I’ve been thinking about this on and off, and I’m sure there’s more rattling around in my thick skull than I can fit in one ‘basic’ length blog, so I’ll start with the basics ! I went to a school that was, at the time, a school where over %70 of the kids went on to college. (Now it’s a pit, from what I’ve heard). There were many opportunities for advanced placement classes, and because of the number of kids in school, a very long 10-period day to ensure all kids had the chance to get the minimum 5 classes in each day- at least during my first two years- then I think it dropped to 8 periods in a day and I was expected to keep busy in all of them to get ahead. My dad was the principal of that high school. That wasn’t so bad on some levels (ride to school each day, didn’t have to carry my books home on foot, there if I needed lunch money), but on the other hand, I never knew who actually wanted to be my friend, or just wanted to get some message to my dad. I’ve got yearbook signings that tell me to “tell your dad….”. That was never received well. My suggestion to those folks was to go talk to him themselves.
My primary social life was through church, though I did have a few friends in high school. I’m really bad at remembering faces with the name that goes with them a lot of the time. And I really wasn’t all that invested in hanging out at school events. I only went to dances if the foreign exchange student club was sponsoring it, and then I stayed in the back room counting the money with the faculty advisor, or walking around the dance floor with dad (he was at EVERY school dance, basketball game, football game, and performance of the orchestra or plays/musicals that were done. Every. One.). I just didn’t enjoy any of the high school triviality. I’m sure others found it a lot of fun- and that’s great. I’m glad they had fun.
My freshmen year, a couple of things stand out. I started that year when I was 13 years old. I was always younger, thanks to a mid-term birthday. I was used to that. The second thing that happened that year was the murder of my figure skating coaches’ six children by her husband on January 7, 1978 (Google: Simon Peter Nelson). I had no way of knowing how to cope, and the overall message of that whole thing was if parents get mad at each other, kids can die. I’ve never stopped wondering how my coach managed to carry on with life. I saw her a few times after that when she returned to the rink; then she sort of disappeared months later. Word had it that she’d changed her name and moved away. I could understand her needing to leave. I was a young teenager, and really felt connected to this coach. She’d call me when I was babysitting one of my ‘regular’ kids to see if I was ok. On the ice, she’d joke around and show me adult attention that my mom wasn’t capable of doing. She was a role model. I missed her deeply. I had absolutely no life skills to help me cope with all of that, and didn’t know where to go for help. Physically, I had bronchitis for 7 months before I was taken to a doctor, after the coughing for so long was finally discussed with my dad.
Another part of my freshmen year involved the residual effects of a couple of bad concussions I’d gotten in eighth grade. I’d fallen off of the uneven parallel bars early in the year, and in the spring, during rehearsal for a skating show, I landed hard on the ice…that one was bad. I’d landed directly on my head- no ‘butt’ hitting first, from what I was told. My folks were in Brazil, and I refused to give the people at the rink my grandparents’ phone number (grandma would have been hysterical worrying). Anyway, I’d begun having some nasty headaches, and what have since been diagnosed as complex partial seizures. In 8th grade, I was told to forget about the falls. The school nurse had called my dad to come and take me home after the fall from the uneven parallel bars, but when he got to the school, he said “you look OK”, and went off to have coffee with the principal of that school. In 9th grade, I was in the nurse’s office a lot with headaches. Like blinding headaches. Dad would always disapprove, but I couldn’t function when they hit. Eventually, he was told (had to be told) that I should see a doctor. At the time, the testing available didn’t show anything wrong, so I was told to quit complaining. So I just shut up, but still hurt, and I was still having times when I felt spacey. I felt completely misunderstood. And alone. I later found out what damage had been done.
My sophomore year was relatively mellow. I did meet the first guy I dated for any length of time, and had a lot of fun when I was out with him. We spent time on the phone in the evenings, and most of our dates involved doing outdoor sports. He also taught me to drive his Audi Fox in his church parking lot. We’re still in contact, thanks to reconnecting on Facebook. My grades that year weren’t too bad. I had started dabbling with over the counter cold medications to numb the pain from the murders, and my chronic headaches. If I looked spacey, chances are I was taking very legal, unsuspected drugs. I had also been told I no longer liked skating…really? I LOVED skating- but that was the way I was told that lessons were over. I later found out that my coach and another person at the rink had approached my mom about intensifying training to get into the national competition circuit. I would have moved into the rink if someone would have allowed it. I had coaches I didn’t know calling me over to the boards to ask me to do specific things, and teaching me the higher level ice dance sequences when I’d never done the lower ones. They were more invested in my potential than my folks were- at least with skating. Academically, I was expected to excel, even though I’m now highly suspicious that I have a sort of issue with symbols, which would explain the torment of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, chemistry, and physics. Languages, life sciences, and social studies were a breeze.
Junior year was a train wreck. I was taking over the counter medications fairly regularly. Babysitting money bought them, and since they were legal, nobody thought to ask about them. Plus, I was known as a ‘good’ kid. I was still not doing well in dealing with the murders, and then my paternal grandmother died in October. She’d been sick for about nine months, and happened to die when my folks were in Florida looking for a winter condo. My mom’s parents were staying with me when I got the call at school to call my uncle at my grandfather’s house before I left school. That was kind of weird, but I complied, and was given the news over the phone in my dad’s office. The assistant principal (and a friend of dad’s) saw me, and knew something was wrong, so he drove me home. I wanted to walk, but he wanted to be sure I got home OK. I walked in the door, with my mom’s mom standing there, and said “Grandma J is dead.” She looked stunned. I needed to get away from the house. I got on my bike and took off for a while. I just wanted to be away from pretty much everyone. The grandma who died was the grandma that I’d stayed with for 1-2 weekend nights each month since I was a baby, and most Christmas and Easter vacations when my folks travelled during elementary and junior high school years. My grades weren’t good after that, and since dad got my report cards before I did, there was no minimizing the damage. I was miserable. And it was felt I was just being a lazy student. I was ‘too smart’ for bad grades. A highlight that year was the Easter tour of the church youth choir- we went to Hazard, Kentucky. I was still semi-gorked on over the counter meds, and slept a lot on the bus, but it was still something that I’m glad I got to experience.
That year, I’d started with 8 full periods of classes because of drivers’ ed (no lunch break- my mom always thought that missing meals wouldn’t kill me). One of the English teachers who had hall patrol on the hall where my locker was knew I didn’t look good, and did a depression screening. I flunked. She went to my guidance counsellor, who went to dad. I was allowed to drop physics, since I had to get my drivers’ license, and had my science requirements done. I got in trouble for ‘complaining’ to the teacher… I hadn’t approached her. She had approached me. I knew to keep my mouth shut about how I felt about anything. That had been made very clear. I didn’t have anything dreadful to say, but I was told that because of dad’s job, things could be taken out of context, and that could be bad. So, I shut up as best I could. The depression didn’t really go away, but at least having a lunch break helped with the exhaustion, which did help overall. Since I had to drop physics in order to be able to function that year, the plan to graduate a year early was screwed up. I’d taken US History (gag) during summer school to get it out of the way- now it was just a wasted summer. Dad wanted me to graduate early, by a year- and just 16 years old.
Senior ‘year’ was just more time to be served before getting released early for good behavior. I finally got out of there at the end of that first semester with 5 more credit hours than I needed. A week later, I was sitting in classes at the community college. They were basically time-killing classes- philosophy and more of the hated US History. I was headed to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in the fall; the credits would transfer. I also worked part time at a dollhouse and gift store- that was fun. I’d given up the over the counter medications. They hadn’t done anything for me, and I was too chicken to try the ‘real’ stuff. I was doing better, but not enjoying much. The Spring Tour took the youth choir to Washington, D.C.- I was much more alert, had solos and duets, and loved the chaperones. Many were hilarious.
During the time in high school, I’d been involved in various clubs- creative writing, American Field Services (foreign exchange student club), track for a brief time until I was asked to run the 880 during a meet- I was afraid I’d fail, so quit, and I think that’s it. I was involved in any foreign language field trips that were offered (usually to the Milwaukee -Wisconsin- annual ethnic festival…those were fun)…otherwise, my time was spent babysitting, and going to church activities and choir practices. I did have a few friends from school with whom I did some things outside of school. I was eligible for the National Honor Society, but my dad didn’t want teachers to feel obligated to vote for me, so that was a no-go.
I did NOT want to go to the graduation ceremony, but wasn’t given a choice. I hadn’t been in class for 4 1/2 months (except to deliver pizza to my old Spanish class for ‘ethnic appreciation’) and life had moved on, but I had to go. My dad handed me my diploma, which was sweet, and there were a lot of cheers and clapping during that moment (now, I appreciate that much more than I did then). At the time, I was just glad it was over. I think that the murders and my grandma’s death probably had a whole lot to do with why I was so NOT amused by high school. Nobody really gave me a bad time about being the principal’s kid (aside from the message requests, and while annoying, they weren’t horrible). The teachers were OK- nobody treated me any differently, which would have been a nightmare. I’ve been in contact with my Algebra and Geometry teacher for several decades.
I hear about how high school years are supposed to be the best years of someone’s life. I hated it. I’m liking each ‘new’ decade much more than the last one. I’m so glad there isn’t some high school equivalent later in life. I’d drop out. I’m not a social person. I hate the fake interactions. I much preferred working my butt off as an RN for the 20 years I was able to work. Doing something for someone who is going through a rotten time is much more fulfilling than anything in high school EVER was. At least in my experience. I’m glad there are folks out there who enjoyed their high school years. God blessed you 🙂