What if you were forced to relive your grade school, middle school, or high school years? You don’t have a choice. What would you do differently? Is there anything you would change?
I would change a lot. A LOT.
It’s no secret I didn’t enjoy my years in school. As far as school itself was concerned, I loved it. I wanted to be a teacher more than anything before writing took over. I had a desk at home, a chalkboard, and even a pull-down map of the US. Spelling was my favorite, and I filled steno notebooks quizzing myself. I didn’t despise homework. I loved writing reports. That was all great. It was the social experience that sucked.
I had friends. The ones that I spent most of my time with stick out. Carrie, Sarah, Josie, Angela. Those are the ones I considered friends. We had our spats but never resorted to being mean to each other. These days, I keep in touch with all of them on Facebook and I actually live only about two minutes from Angela. We aren’t close now, and that’s okay.
Though I had friends, I would say I had more that weren’t friends. I could rattle off twenty names of people who made my life miserable. There was the boy down the street who called me thunder thighs. There was the group of kids on the bus that scooted out when I got on so I couldn’t sit down. Some of those kids spit on me during the ride. There were the ones that made fun of my hair. There were the ones that called me weird. There was even a group that berated me for NOT doing drugs. (Yes, for the record, I’ve never even smoked weed. Not once in my entire life.) There was the girl I wanted so desperately to like me in middle school that we started exchanging letters, thinking we were friends, and she used them against me. She friended me on Facebook once and I accepted. She’s since removed me as a friend, and I don’t care, because I honestly don’t know why I accepted in the first place.
So if I went back to any of these years, what would I change? How could I make my life easier? What could I do differently so I didn’t come home and cry my eyes out multiple times during the school year? How could I change those years so I didn’t fake a stomachache to come home and not be with my peers? Could I alter anything that would make it easier as an adult to make friends, since I seem to be experiencing the same things now as I did in high school, only on a different level?
I don’t know if changing things would alter my life’s path, so I wouldn’t want to. But if I had to do it, there are a few things I think I would do.
1. I would try out for things. In the early education years I was a Brownie, and for a few years a Girl Scout (maybe even only one). I stopped being a Girl Scout the year after my grandma died. I don’t remember if I quit because I didn’t want to continue or if for some reason my parents didn’t want me to. The only memory I have of Girl Scouts, though, is feeling like I didn’t fit in. I don’t know why that was and I question if that is what paralyzed me from trying out for anything in future years. I wanted to try out for cheerleading in sixth grade. I was afraid convinced I couldn’t do it. What if I couldn’t learn the routine? I wasn’t as pretty as the others. What if I messed up? Though I hated gym class, I liked volleyball but wasn’t good at it so I didn’t bother with it. In high school, I would have loved to try tennis. But what if I failed? What if I made a fool of myself during a game? The school paper – I have NO clue why I didn’t just go for it. I loved writing. And I was good at it. But my fear crippled me. I have NOTHING to show as far as extracurricular activities in ALL of my school years. Sometimes that really bothers me. Like REALLY bothers me. And to this day, I won’t try out for a sport. A bowling league or even adult tennis? I would love to, but I’m scared of being laughed at. In my early 20s I subbed as a catcher on a bar league. I tried like mad to NOT have to do it because of fear. I didn’t want to let anyone down so I did it, but because of how terrifying it was for me, I hated every minute of it.
2. I would focus on my real friends. I wanted more than anything to be popular. I don’t know why. I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the shows I watched and how cool the popular girls were. They were pretty, and I wasn’t. (I can’t tell you how many times I was referred to as a dog). Everyone loved them. I realize now there were two groups of popular girls – the mean ones and the nice ones. The nice ones were very academic and fit in with every single crowd and were just sweet. I wish I was one of those. Why? Well, I also notice as an adult many of the mean girls are still mean. I get green a lot while I’m on Facebook. I live in a small town and I notice that a lot of the people who were best friends in high school are still best friends. They go out with groups of other high school best friends and I could never infiltrate those groups. I don’t have one single person I see all the time. I have a friend I met online, never in person, that I text daily and she’s like my BFF as far as she can be since we don’t live near each other. I have a neighbor I’m close with as well. I don’t get invited out places, really. Though, on the flip side of that, I never do the inviting either and I realize it works both ways. I don’t know why I don’t. I guess I kind of feel like if I extend an invite, I’ll be denied. When I try to make friends, it seems to backfire. So why bother? I recently thought I made a friend. We had a lot in common. When she realized I wasn’t going to be able to push her home-based business further, she dumped me. I’m cautious now.
3. I would be kinder. I like to think I was a nice person and still am. I talk to anyone. As sheltered and scared as I am to put myself out there, I am very outgoing. However, I wanted to fit in so badly that when I was given a chance, I did what I had to, including saying not so nice things. I fell into the follower role when I should have stepped up and been a leader. I’m not happy about those times I wasn’t so nice. I’m downright ashamed. I never spit on anyone. But that doesn’t mean I never hurt anyone’s feelings. It is a shameful thought knowing that I may have made someone feel the same way I feel about my school years. But kids will be kids, right? While I think yes, kids will be kids, it is also our responsibility to teach children kindness. I was lucky. I was made fun of, called names, rumors were spread about me, I was spit on. But I fought through it all and as much as it pains me to think of those years and what they could have been, I know that today, in 2016, I’m a kinder, more loving person because of it all. I may not have always been the nicest I could have been, but I was as nice as I knew how to be. I can’t take back those years and I can’t do them over again, but I can change how I am today.
So what brought this about? Let’s just say it’s always on my mind. I think about those years every time I open up Facebook. I honestly wish I could quit Facebook. I don’t know why I go there. If I started a new Facebook page with my real friends and people I would love to spend time with and I think they feel the same, I would have under twenty people on that list — and that includes my extended family. However, I think social media presence is important, though I could probably tone down my usage on my personal account. Every day I see political and religious posts on Facebook and even if I am not involved in a debate, seeing what others write bring out a lot about their character and who I want to associate with. Every day I go on Facebook I get angrier and more disappointed in people.Even though I didn’t have a ton of friends in grade, middle, or high school, maybe that’s okay. I wish I would have spent more time on accepting my weirdness as I do now and focusing on those who were my friends so we’d be friends still today. I wish I had been kinder, a more gentle soul, and saw past all the popularity hype and only been myself.
Even though I didn’t have a ton of friends in grade, middle, or high school, that’s okay. I wish I would have spent more time on accepting my weirdness as I do now and focusing on those who were my friends so we’d be friends still today. I wish I had been kinder, a more gentle soul, and saw past all the popularity hype and said “I don’t give a shit about it all.”
I didn’t. But I am now.
What would YOU change if forced to go back?