If you want to stir up some intense and varied reactions, just ask people, “So, how was your high school experience?”
“I try hard to forget about it.”
“I was at the top of my game.”
“What do you mean, my high school experience? What experience?”
“It was great. I tried hard to be friendly to everybody. But I know it’s a terrible time for a lot of people.”
I recently received a question asking me to address how what happens or doesn’t happen in high school can affect people in their future lives.
How do we look back on high school? On those years when so much was going on at home that perhaps no one knew? My reader wrote:
“One high school friend just let me know that her father was sexually abusing her at home so when she came to school and was ignored by the “popular” kids, it made her feel even more insignificant.”
Then there is what actually happened at school.
I have heard many stories of the taunts of bullies that still ring in people’s ears. Long after classes are over. There are no more bells. Just voices of derision.
Or a wistfulness about those years. A longing for a lost relationship. Or for a a sport that was played passionately but that you weren’t big enough or fast enough to continue playing.
An interesting question to ask yourself might be… What would you say today, if you could, to your 18 year-old self? What would you whisper in his or her ear? Maybe even your 15 or 16 year-old self… What do you know now that they didn’t know? How might you try to help, if you could? If you could intervene somehow… what would you say…?
If for some reason, you are stuck back there… still emotionally being defined by what happened years ago, you don’t have to be. Whether you were bullied, or rejected by some group that you wanted to be in.
You have figured that out by now, haven’t you? The whole rejection thing? It’s because people seek people who are just like themselves. For comfort. To make themselves feel better about themselves. If you are too different from them, you get rejected. Or bullied.
So it was never really about you. It was about their own insecurity.
[tweetthis]What happened in high school should stay in high school. #bullying[/tweetthis]
So now. You don’t have to be stuck in the past. Allow yourself to grieve or be angry or whatever is necessary. And then let go of it. Realize it is over.
Take a piece of paper. Write down concrete, real things you know now that you didn’t know then. Write down things you are proud of about your life. Maybe you can fix a damn good apple pie. Or tell a funny joke. You are a great listener. You know all about something. Whether it’s hunting deer or knitting a sweater. You’re a mom or a dad. You try to be honest. A sincere person.
Don’t discount yourself. Treat yourself like you would a friend of yours.
I’ve been to a couple of high school reunions. People recognize one another. In a couple of minutes, the conversation will lead to.. “You know, I always wanted to ask you out but I thought you were too cool for me.” The other one will then say,”I thought the same thing.” Both people will laugh and say – “How foolish.”
It was that insecurity.
I am still lucky enough to be friends with many of the friends I had in high school. This was from my high school yearbook. Not all are pictured here. Top left to right. Martha, Cheri, Melissa, then me, Elise, Mary Kay, Jane (who is no longer with us) and Susan. (Notice we all have on bell bottom jeans, have long hair, etc. etc…)
So if it was good. If it was valuable. Like these friends. Like those of you who know and love good high school buddies. Then great. Treasure those friendships and memories.
But the ones that haunt you? The ones that were more about the need for teenage narcissistic cruelty? Or just plain ignorance?
There is no time like the present to let that one go.
It’s time has passed.
Go whisper in the ear of that teenager that still lives within you what you know now. She or he needs to hear it.
And let go of the hurt. It may only be a start, but it’s important.
You deserve to live in the present.
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