It’s May and graduation time at my institution – also our closing banquet theme is “High School Days” (or something like that). So yesterday I was thinking about high school. More specifically, high school yearbooks and then it all spiraled into adolescent angst and despair. I have two high school yearbooks that have survived many moves, from my sophomore year and my senior year. Damn I was a bitter, hateful child. I’ve decided I need to find a friend with a fire pit so I can burn those books and any assorted “nostalgic” papers from those years. I found a folder of random high school/college stuff not long ago that entertained me, but also I felt a little dread creeping in there mixed with some self-loathing and glowering, angry distrust of the grown-up world. I also found a notebook of the most terrible, horrible, no-good-very-bad teenage poetry you will never* see. These are not items I need to keep. They are not enriching me in any way.
I’m sure I’m not alone in wincing while thinking of “the best years of your life”. I call bullshit on that. How could those possibly be anyone’s best years? Trying to find your identity, dealing with a changing body, worried about rejection from your peers, pressure to conform from all sides, high parental expectations, SAT scores, etc…and that’s just as a white, middle-class, heterosexual, Catholic girl in suburban Western New York without any known disabilities beyond being the weirdest person in the room. Which I was. I was also the funniest because I learned early on, if you aren’t classically pretty you need to at least be funny.
But weird trumped funny every time and in my senior yearbook where they put those stupid awards like “most likely to…” there I am, with my “award”. Most Unique. At the time I was pissed that I didn’t get Funniest. I remember thinking that they clearly misunderstood the term Funniest and chose to go instead with Biggest Obnoxious Loudmouth. Then I thought maybe they realized I should win both but it wouldn’t be fair that I be recognized twice, so they had to give Funniest to a runner-up. In reality, I also thought then what I still think now: Most Unique is a polite way of saying “You will be remembered as a big weirdo who shops at Goodwill instead of The Limited and doesn’t care about getting drunk with us at Friday night house parties and lives on the wrong side of the tracks in the old houses but we aren’t allowed to say all that so we are going to make it sound as if we admire your qualities”. Most Unique is a dis in disguise.
My sophomore year yearbook is relatively unscathed except for highlighting some quotes from friends but the senior year…well, let’s just say the nicest thing I or my friends wrote in there is this on the inside front cover:
It all goes downhill in a shitstorm of teenage rage from there. Because those were the BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE! Yours too I bet.
Stay weird, my friends :)
*Never might be too strong a word. Some of the poems are so bad as to be completely hilarious and maybe one day I’ll torture you with a few gems before I destroy them.