Monday, September 28, 2009

Hellmouth Confidential

I seem to be surrounded by high school these days. And given that that was, by far, the worst experience of my life to date, I'm not sure how thrilled I am about it. However I feel about it, though, the convergence is quite strange.

First, there's my own kid, who's a sophomore right now at an absolutely fantastic private school that I am paying a fortune for but that is worth every damn penny, including the pennies we borrowed to make it happen. This Saturday was a "back to school" day for the parents, in which we actually go through an abbreviated version of our kids' real day, attending all their classes to get a taste of what it's like for them. And what it's like for them is so completely different from what it was like for me that I can't help but be filled with both incredible happiness and pride for my daughter, but also, I admit, a little jealousy at what she's getting that I didn't. Not petty jealousy, just more the wistful kind. And not just at the curriculum or class size either, which are both incredible, but also at the basic fact that it's a "nerd school," in which everyone there is smart and therefore doesn't have to worry about being a dork, or being "uncool". It doesn't hurt, at all, that pop culture itself has done a 180 since my youth and that "nerd" and "cool" are now, incredibly, somewhat synonymous, at least in some circles, but it feels like more than that to me. These kids all look like they're actually comfortable in their own skin--or at least as comfortable as an adolescent is going to get. And sitting in these classrooms where a mere 10-15 of them get first-rate, college-level instruction, makes me feel grateful that I can provide this opportunity for my kid, and angry that we felt forced to go this way, because of the shitty public schools, as well as anger on behalf of the folks who can't afford it. Don't worry, I won't go off on a Berkeley liberal rant--especially when I'm taking the moneyed way out myself--but, man, fuck Proposition 13. It fuckin' ruined this state.

Anyway, while the contrast between my kid's school and my own would be a pronounced and painful one no matter what the year, this year is even worse because I am constantly getting spam reminders now that my 30th high school reunion is just around the corner! Thirty years. And yet a bear every traumatic scar from those years as if it was just last year. Kinda pathetic, really. The words "move on" come to mind. Yet I still have nightmares, real ones, about specific events or people, or the opposite--dreams in which this or that person and I are actually having a nice time together. Which doesn't feel a whole lot better somehow.

We're now almost done with Season 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and being so late to the party on this, I'm a good half-decade behind all the astute analysis done by folks way smarter than me about the obvious, explicit metaphor that Joss Whedon and gang were operating under: that high school is hell. As it turns out, though some of us must battle those demons our entire lives, even decades later, in another city entirely. Some of us need constant reminders that that's all part of the past, that those demons can't get to us now.

I won't be going to my 30th high school reunion, by the way, much like I didn't go to the 5th, 10th, or 20th. Because, though one could argue I could go back in "triumph" (hey look at me now!), I honestly don't feel like I have anything to prove, for one thing, and, for another, the sad, more mundane truth is that I'd probably end up feeling just as left out as I did back in the day, no matter who I may be now or what I've accomplished. I'm happy with my life, and blessed with great family and friends, and a professional career I'm proud of, and, ya know, that's good enough for me. I have zero need to go back for some kind of empty "SEE!" moment, because, really, the only person I ever needed to convince in the first place was myself. No one else actually gave a shit, or maybe even knew anything was wrong.

I spent a little time recently on the web site of our reunion, and there are photos from all the reunions as well as some from our actual high school days in the 1970s. Throughout every decade, it's essentially all the same folks. You wouldn't know we had a class of over 300 (at least, I can't remember the exact count), because most of the photos are of the same cluster of yearbook kids, sports kids, drama kids, etc etc--which I honestly state with far less bitterness than it may sound. Actually, I had a great laugh, because one photo says it all. It's a photo of four kids, three girls and a boy. All of the girls are identified in the caption, but not only is the boy not identified, but it's not even acknowledged that there's an unidentified boy in the photo. It's as if he's not even there.



Yeah, that's right. That's a boy second from the right--blame the 1970s. And that boy is me. But to those who made this website, I'm unknown. I'm invisible. I'm not even worthy of saying I can't be identified. And man does that say it all.

Let's be clear here, however, lest this sound too much like a pity party. I don't believe my high school experience was necessarily any worse than anyone else's. On paper, in fact, and in person, to many of those around me at the time--I may have appeared to be doing fine. Sterling GPA (which got me into Cal Berkeley), 1st trumpet in the jazz band, managing editor of the school paper--typical nerd stuff. The problem, for me, again, was me. I was simply not equipped emotionally, did not have the right level of self-confidence, when the inevitable hazing came. And, hey, when you're a pimply, nearsighted, redheaded beanpole in the 70s, you need to be prepared to get hazed. It didn't help that in my case, the worst hazing of my life, the one that scarred me permanently, came from the boys that until that very moment I had considered my best friends, but, on the other hand, who doesn't have stories like that? My problem was that instead of getting angry at them, I internalized it, took it as truth, believed them, and then spent the next three decades trying to recover, and to realize that maybe I'm not a pathetic loser who doesn't deserve to have friends.. Almost every social situation I am involved in to this day--whether it's a work environment, party, family event, whatever--is still informed by that trauma, as sad and somewhat implausible as that sounds. And, yeah, you don't need to suggest therapy for me--that's been going on for decades, too. Wheee!

Again, let's not tune our tiny violins here. All is good. And, hey, I like my life and even know how to get angry at other people now! My point is that as good as things are now, the reunion has zero appeal to me, because I have nothing I want to reunite with.

Oddly enough, as I have been writing this, I heard, out of the blue, from one of my boyhood friends who I haven't been in touch with in over 30 years, who found me through that very reunion website. Synchronicity, dude! He's a guy who, like me, probably didn't have the greatest time back then. (Who knows--we boys didn't share our feelings.) And this is the kind of reunion I don't mind having. I've thought of this guy now and then over the past number of decades, wondering how he turned out. Did he get it together? Or did he end up as a psycho serial killer, exacting his revenge on those who tormented him? And it turns out he got it together just fine, just like I did, just like most people do. And it made me happy to know this. Not just a little happy, but a lot happy. Maybe those high school demons aren't so powerful after all.

And maybe someday I'll learn to remember that.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your relationship with Shawn Elliott, the ultimate high school prankster, is made all the more complex by this. Or not.

And,

Berkeley was awesome, am I right?

William said...

I had a very similar high school life as you just described. Played drums in band, not popular, picked on etc... And some random girl who I recognize the name of from school but I didn't know messaged me on facebook saying the 10 year anniversary is coming yada yada and I'm shocked that anyone would think I'd want to go back to that. As you said I still have bad memories/nightmares about it.

Oh and I'd like to thank you. Your constant Buffy tweets on twitter made me go back and watch season 1 since I missed it back when it was airing and this show is excellent and I'm totally hooked now. I'm only on season 3 though thus far. Taking it slow.

Luis said...

Damn it, Jeff, you nearly made a tear run down my cheek.
Every morning I'd get the worst stomach aches because I feared being called on in class. I would just sit there, wearing a hooded sweat shirt in the hot classroom, with my head down. I failed every class because I didn't participate in any of high school, I wasn't dumb, or stupid, just too scared to utter a word in front of 30 people. School sucks, I learned most everything I know post-high school. I didn't read a single book until I left school, I started with 'On the road' to impress a young, pseudo beatnik girl. Haha.
Uhm..anyway, I appreciated reading about your experience, it totally brought back "great" memories for me.
LOVE YA'

Samit Sarkar said...

Thanks for sharing, Jeff. I have a similar story, but it's shifted back a bit. High school was where I actually (finally) started to make some friends, but from 3rd grade until the middle of 9th grade, everybody gave me crap and made fun of me, and I didn't really have any friends.

But you know what finally got me a group of friends? That's right, video games. I overheard some guys talking about WWF SmackDown! on the PS1 one day, and I basically challenged them to a wrestling match (in the game, of course). All of us are still great friends today.

I have no idea if I'd want to go to a reunion, though. I mean, it's been five years already, and I still see a lot of my old classmates around fairly often. But high school in general definitely stirs up some uneasy feelings; even though I eventually made friends, the years of jeering I endured are impossible to forget. And like you, my mind immediately jumps to those sad times when I'm in any social situation.

So, uh...you wanna play some SmackDown?

Chris Carey said...

I really understand what you mean, personally maybe I don't have it as bad. I started at really low confidence back in middle school and since then have had slowly growing confidence. Now it feels the increase in confidence is much more rapid, particularly since I left high schools and tried getting involved in more things I want to do.

Even now I don't like to meet anyone who wasn't my friend back then, it just reminds me of times I didn't like much.

Given your previous misgivings on naming your daughters school, I really don't know why you would do so now. I mean one of the reasons you gave would be all the really nerdy kids would want to talk to her making her social life harder, particularly with boys... Oh I see what you did there. That or its a red herring, either way well played.

Norvu said...

I wish I went to a nice school like that too. I'm only 23 (we finish high school at 16 in the UK) and am already missing it and wish I could do it over with what I know now. I was never very confident either, but I don't think British schools were as typical as American schools were with the Preps, Jocks and Nerds.

It also didn't hurt I went to an all boys high school and thus everyone was mostly true to themselves, rather than playing up to some role. It wasn't hard to find some nerdy gamer friends to get along with.

I just wish I was back at school so I can take it easy again, I guess. Also so I could do well in my final exams, my father passing away 3 weeks before them really didn't help that much and I went on a downward spiral in education since. Although I'm not doing bad now.

Aaron said...

Im a freshman in college, thank god.

Maybe ill look back in 20 years and think its not so bad, but looking at it now, jesus was it a freakin nightmare.

Great article though, love the hair lol

Tom said...

That was a great read, Jeff-- it got me thinking about my high school experience. I was a member of a large graduating class as well (in the neighborhood of 400) and whoever thought it was a good idea to throw that many immature teenagers together into a relatively small building for some small semblance of education must have been looney.

I was a severe nerd back then, but I managed to avoid most of the super-cruel hazing and social punishment from the rest of my class; however, I saw a few young guys who weren't so lucky. I distinctly remember one boy who dressed up as Spock for Halloween one year being chased down the hall in full starfleet uniform (ears and all). Another boy had his notebook stolen from him during our lunch period. When I saw him, he had just found it outside of the bathroom, except now it was topped with someone's bowel movement... I can remember him screaming and throwing the notebook hard against the wall.

Yeah, high school was hell.

as50193 said...

I'm starting my Junior year in HS right now, and Sophomore year was a ***** for me. I was really timid and shy back then, but felt I've really grown and become more outgoing this year(though we'll see how long it'll last). I've struggled finding the right friends(which impacts me now) and as a result, have many groups I hang out once in a while with, but never often. I've been really busy with work though, so hopefully I'll move on to the next parts of my life more quickly.

Ken in Irvine said...

Well said Jeff. It's nice to see that Twitter hasn't sucked away your writer's soul.

While not as bad as what you describe, I had a similar high school experience and have yet to attend a reunion. Even better, I don't ever have to thanks to Facebook. Thanks to social networking, I have been able to passively reconnect with many of my high school colleagues and they already know how well I did for myself.

P.S. California has plenty of income. Despite this, Sacramento still finds way to overspend. ;)

Tristessa said...

Very nice tale! It made me feel deep nostalgia... but why? I have no idea - I never went a day to High School!

It's true. I was one of those kids who read the school texts during the first month and knew all the lessons long before we got to them in class. It wasn't long before councilors tested me and found that by 8th grade I had college levels - except math! I was held back from being advanced because I can do the basic stuff well enough but once it gets slightly advanced I'm dumb as a stick!

So I dropped out, took my GED and passed (just scraped by on the math portion). Then came a number of years to take it easy with part time work and hanging at the library, furthering my self education.

But you know what? I missed out on that shared experience of High School Hell. Most of my friends since then have told me how lucky they think I am. Not sure I fully agree though. Sure, I have great stories of how I attended classes at college and ate in the cafeteria for two years, while never actually "going to college" (all the excitement and fun without actually earning credits! Yay!)...but I don't have any High School experience.

There are countless movies and books where I've had to rely on earlier school days to approximate what it must mean for these fictitious students, hoping I got it right. Many times did the topic of High School come up at parties or gatherings, leaving me silently listening with great intent, while feeling like a time traveling anthropologist.

So there you go Jeff! Without High School you just might have developed wistful, romanticized notions of what it might be like to have had no friends and be cast aside, left to eventually bond with other outsiders. And that's better than actually having to have lived through the real thing...well, is it?

(once again, I've written a blog post inside of your blog! =P)

Protocol Snow said...

Nicely written post, Jeff. See, you still have it in you! Resist being drawn away by the dark side (Twitter) ;)

mjd said...

Jeff, the truth is that if you'd been to any one of those past reunions, your name would be attributed to that photo now. If you think reunions are about a "SEE!" moment then you're missing the point.

The people I had the greatest respect for at my reunion were those who were happy to chat to anyone. Regardless of whether or not they'd been good friends. They felt confident enough in themselves to greet anyone as an equal, regardless of any history between them. I walked away from that night with a greater opinion of a quite a few people there.

It's a very personal thing, and going back to a reunion is certainly not going to work for everyone. I'm sure there are horror stories. But it's a fantastic opportunity to finally put some of that behind you. Don't go there because you want to prove anything to the world. Just be at ease with yourself. It will be a shining example to your daughter.

You never know... you may even have a great time.

Primosis said...

Thanks Jeff. Being a 16 year old who's still going through high school now, this blog has really made me feel better about myself. My situation is definitely different from yours, but I have the same self confidence issues, and it helps to be reminded that everyone has their issues. Once again, thanks Jeff.

Jensemann said...

Well, I have to say that I am always impressed by the stories I hear from Americans about High School. Do to the fact that I was raised in Germany I have no clue about the American education system. But I am getting some ideas here in scotland.
I still find it hard to believe that it is a necessity to send you kid to a private school to get proper education. But here it seems to be the same. T
hat your late teens are a hard time and that you get a lot off shit is I guess international and also not just exclusive to nerds.
I was recently reminded of a sentence one of my mates said over almost 15 years ago. It was a comment on one of our other mates, a brilliant guitar player, so good that he good a sponsor ship for studying guitar in Berkley actually, not bad for a German. He was commenting on his new song:"Well, technically awesome, but no emotions. What you need I a girlfriend you really love and then when she dumbs you, that will be the best work you will ever write".
So what I am trying to say is how much of your abilities as creative are based on such experiences and on their workup.

Raf said...

Gawd, that was a long-ass read, couldn't you just have tweeted this? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Whoa! That was heavy.

So what are you saying here - that you were some class of misfit in high school?

Couldn't you have just condensed that, and put it in your Twitter feed?

The Goose.

Anonymous said...

Oh god, Raf, you beat me to it. Yeah, just Twitter that nonsense the next time.

Goose.

Greg said...

Thanks Jeff. Very soul-baring and you managed to make me remember the one or two bad experiences I had. Nothing like yours! I actually had a pretty good run that would have been better if my full allotment of self confidence had been granted just a year or two earlier.

There wasn't much in the way of hazing at my school but there are one or two guys who I really doubt I'd save from being dragged into a wood chipper even now; I might even pretend to help just to draw the experience out for them. Old resentments die hard sometimes, and some maybe even fester in a black part of your soul that you ignore (no therapy for me!).

*shake* Regardless, as you iterated and re-iterated, life is what you make of it and most of us are quite capable of making it great!

Anonymous said...

Finally a piece with some shape.

Tweeting and writing game dialogue hasn't ruined you... yet.

Funny that the banter you captured on the brodeo was that easy High School patter that seems elusive with the passage of time. Cheers boss.

Anonymous said...

That was great. For some reason I live in this dream world where I think really successful people never had any real problems. Thanks for straightening that out. I'm less jealous now. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

I just put up an article about how the internet is changing the way that news is written. I wanted to drop you a line to say thank you, because a couple of the GFW podcasts you did a while back really informed a couple of my arguments. It's here if you want to have a look: http://tinyurl.com/yb5wlga

Thanks,
theo

TJ said...

I went to my wife's 20 year reunion. It is like you wrote, it is the same people organizing it and running it every time. They are were the school newspaper/yearbook nerds and they are the only one that seem to be represented. They seem to be re-shaping their high school experience after-the-fact or maybe they simply loved that part of their lives.

I drew no satisfaction that many people at the reunion didn't move on with there lives and high school was probably their peak.
Honestly after going to the reunion I was really down for a few days.

For me it was sad experience.

Jenna said...

Jeff, I'm sorry that you dealt with so much crap in high school. My best friend went through much the same in high school. Unfortunately we didn't go to the same high school so, I didn't find out about it until after it happened. It still affects him, a lot. I don't know if you remember this, but I'm the one who asked why more girls in high school don't appreciate nerdy boys on the GFW Radio show. It makes even more sense as to why you said "Where were you when I was in high school?!" I'm genuinely sorry high school sucked so hard for you, because I definitely enjoyed the complete and utter lack of real responsibility. I wish I had had access to the kind of school your daughter goes to, mainly because in my freshman year of college, I feel pretty much completely unprepared for the challenge ahead of me. It's a mixture of complete and utter fear, and exhilarating excitement for something new.
Thanks for sticking with the blog, it's always an appreciated break from homework.

Macroe said...

Listening to the GFW podcast, I could feel you cringing at some of the Shawn Elliott bullying stories... It's interesting to note that the other side, the abusive kid at school, probably had deeper issues still with disfunctional families or terrible experiences, hiding all the time behind a bully facade.

You both have obviously moved on, matured in such a way to actually be able to laugh together coming from two opposite sides of the same coin.

I'm no psychologist here, but one fascinating undercurrent at the podcast was this subdued clash between characters. Shawn's Elliott stories and the family information that he chose to share, intended as funny anecdotes but sad at the same time, struck me as a public "coming to grasps" kind of experience, much like your blog post.

Thanks again for sharing!

Lars said...

Yeah same experience here. Highschool played a big part in making me the cynical, introverted people-hater I am today. Even though the memories of all the mean shit fades after awhile, the scars it leaves on your personality are permanent.

Anonymous said...

Oh, wait a minute - is he saying he was bullied?

I thought he was saying that he just never fit in, and that he missed out on a lot of the things that his peers took part in? I thought he was trying to tell us that he had a difficult time communicating with people, and that, really, he kind of just missed out on the whole high school experience thing. (That would explain the nightmares.) (Also, it's a known fact that many people decide to teach high school for this very reason - because they missed out on the experience themselves, and so return as teachers to live vicariously through their own pupils.) (Disturbing, I know.)

The doctor is now in:

Well, part of the problem there is that Green is intelligent and doesn't have a huge ego. If you're stupid, then your experiences in high school are naturally going to be a lot easier. You can be intelligent and still experience the gamut of activities that you probably should experience, but you have to have a big ego also.

Hmm, maybe I'd better re-read the Greenspeak blog. I'm a little confused right now. (Is anybody else confused right now?) Is there going to be a sequel to this? What happened to Green in University? I'll bet there was lots of studying involved, and not much else?

Goose.

(Also, if anybody else out there is experiencing psychological trauma, now would be the time to tell your story. I don't know how much longer I'll be here, but feel free to post away.)

Jeff Green said...

Not bullied. Except psychologically. And Berkeley was a mixed bag for me--another blog post maybe. :)

Goose--why won't you be here much longer? You're like a regular at this here bar!

Anonymous said...

No, Goose the doctor, I meant - he can't be giving out too much advice.

Also, I believe that there are a lot of regulars here. Most just don't leave comments. I'm guessing that for every one commenter, there are dozens of lurkers here.

You have a pretty big following, Green. Don't let it go to your head though.

Anonymous said...

For me I was already screwed up going into High School. I thought I was an outcast just because I was overweight and had been tourmented as the only white kid in Jr High. After the millionth time being too scared to talk to a pretty girl in class, the frustration made me take a good hard look inward at myself and find the repressed childhood memory of the babysitter's machismo husband with his angry face and steak knife held to a freightened 5-year-old's throat. Guess I was being too loud in the living room when this scumbag was eating his steak 30 years ago.

Demons are a bitch. Maybe I should see a therapist, eh? lol

TheDeviot said...

Well despite the generational difference what you've described is eerily similar to my high school, no GRADE school days. Basically Nursery through Senior year. And like you, I made the mistake of letting myself beLIEve all of the horseshit everyone through at me to keep me down. It is inspiring to see that other people have been able to do okay after such trauma.
What really makes me sad looking back though is that it took a national tragedy to make the majority of schools today make any sort of attempt to put an end to this shit.

Christopher said...

Hey Jeff, thanks for the heart-felt blog. It is amazing the trauma that high school can inflict upon us. It seems it takes the rest of your adult live to come to grips with its briefest period. For me - it was more middle school than anything. Puberty was not kind to me. Big goggle glasses, and a white guy afro ( I am convinced that my mother hated me when I look at the clothes I wore and the haircut I had, but she denies it ). Luckily, once I hit sophomore year, I got contacts and a haircut, and things turned around. I guess I am luckier than most - I just had my 10 year reunion, and I did actually go to it. 2 of the guys who bullied me in middle school, the ones who really made my life hell, separately came to me and gave me heart-felt apologies. I guess that they had had a hard time dealing with their guilt over their bastardly ways. It was a really cathartic experience, although I haven't entirely gotten over the shame of some of the experiences. Oh well, we all have our burdens to bear. I know that I left behind that small town a long time ago, and my life today is not based on my experiences then.

All the best, man. Thanks for sharing.

halojones-fan said...

Re: Prop13. PREACH IT, brother.

I love how "old people" are the argument for every fucking thing in politics. "old people" need free doctors, "old people" need free money, "old people" need to have their taxes low and they need special cheap houses that kids aren't allowed to buy and they need to have relaxed driving requirements and special discounts and this and that and JESUS CHRIST JUST FUCKING DIE, OKAY? If you want to live by yourself that's fine, but why do I have to pay for your failure to save a damn penny for your retirement? Actually, not failure--outright refusal because you know that if I don't cover your greens fees and Bermuda-vacation funds, my ass goes into the jail.

High School: On the one hand, you have people saying that homeschooling produces dangerously maladjusted borderline-autistic loners who can't handle social interaction. "You need that exposure to society," they say.

On the other hand, you have people like Jeff, whose exposure to society left him worse off than if he'd just stayed home.

(The funny part is when someone tells you a story about how awful their highschool experience was, and then they turn around and shit on homeschoolers. Like, Stockholm Syndrome much?)

Ian Jacobson said...

i was left out of my freshman year yearbook, and i was even on the basketball team.

Spike said...

Well that was one of the greatest blog posts I've ever read. No exaggeration I promise. Thanks Jeff. :)

Tydigame said...

I didn't have it as bad as you seem to have, but I can say that I was also fairly miserable in High School. For me, it's always been a matter of conformity: in High School, the teachers and the apparatus of the institution are designed to teach people not to think, to despise uniqueness and diversity, and to conform to the authority of the typical. Teachers would rather you parrot their notes than question the methodology of the construction of the notes' content. Peers would rather you parrot one-liners from sitcoms than use with to make a joke on the spot. Administrators would rather everyone sit quietly on the conveyor belt and get out of the institution.

The sad result of this is that the most creative, interesting, intelligent people find themselves stifled and scorned for their independence and difference. You daughter is indeed very lucky to have a parent who protects those qualities of intelligence, lateral thinking, and openness to difference.

Anonymous said...

This is the best thing I have ever read from you. I think a lot of us (that would read this anyway) felt the same way in our younger years.

Thank you
Zaroc

Tim said...

Jeff, I really appreciated this post. I've followed you for a long time (in your magazines, here, on Twitter, etc.) and this post really moved me. I can relate to absolutely every feeling you expressed. And don't even get me started again on Buffy.

My 20 year reunion was last year. Until a few months before it, I thought you couldn't pay me enough to attend.

I was the deeply closeted gay kid in high school. A had a group of 2 or 3 girls that were friends (but didn't know I was gay back then) but was universally ignored by everyone else. Nerdy, skinny-fat, gawky, awkward. Smart, played D&D, etc. HATED high school. HATED HATED HATED IT. Lived every day in fear/shame/terror, etc.

ANYWAY... In a million years I thought you could never pay me enough to go to a HS reunion. But last year, I got cajoled via email into going by one of the organizers - a classmate I was friendly with but didn't really consider a "friend". She and i never hung out but we used to laugh a lot because we sat by each other in several classes.

Long story short, I took my partner (of 15 years) with me. I figured at worst, we'd get a nice dinner and have a drink and bolt. But a funny thing happened... I had a great time! I met up with her and go to know her. I also met up with one of my HS pals who I also thought would never attend in a million years. AND I met up with TWO great friends who I hadn't spoken a single word to in High School, but who knew me from kindergarten and were best friends BACK FROM 5th or 6th grade!!! It was a incredible!

And you want to know the weirdest thing? If someone had told me I would have met or had to talk to ANY of those people beforehand, I probably would have chickened out. I only went because my partner had gone to his 20 year the previous year and he talked me into it. Plus the aforementioned chance for a nice dinner and bolt after.

Jeff, I think you could really get closure if you went. Take your wife, bolt after dinner and couple drinks if it sucks. But go! At worst, you'll see that people change and mature more than you might imagine. At best, you'll get closure and find long lost childhood pals.

Sean Boocock said...

I appreciated your story Jeff. I hope it was as cathartic for you writing as it was for me, and I'm sure many others, in reading it.

I'm only 23 so my high school experience is still somewhat fresh both emotionally and in my memory. I went to a high school that is much closer to your daughter's school, at least in stature and prestige, then what I take yours to be. Still, it was probably the most transformative and at time traumatic durations of my life. Thankfully, the school itself and the people in it were a largely positive force throughout that period, ones that I can still look fondly on.

Thanks again for sharing. Your writing is some of the best I regularly read.

morsdei said...

Thanks so much for being forward with this post... it's a relief not feeling alone...
I came to high school with a small but established group of friends from my elementary school. But pretty quickly they started branching out into other groups (understandable), mainly sports, and started hanging out with that crowd. I am incredibly uncoordinated and could not even make the golf team, and so my ties to them started to weaken.
In addition, my brother got cancer soon after, and my dad had to take a second job to help cover the medical costs, working from 9PM to 3PM the next day, spending the balance of the next day asleep at home. I became very depressed, which pretty much made me an untouchable in the paradise which is Orange County, where everyone is expected to be happy all the time. From that point forward, even my old friends felt comfortable completely ignoring me.
Further complicating the mess, I was (and am) an atheist, forced by my mother to attend Catholic School. So any time I would want to speak up in class to talk about things that actually mattered to me, I would almost always be promptly silenced with comments like "Oh, he only thinks that because he has no soul" or "Did anyone just feel all the warmth get sucked out of the room?" which would garner laughs from just about everyone. I'm not stupid, and I quickly learned not to speak up. I too internalized their asinine remarks, and my self esteem fell through the floor. I walked around school without making eye contact with anyone, and especially without ever speaking. I became suicidal, but thankfully was too much of a coward to ever go through with it.
I had no friends, and traveled almost exclusively between school and home for the entirety of my sophomore and junior years. It was the worst time of my life.
But that aside (feels good to get it off my chest), I want to thank you for doing the GFW Radio podcast, which helped keep me company during that time, and for writing this blog post, as I respect your work very much, and am relieved to hear you had a similar experience.

Kevin Elgar said...

Wow, absolutely beautiful words once again Jeff Green.

I was a complete loser in high school, always with the same small group of friends, but I was never really sociable so I was usually was alone. Yet, high school won't be the years that will come back and haunt me (that'll be my childhood, but that's for another topic). I realize I did not go through any major emotional trauma, especially one as big as my best friends turning on me. I've always told myself that not having something is much worse than getting it taken away.

Panda said...

Wow, Jeff. I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate you putting something this private up for us folks to see. Every now and then on the show you would say something that made me think there were stories like this that you had running through your head, and it was great to read it here.

And y'know.. Pity wasn't the first feeling I had as I read your words. It was understanding.

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