Thousands of people each year spend thousands of dollars for thousands of hours of deep psychological analysis to exorcise demons from their past. No price is too high to cleanse their systems of those high school hall of shame moments. Awkward first kisses. SAT nightmares. Embarrassingly puffy prom dresses.
It’s all there, in the back of our minds, like a hauntingly beautiful oxymoron. We somehow think we’ve moved beyond high school, that we’re adults in this big real world. Even I thought that, but then I stepped back inside my high school last year. For the first time since I threw my cap in the air at graduation some nine years ago.
Aren’t our adult selves mere outgrowths of our 17-year-old innocence? Aren’t we still our high school selves, only a bit older and, admittedly, wider?
MORE JUICE AFTER THE JUMP…
High school is the ultimate encapsulated time capsule. You check your adulthood at the front door. You’re that 17-year-old once again even if you’re really 26, 56 or even 86. The smells – the gym, the freshly mopped linoleum floors, the cafeteria. The sights – Barb athletes sporting their oranges and blacks proudly, my old classrooms, my old locker. The sounds – the frenzied hustle of the teenage crowd, the basketballs bouncing in the gym, the whispers of gossip.
It all takes you back because whether we like it or not, we were all someone in high school.
So who was I? Well, I had to dust off my old yearbooks for inspiration. I wasn’t on Student Council like the popular girls. I wasn’t the introspective poet like the theater dudes and dudettes. And I certainly wasn’t the star athlete like the football quarterback. No, I was the wallflower. That girl daydreaming in the corner, her head and nose always in a book or a pen in her hand.
The girl always thinking and quiet but never talking, and never, ever showing her true colors. Not that I’m old, but in my day, we didn’t have MySpace or Facebook, so I was forced to record my thoughts not in a blog, but in a journal, and spy on Crush Boy in study hall in, well, real time.
The shy brainiac.
And somewhere along the way, we hang on to those boxes we lived in for four years. We almost cling to them as if that really and truly is who we are meant to be.
So when you come back, it’s almost as if you’d never left. I got those same insecurities and fears the second I set foot in the building. Apparently, that box was still right behind me, so I might as well have put the costume on and wear it around my old haunt.
But the truth is, we – you – had left. You’d grown up, gone out and explored the world beyond the halls of social studies, and you realize you’ve finally outgrown that box which now seems ever-so tiny and cramped.
But really, no amount of money – or talking – can ever truly rid us of our past selves. Because they’re a part of us, who we were and who we are. Whether we hated high school or cheered at the Friday night football games, we can honestly say we wouldn’t be the same person had we not trekked through those hallowed halls.
That’s a good thing. Really.
I, too, came back last weekend a bit wiser; it was sort of homecoming of sorts. I didn’t check my adulthood at the door in favor of the box, but instead carried them both around with me. One on each shoulder.
I could console myself with the fact that I still had the same specs and hairdo as I did 10 years ago. And it still looks good.
Isn’t that the best revenge of all?