Thursday, January 19, 2012

High School Hell

I am a hopeless awkward nerd.

I was when I was younger, I am now and I imagine I will always be that way. But let me explain how I've come to this statement.

I just finished reading The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins after hearing a piece on NPR about it. In a nut shell, it tells the stories of 7 young people, how they deal with being different and how the school administration, their friends, their parents and even they themselves can make it better or worse. She also throws in some pop psychology for good measure, showing how kids who are considered the "cafeteria fringe" often thrive after high school for the exact same reasons they were persecuted. (What she calls Quirk Theory.)

What it doesn't talk about is the kids that couldn't overcome, like a 80's teen movie. Kids who never "got the girl", who showed the bully up or sang on a parade float. For every kid that thrived, there are 30 more who never got to shine. They couldn't break free of their station, couldn't escape the bullying, couldn't make new friends and didn't end the book, I mean high school, with an up-beat final thought. And because sometimes, the "real world" is just as cliquey, cruel and bullyish as high school. (Hello corporate America!) But that's a whole other blog...

I know I ran out the front doors screaming "FREEEEEDOOOOOM" on my last day. The blue face paint and kilt were probably overkill but what can I say? I was young and impulsive. Part of me (the selfish 16 year old me) wanted to yell at this book, "What about me?! I was tortured and bullied and hated life! Where's my Quirk Theory?!"

I don't want to come off as bitter (cause who wants to do that, right?) but this book, and any discussion of that time, really brought back some painful and icky feelings I had forgot about. The girls behind me who liked to pull out my hair a few strands at a time.The group of boys who poured coke in my backpack. The football guys who left their soup in my lunch chair (and the subsequent cleaning/drying in the girls bathroom, standing in my underwear under the hand dryer).  Lunch in the bathroom so I wouldn't have to walk into the lunch room anymore. Name calling, gossip and flat out insults where just another day among the four thousand other kids in my high school. I won't even get into the spitting incident...

"Dear Me: A Letter to my 16 Year Old Self" by Joseph Galliano offers that opportunity to offer advice to my high school self. Or my injured inner teen. Or maybe actual kids out there. I won't get too personal but I would do things differently. You can survive without these "friends" who aren't really your friends. You can have a real life that has nothing to do with school. You can be free. School is just a place to get you to the next step, something more important.

In the end, the non-thriving geek was not really what the book was about. I'd love to read one that was. I wish I could do it again. At the very least, I wish I could tell kids that the 4-7 years of hell you have to endure feels like a lifetime but trust me, there's so much more. Even the time outside of school, after school, weekends, vacations, that is your real life. The moments when you are thrust into this twisted sociological experiment called high school isn't the only time you exist. Your social and academic life in high school don't validate your existence. The more you live outside school, the more you are you and there is opportunity to be happy and fulfilled.

Trust me. I survived and so can you.

Check out this great and humorous article about one girl's fight with her bully:

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