since I finished high school, and I don’t know anything about his passing other than someone on this post mentioned cancer.

But when I saw that he passed away, this was not the story I shared on that post.

In the summer of 1991, right after the year I had Mr. F’s PE class, I worked out in the weight room with the football team.  A lot of my friends told me I should play football, mostly because of how I was built.  But I was not an athlete.  I liked to eat too much, and I did not like to run.  But football players were the cool kids, you know how high school stereotypes are, so I worked out with the football team nevertheless.

There was another problem, though: I didn’t really understand football.  I understood the basics, touchdowns, field goals, first downs, and such.  So in addition to working out all summer, I solved this other problem the only way I knew how: I did my research.  I did a lot of reading that summer about football.  I learned about football rules, the roles of the different positions on the field, different types of plays, strategies, and the history of American football.  And when the first day of double practices came, just after my 15th birthday, I was ready.

No, I wasn’t.  Who am I kidding…

I was in the locker room getting ready that morning, and I saw Mr. F.  I had not seen him all summer, and I wasn’t sure if he knew that I was going to try out for football.  He seemed happy to see me, and he asked how I was doing.  I said that I was nervous, and that it looked like practice today was going to be tough.  “But you know what?” he replied.  “You’re tough.”  It really meant something to me that he believed in me, despite the fact that I could never run very fast or do a pull-up in his class the year before.

My football career lasted one day.  I lasted that morning and that afternoon, and I didn’t come back.  I was in way over my head.  I was badly out of shape.  But something positive did come out of that experience in the end.  It took a few months for me to get over the disappointment of not being good enough to play football, of letting down Mr. F and all my friends who encouraged me to play.  But by the time the following football season started, in the fall of 1992, I enjoyed watching football much more than I ever had in the past.  The time I spent learning more about the game helped me enjoy watching it much more, and this has stayed with me to this day.

It’s okay that I couldn’t handle football, and that I wasn’t very fast or strong in Mr. F’s PE class.  Not everyone is an athlete.  But I still found inspiration from Mr. F.

And it’s okay that some of the students in my class did not understand everything I attempted to teach them.  Not everyone is a mathematician.  But my students can still find inspiration from my class.

Exit 26. And now, 20 years later, no one cares.

If you are my friend in real life right now, then this weekend you saw me tagged in a bunch of pictures on Facebook having a great time with people who you’ve never seen before.  Who are these people? you might be asking.  Do you have a secret second group of friends that you spend time with?  Why haven’t I ever met these other friends of yours?  Are you sneaking around on us?

For one thing, I’m being dramatic here; if you’re really thinking that, you’re too clingy.  But seriously, those people were my friends from high school.  This weekend was my class reunion.

I told a few people this last week that I was going to my high school reunion.  One response I got repeatedly, particularly from females in their early 20s, was something along the lines of “I don’t ever want to go to my high school reunions.  I only had three friends in high school, I still see all of them, and the rest of my class were a bunch of backstabbing jerks and bitches.”  Some people have this stereotype that at high school reunions, that people stay in their cliques and act just as immature and dramatic as they did in high school, putting people down who don’t meet their shallow standards and making people feel badly about themselves.

My recent high school reunion, as well as the last one 10 years ago, were the exact polar opposite of that stereotype.

It was a fairly small crowd, considerably smaller than the last one.  But it was a crowd that included people from many different walks of life and high school social circles.  There were old friends who I’m sporadically in Facebook contact with, old friends I haven’t seen in 19 or 20 years, people I had classes with but didn’t know well, and people I barely knew at all.  And everyone was so nice and so happy to see each other.  Saturday night we met at a bar, and I had dinner with a smaller subset before that.  Sunday afternoon, we had a family-friendly barbecue and picnic, so that we could meet everyone’s children and look at old yearbooks and pictures and talk about how funny everyone’s hair was 20 years ago.

High school was a very interesting time for me.  I felt like I transcended cliques, and I never felt like there were people I didn’t want to see, because I stayed out of petty drama.  I kept to myself a lot for the first two and a half years and mostly only talked to people when they were asking me for help in class.  I didn’t shy away from all school activities, though; I went to football games, about half the dances (where I would spend a lot of time watching and occasionally get on the floor and be an awkward white boy), and drama and dance performances (because I knew people in them).  I started spending more time with people the last year and a half, and I got involved in more student activities as well.  I spent most of the time around the other students in honors and AP classes.  But I also had friends in the band and student government circles, because they were the rest of the students in the AP classes, and friends from other groups, because we had a class together at some point, or knew each other in middle school before the honors students’ schedules began to diverge.

I was really afraid of a lot of things, though.  I grew up very sheltered, and I didn’t really know how to make friends or be a friend.  I was used to getting teased and bullied all the time, and I wasn’t used to people being nice to me.  But most of my high school classmates actually were nice to me.  I was talking to someone about this over the weekend, and she said that no one really knows who they are in high school, that I wasn’t alone in being scared and confused.  I think the difference is that a lot of people put up a façade to get people to like them, whereas I just didn’t actively try to get anyone to like me.  But occasionally people would see the real me peeking through, and they probably liked what they saw, because, especially as I got older, friends would invite me to things and encourage me to get involved.  I did to some extent; the time I was in a skit in front of the whole school, playing Butthead, still feels like a major turning point in my life.  But I also turned some invitations down, just because I was afraid and unsure of myself.

I think a lot of the things that kept me from doing more in high school were just in my head.  In addition to being afraid and sheltered, I also felt like an outsider.  I didn’t grow up with those kids, and even though I went to school with them from the middle of 7th grade onward, it took a few years to get over the feelings of being an outsider.  The reason I felt like an outsider was a secret that I had kept for 26 years, until last night.

This high school serves a number of rural and semi-rural communities in the area north of two medium-sized cities on California’s Central Coast.  But I did not live in any of those communities.  I actually lived in one of the two nearby cities (the less glamorous one, according to most people), three blocks from another high school.  My dad went to that other school, class of ’67, and my brother went to that other school, class of 2000.  (Mom went to Catholic school in that same town.)  Only a few close friends knew that I lived in town, and the ones who knew never knew how I ended up at their school.  And I had never told any of them until this weekend, when it came up in a few conversations.

From April of 5th grade to October of 7th grade (1987-88), I was in a full day special education class for students with behavioral and emotional disabilities.  I was the kid who was teased and bullied constantly, and I would just sit there and take it and take it until I had a violent outburst.  During that year and a half, there were never more than 10 students in the class, and they were almost all boys who were far less successful in mainstream classes than I was.  Eventually it came to the point where they were talking about gradually transitioning me back to mainstream classes, so from October until January of 7th grade I was only in the special ed classes for half the day, and I started taking three periods at a regular public middle school.  For logistical purposes, combined with the fact that I wanted a fresh start away from my childhood bullies, I would walk half a mile from the school that hosted the special ed class to the middle school in that town, which was nine miles from my house, one town over from where I lived.  After a few months (January 1989), that was going well enough that I started going there for the full day, and from then until my graduation in June 1994, I attended school in that district with kids from those towns.  Given my history of being bullied and teased for just about every reason, it’s perfectly understandable that I didn’t want my friends to know that I had spent a year and a half in a class for students with behavioral and emotional disabilities.  Right?

One of my friends whom I told that to last night, when I mentioned that this was the first time I’d ever shared that, said, “And now, 20 years later, no one cares.”  She’s totally right, which is why I’m sharing it on this very public blog where anyone in the world might read it and share it with their friends.  My friends in high school were able to accept me even though I was a little different, and that has only gotten better with time.

I’ve always known that I’d want to go to every high school reunion.  I grew so much as a senior, and then abruptly everyone graduated and scattered.  I’ve often wondered how much more I might have grown had I had one more year with those friends.  I can’t change that now.  But what I can do is make more of an effort to keep in contact with these people.  My Class of 1994 friends really were a special group that made a big difference in my life.  And after this weekend, I know I’m glad to have these people in my life.  Hopefully I’ll see some of you again soon without waiting another five or ten years.

And a postscript: While I stayed out of drama in high school, I did unfriend someone from high school a couple years ago on Facebook for petty reasons.  He commented to one of my friends to say hi to me even though I unfriended him.  As soon as I got home that night, I apologized and re-friended him.