You could not pay me to go back to high school. I mean it. No amount of money in the world is worth the awkward, angsty, crying nights of those four years. I know that some people claim their high school years were “the best of their life!” but I was praying just to make it through the day. And yet, when I think about high school in the most abstract way, I remember dances and choir concerts and flirting with boys and getting my first car. Why is there a discrepancy between what I actually felt and what I remember feeling?
I have been reading my old journals (my mom told me to clean my room, and in my house, you do what she says!) and the pain and anger that oozes out of those pages is enough to remind me that what I remember feeling is not nearly as cheery as I would like to think. Why do some of us hold on to that anger and let it infect our lives? Why do others of us mold our memories to reflect what we later processed, not what we actually remember feeling?
I remember the anger of not getting the lead in the musical my senior year, the dances where I didn’t have a date, my senior prom and having to pick between two dates, the day in choir where nobody would talk to me… and on and on. Putting aside how small and trivial all of these moments are, they were very real to me at the time. And reading my old journals doesn’t help either. The obvious pain of that writing only fans the flames of anger that have been lying dormant for a long time.
But these are not the memories I think about. I’m wondering when and how the old, bad, painful memories got sanded down and covered with the “oh I loved high school!” varnish? I feel like I’m not being true to myself if I can only remember the good times. It’s like saying the embarassing, horrible moments weren’t valid and they are best forgotten. When in reality, I believe that the moments when I felt the most alone are the moments when I felt, more resolutely than ever, the conviction to hold steadfastly to myself. Reading those journals last night made me feel like I had betrayed myself somehow, or at least the memory of my old self. I wondered if I had shaken the teenage girl angst for good.
But then I went back to high school today, to visit some old teachers. Just walking down the halls made me nervous. I felt like all the old awkwardness would rub off on me as soon as I walked in. I wish I could go back to myself at that age and know that one day it would be okay. The heartache wouldn’t be over, and the drama would still occur, but in clinging to myself during those years, I made it okay to be myself later. I wish my tortured 15-year old soul could have known that.
I also wish I would have known that, even at age 21, going back to high school is not a good idea. Because as soon as I walked through the doors, I was afraid that, at any second, I would be 15 again, wearing overalls and braces, just hoping to make it through the day.