Dear High School, Thanks for being so sucky. Love, H
As an adult, I thank God that I’m not one of those people who look back at high school and think those were the golden years. If I had peaked in high school, my writing life today sure would be different.
So thank you high school for sucking the big one.
The moment I stepped through those double doors and onto the worn but well waxed linoleum floors of MHS, the odd school smell of stale cigarettes mixed with scrambled eggs floating around me, inspiration in the form of humiliation began.
That first month of high school was particularly horrific; I lost my two bffs, my boyfriend, and the freshmen class president election, all by October 1. I might have been the most hated girl at MHS for the month of September 1989.
Most publically humiliating was The Break Up…because the boyfriend enlisted his best friend to do the deed for him.
The Moment That Later Became A Scene…That Became a Story
It’s a rainy Monday morning when my boyfriend’s best friend shuffles over to me at my locker.
Before I can say hello, he mutters without looking at me, “Uh, yeah, Bob says you’re dumped. Okay, have a good day.”
My jaw hits the floor.
The best friend digs deep into the pocket of his super baggy pants. Pulls something out and tosses it at me.
I stifle an enormous “ow” as it hits my toe, exposed in a lovely pair of Birkenstocks. The object is made of metal, bounces off me, and lands in the middle of the crowded hallway.
It’s the watch that I had given the lovely “Bob” just the week before. Tears now blinding me, I scurry out to get it…only to slip and fall…just as the bell rings.
A swarm of people converge into the hallway. I continue to stumble and fumble. The watch gets accidentally kicked and kicked…I lose track of it.
I pull myself up and as I make my way back to my locker, I see the best friend and ex boyfriend laughing…and holding the watch…over a large trashcan. I turned away but heard the loud clink as it fell.
And that was only the first week of ninth grade.
How Writing Helped me survive that moment in High School and many others like it.
I had another four years of funny and/or humiliating moments. And the only way I survived was by writing about them…all of them. I also found that the more I wrote, the more power I felt inside and the more confident I became…and the easier it became to mine my pain for humor that I could turn into stories.
Now this scene turned into a revenge story I wrote as a teen. In the fiction version, the protagonist gets her revenge later on by snapping a humiliating picture of her ex boyfriend in a very compromising position (it involves nudity and another person…who’s a guy). She makes copies and is about to steal into the high school and post the pictures everywhere, when she realizes she is better than that and instead burns all of the copies, including the original. I later re-visted that story and revised it heavily. Some day, you might see it!
I took that awful moment in my life, and through my fiction, I made some sense out of. Sometimes, as with the scene above that became the Revenge Story, I was able, through the character, to take control and make sense out of a moment, when in real life I couldn’t, and that in and of itself was healing for me. Other times, pouring my heart out into my diary, telling the real life stories on paper, simply got the pain of it all out of my body, and that release was enough.
As a teen, I wrote instinctively to cope with life, and as an adult I try to teach my students to do the same.
How Writing Short Form Helps My Students
Because I still relive the pain of those years through my writing, I have an uncanny ability to connect with teenagers. This makes me really effective in the work I do as a writing coach and tutor to teens; I hear their stories of surviving high school every day, and I can help them to make sense of their pain through writing.
I instruct my students to write short stories, fiction or non, and in so doing, I provide them with the space to see their lives, not judge or fix them, but really observe themselves. This is the best way to learn about who you are and what you want, something we have to continually revisit in our lives but begins when we are teens.
Writing (and reading) short form is accessible and as a teen, things are tough enough just making it through the day. Why not make reading and writing possible. Not to mention so many beginnings and endings happen in those four years of high school, with friends and boyfriends. The short form captures all those episodes perfectly.
So I offer my anthology, Sucker Literary, to all of you adults and teens alike…in the name of surviving the most difficult years of our lives.