I have had many thoughts about high school since my last post. I guess it is kind of predictable. I do feel different having written about that night back in the early 90’s. I cannot even begin to explain the lack of judgement or my actions. I guess part of that is just being a teenager. They all seem to have pretty questionable judgment. I know I did. I think a lot of it has to do with the dynamics of the group, and the class. My high school was so small there was no blending in, no hiding. There were 50 or so in my graduating class. The school K-12 was under 800. I know we all did what we had to belong. That was the key to not getting bullied and not being singled out. Athletics were the other key to fitting in. I was blessed that I could compete. I had track in spring and soccer in the fall. That was good enough to allow me access to the jocks. Our school had a very strong soccer program, and we did well. It was a good group, but we did like to party. Then again all the jocks did. The outcasts were the “smart” kids. Scary thought. There was no glory in getting good grades. But a great soccer season, different story. I didn’t care much about my school work. I didn’t think I was all that smart, so why bother. When I met C, I saw someone engaged and learning. She was quiet and studious, but held her own. I never remember seeing her bullied, though I am sure she was. She was as if someone had torn a page out of some lost archaic text. Everything about her was so different. I don’t think anyone ever knew what to make of her. Even the teachers. I also met K, another super smart girl. They showed me a very different side to the endless chest beating and posturing that went on amongst the jocks. It was ok to be smart and give a shit about how you did. They both changed me. C graduated well before me, but K and I remained friends till we left for school.
Soon after I arrived up there, into this close-knit community, I found one refuge. When I was lost, or bullied I’d disappear into my art. The art teacher seemed to understand this and always allowed me to hide there. His open door policy helped me survive those first years. I was the outcast. They all closed ranks when I arrived. Most of these kids had been born there and grew up together- I mean kindergarten on up. They were locals. I was an outsider.
Worse yet, my mother drove a mercedes. Dear lord, you would have thought it was a scarlet letter. I mean, it was just that awful. We lived way outside of town up on a mountain. Miles from most neighbors, save a few farmers. Nobody could understand it. They all tried to figure out who this rich single mother was, and why she had picked their little town to drop anchor. But my mother just went about her business. She could care less. She lived like a hermit up on that hill. and I unfortunately had to interact with the locals at school. There’s a derogatory term most city people use for them, “woodchucks”. I learned all too well why the label. They weren’t all bad, just the product of a very close private world. Not much outside influence for many years, and few if any outsiders. I know, sounds rough. It was a rough entry for me. Endless days spent just trying to get through. Countless evenings spent crying. I was so lost. I needed someone to breakdown and let me in.
It took a while, but eventually they tired of tormenting the rich girl. I’m not sure what they saw, or how I kept on going up those steps everyday. Eventually they did let me in, right into those vicious circles that tormented me. I was so grateful, I never held it against them. Anything to just be ok, to be like everyone else. It didn’t matter to me that I had to act the part, and do stupid shit. It never dawned on me to say no, to be smarter and wiser than the stupid antics. When they drank, I drank. When they did drugs, I did drugs. Anything to just stay in the group. More than one raucous evening it was demolishing mailboxes. Yeah, what fun. Drinking, driving and a baseball bat all go so well together. We got caught, but for whatever reason the dates they were investigating happened to be while I was away in FL. They let me go. It isn’t any fun getting interrogated by cops, and yes they do try to intimidate you. We were quite the crew. I don’t think anyone ever fessed up. Nobody would ever rat on anyone else. That is an unspoken code.
As we moved into the end of our sophomore year some began to focus a bit more on the future, and maybe getting out of that little town. But most kept right on going, as if they would forever be haunting those woods. We got older, and bolder. The bonfires got bigger, and the parties more reckless. There would be times I’d have no recollection of getting home- I’d just wake up in my bed, or more often the bathroom floor. Nobody gave a shit. Even when friends got killed. We all just kept right on doing what we did. Hell, we’d go to S.A.D.D meetings at school and fundraise, only to drink and drive that weekend. I think K was one of the smart ones, I don’t remember her being as idiotic as most of us. She did come to parties, but just never behaved that way. She was accepted regardless, her family was one of good and long standing in the town. She didn’t have to fight to keep her place. She was always an old soul. She’d roll her eyes and pester me in home room about the antics. She pushed me to apply myself and do better. I did. My art began to take shape. I lost myself in the process. Whatever medium I was given it sprang out of me. Uncalled upon, never taught. I began to harness that, and push myself. I created a decent portfolio. Good enough to apply to Cornell. My grades got better. I started to feel better about myself. I didn’t have to hide. I was the one they all looked at in awe. The one that could be bent over a canvas and unleash something unreal. It was remarkable. I found my muse. Soon after my art started to develop, I began to see I could write. I’m not talking about writing an essay, or a paper. I mean putting words to a page, in a weird trance like place. I could disappear into my head and just let the words go. It is a place I often drift to when creating. Whether it be art, or writing. It is as if it is all there, untapped somewhere in my head. It just needs to be found. I would sit to paint, or sculpt, or write and hours would pass. I never once stopped, or paused. I just did. When I finally did stop it would be in disbelief of what I had done, and of how much time had elapsed. By my senior year I had completed a novel. It’s kicking around here, somewhere in a box. But, I understood then. I understood there was this reservoir in me, I didn’t know yet what that was. I didn’t have any idea, I just knew I had potential.
In tandem with that was the sports. I could hold my own, and I could lead my team. There was nothing I liked more. We were a close group. My soccer team was a good one. For such a little school, we held our own. Even within our league, most of the other schools were quite a bit larger. That was fine with us. We just had to be tougher, and faster. We played harder and fought longer. We were a family. I can still conjure up the feeling of those awful polyester uniforms, and those countless games played in the freezing cold and mud. I think we all loved it, and that made a difference. We trusted each other. That field was our battle ground, and if an opponent wanted to score it was going to be over our dead body. Yeah, we were just that focused and driven. Our coach liked it that way. The tougher the better. She was pretty old school. If she told you to sacrifice yourself, well you damn well better have. I still have days in the fall where I dream about those games and those glimpses of glory.
I am thankful to have found my art, and sports. I think without those it would have been a far bleaker picture. Had I not met C and K, I never would have stretched myself to apply to Cornell. Were it not for a wonderful understanding art teacher, who bent the rules and gave me solitude, I don’t know what might have been. For a path that started out so rough, it ended in a fine way. I don’t regret any of it. I do wish we had all been a bit smarter about our choices, and not been so foolish with our lives. Living where I am now, I occasionally run into high school friends. It is always a weird walk down memory lane. I was pumping gas a few months back. Completely lost in a daze, thinking about something. When I looked up, I realized someone was talking to me. It took me a moment to place her, but there was my team-mate from those soccer years. Now worn and aged, a tired mom, working at the grocery store. I prefer to remember her running on that field, and defending her half like a brute, with a hell of a leg. Think that’s where she’ll stay in my memory. Like most of those years, I remember what is best, and leave the rest behind.