Trail of the Cedars, Glacier National Park, Montana by Janson Jones of Floridana Alaskiana
“The Long and Winding Road . . . ” ~ Paul McCartney, The Beatles
“Will Never Disappear. . .”
I picked up my son Brett from school today. When he got in the truck, I could tell that it had been another bad day for him. My heart aches so much for him as he is certain that the rest of his life is going to be as bad as it is right now.
Even though most of his teachers and his counselor have been extremely understanding and have agreed to work with him, he is still suffering the pains of the anxiety and depression, and I have little doubt that almost all of it is caused by school.
When he asked me if his life is always going to be so bad, I just wanted to cradle him in my arms and hold him and never let go. That’s the mom in me talking, but it is also the person in me talking who has been and continues to be terribly unsure of herself, even after all of these years. I know how it feels to believe that life just sucks and that it is never going to get better. I know how it feels to believe that you are worthless. I know how it feels to bear the burden of putting on a good face just to make it through the day.
And because I know these things, it makes me wish that he could just skip these years and arrive at a better point in his life.
“I’ve Seen That Road Before . . .”
I mean, I actually didn’t have a horrible time in high school. I did pretty much whatever I wanted, managed to still get good grades, cheered, and belonged to every club I could join. But the truth is that it was all a big act: my attempts to fit in, to belong. And I always wore this façade, one that reflected someone who knew what she wanted and wouldn’t let anyone stand in her way.
I have to tell you that maintaining that kind of façade really takes its toll. I would move through school at this frenetic pace for weeks and weeks at a time. I would go to all-night study sessions, take my advanced courses, work part time four or five times a week. The pace I set for myself was insane now that I look back on it. But then the inevitable crash would come, and I would get sick and be out of school.
At the time I suspected that I was manic/depressive, as it was called then, but only from the little bit of research that I had done on the subject. Of course, information was not a mouse click away at the time, and research meant pulling books and articles from shelves and reading them on the library’s time. I just knew that I had these extreme highs that would shift on a dime.
My mother, of course, would say things like “snap out of it,” and “you’re just making yourself sad.” Or the best one: “You have your period.” To be fair, though, even though I cast my mother as uncaring, it was not that so much as uninformed. My mother came from a very small town in North Carolina and had no formal education. What she knew about depression was only what she might see in movies. And in her generation, mental illness was a big stigma: People did not talk about such things as it would end up on their permanent record.
Permanent record. You won’t believe how many times I used to hear that. I asked my mom one time where this permanent record was kept. She told me not to be a smartass.
But I digress . . .
“The Wild and Windy Night . . .”
My main point is that high school is an unendurable test of strength, will, character, and emotion. Think back to your high school days: Did you love them? Do you look back on them fondly? Bigger question: Would you go back?
No. Absolutely not. No way. Never. Fry some chicken and call me for dinner but N-O.
I was telling Brett that there are some people who never leave high school because it was the best time of their lives. We all know those people, and we usually feel sorry for them.
But in retrospect, there are only a handful of people from my high school days that I still care about. One of them is dead; he died much too young of cancer. One I was married to (no, we were not high school sweethearts, ugh). One is his best friend and was my best friend. One reads my blog regularly and has come in and out of my life for years and has always been in my life because we have known each other much longer than high school. And one is a gay man who lives with his partner up north.
There are other people who I remember fondly, There are moments that I remember fondly. There are incredible adventures that I will never forget. But that was then. I’ve moved on, matured, grown, aged, changed and changed again.
“That the Rain Washed Away . . .”
What I was trying to tell Brett was that all of those popular people in high school, the ones who everyone knew and envied, or wanted to be like or hated just a little because they were too popular or too handsome or too privileged—those people are not who they were in high school.
For example, one of the really sad stories from my high school concerns the football star, the quarterback. He was actually a quiet, troubled soul, but few people knew that. Everyone just knew that he could throw a ball. A few years after high school, he killed himself. I won’t even try to surmise why he might have done such a thing. No one can ever know another person’s demons.
Or take some of the beautiful people in high school, the pretty blondes, the handsome jocks: Some of them are on their third marriages. Some are with spouses who they thought would treat them like queens only to find out that their husband is a monster who beats them behind the privacy of their closed door.
Some never made it to 20. They died from drug overdoses, suicide, homicide, illnesses. The ones other people looked down on, the brains, are working for GE, fortune 500 companies as engineers, NASA.
“Why Leave Me Standing Here? Let Me Know the Way . . . “
We can never know where life will take us. Most of us would never have guessed that we would be in the places we find ourselves today. Some of us have done much better than we ever hoped. Some of us have done much worse. Fate is fickle, and life is hard.
When we are in high school, everything seems possible at some point. Then nothing seems possible the next day. We go from highs to lows in the blink of an eye. Maybe it’s because of a rejection letter from the college we really wanted. Maybe it’s because we lost a parent or a sibling or a best friend. Maybe it’s because our family’s circumstances changed, and what we once had was taken away. Maybe it’s because we have no support system at home. Maybe it’s because we have no home. Who knows?
All of the petty grievances we had with people in high school seem so small once we move on and have to deal with real world issues: paying the mortgage, working with a boss who is sexist, finding out our spouse is cheating, losing a job because of circumstances beyond our control.
How can breaking up with your one true love at 16 prepare you for such things? It can help you to understand loss, but without a broader context, that loss will seem overwhelming at the time.
How can failing English or Trigonometry not make you feel like a failure? It can’t at the moment, but in a broader context, it can help you to learn how to overcome failure, and as long as no one rubs your nose in that failure, you may be able to deal with it in a way that does not tear at your sense of self.
“Many Times I’ve Been Alone and Many Times I’ve Cried”
I’m not trying to diminish all of the emotions, feelings and flailing that a young person in high school endures. It is precisely because of the constant bombardment of things that so many young people take their own lives. As I wrote about in a previous post, being bullied when you are 13 and unable to sort through all of the emotions can cause a young person to snap. And how sad and utterly wasted.
If only there were some way to go inside the heads of these young men and women and let them know that in one year or two or three, their lives will be different. They won’t have to endure humiliation, verbal abuse, or whatever obstacles they face now because they will have the power to get away from that source of pain. If only they can hang on long enough.
I’m not naive. I know that not everyone escapes. I know that for some, the abuse continues. I know that because of economic circumstances, some will never be able to touch even the periphery of their dreams. And some will continue patterns begun in high school that prevent them from ever really maturing emotionally.
Many an alcoholic and drug addict are born in high school. Those bullies grow up to be spouse and child abusers. Some of those who endured constant ridicule grow into people who survive by belittling others because that is all that they know. Others who had to lie and live in secret grow into adults who always keep their true selves hidden. And some who were never able to overcome their childhood fears grow into individuals who continue to be victimized their entire lives.
But there is always hope, and with luck, maybe the sorrows that they endure during this emotional, hormonal, confusing time will help them to become stronger people, or at least give them insight into how they don’t want to raise their own children, the things they should never say or do to their own children because they have the emotional and physical scars to remind them of how much words can hurt.
“. . . You Will Never Know the Many Ways I’ve Tried”
If high school was the apex of your life, and you still look on it fondly, then good for you. Cherish your memories. But for most of the rest of us, it’s a period that we are glad is in the past. We might go to a reunion to see a few familiar faces and say hello, and probably, we want to gloat a little inwardly at the beauties who have gained weight and the arrogant young men who are now balding and pot-bellied.
Sometimes, revenge is sweet when it is never served at all, when we just let life take care of things. When we just allow fate to dip into the well and present its own version of just rewards.
I wish with all of my heart that the high school years could somehow be avoided, jumped over, or abolished altogether. But that is not reality. As much as I might want to cosset my son and keep him from pain, I know that I have to step back and allow him to finish this particular journey in his life. I can be there to support him, but I cannot bear this burden for him, nor would I want to if I could.
“Don’t Leave Me Waiting Here/Lead Me to Your Door”
There is an old Spanish proverb that says “The journey is more important than the inn.” Only when we are a little older and a little wiser and a few years removed from the hardest legs of our journey—only then do we begin to understand that life truly is a winding road, filled with twists and turns and hillocks and vales.
Until then, we must endure all of the more arduous legs of our individual journeys and bide our time for the smoother paths. And if we can be patient, sometimes along the way the light will shine through the trees to help us along our paths.
Let me leave you with this beautiful memory of Paul, George and Ringo together live with John in video. More later. Peace.
13 thoughts on “High School Should Be Abolished”
At the time…. Yes every day was the reality of another planet, drama or no. Looking back…I was in highschool for 10 years. With all the SHIT that went down good/bad, no way that could have all happened in 4. Knowing all that, I suffered too when mine did. When I knew. You provide Brett with tools……..if he can hear your voice.
It did seem to last for 10 years, didn’t it? Then, I get to rinse and repeat with all three children. The one difference with Brett is that there are now worries about drugs or skipping school. My worries with him are completely different, but at least he is letting me try to help him.
You know, high school is never an easy experience, and it doesn’t matter where you sit on the social plan. The think that makes me chuckle is when you look back on high school and see the people who peaked to soon. Those that were way cool, but then in their adult life were never able to capture it again.
Exactly. After high school, they were completely lost because they were suddenly not very important in the grand scheme of life. That’s what I’m trying to let my son know: once you’re out of high school, life starts anew.
AH! Memories of ol’ LT- Would I go back? Maybe. My only fond memories of high school are the times you and I spent together. I would’ve studied more – that I regret. Had the brains, just too lazy to use them. I would’ve been more aggressive to people that “labeled” me without getting all the facts. I didn’t go to the 30th reunion. I have nothing in common with any of those people. I did see some pictures and I have to admit, I did get warm fuzzies when I saw one homecoming court member had packed on the pounds! Sad when I see some who are still on that party train and can’t seem to break free from the drugs.
Tell Brett to hang in there. He will get through this and have a good life. And if people are assholes now,they’ll be assholes at his 30 year reunion. I remember my mother once told me at 16 when Bill broke up with me- “What’s important to you now won’t be in 10 years, the boy you love with all your heart will change and what you like at 16 you will not like at 26, 36 0r 46. ”
Blessings to you and Brett;
The two of us had great times throughout junior high and high school. Those are the fond memories to which I referred. Together, we were something, weren’t we?
That being said, I would never in a million years want to relive those days. Too full of drama, pain, tears, and horrible insecurities.
Love you, me.
You should print this out for your son to read. I bet it would help him immensely 🙂 It certainly touched upon some memories of my own. You’re a great writer, with a clean, clear way of getting your meaning across without any clutter or claptrap. Reading your stuff is like a draught of cool, crisp, fresh water that restores and uplifts one’s soul after a long hard day of dry, hot, thankless toil 🙂
When he is interested enough, he’ll read it. He does check out my blog now and then.
Thanks for coming back.
You don’t need to thank me for coming back, it’s a real pleasure to read your writings. I should be thanking you, so thank you!
You are very welcome!
Sorry about the repetitive soon. I pressed the submit too quickly LOL
What a terrible time for Brett. High school can be as you said,one of fond memories or the darkest period of your life.I couldn’t get enough of it because or me, it was an escape from the harsh reality of my home life.I kept my head down and tail up, good good grades and was popular with my peers and the older girls( it was an Catholic girls’college). Anything that would extend the time I was at there was a bonus, so I participated in all the extra curricular activities;drama, sport, debating etc!
I hope Brett will soon begin to feel happier soon.
I have to tell you, I just love that clip you included. Each time I hear that song it brings tears to my eyes. I don’t know why it moves me so much but it does. Brilliant memories too, seeing the Fab Four together again.
I think that I spent so much time involved in school so that I wouldn’t have to be around my own home as well. Sad, really.
I was so excited to find that particular clip. That song has been (since high school and before actually) sort of the song of my life. It absolutely slays me when I listen to it out of the blue.