Cheerleaders

What would high school be without them? Oh, I’m not talking about that troop of pretty girls (and one slightly chubby one with a SUPER personality) who have good rhythm and know all the catchy things to yell at a football game. Although, I do love some pom-poms. I am talking about the people who actually have your back, cheer for you and who are generally happy when you do well in life.

One day during my junior year I heard some kids gossiping about a faculty meeting of all the teachers who taught junior year students. They got together to collaborate on their students, ostensibly to identify and curtail any issues with students that went beyond, “yeah, that kid has trouble with math.” I was surprised that they had these sessions; I had never heard about them before. But, I was more surprised that two of the teachers had even 10 seconds worth of debate about me. See, the school I went to was the same school I had gone to since I was TWO YEARS OLD. Yup, that’s right. I started three-year-old kindergarten there the one year they tried the three year old kindergarten experiment, and having Indian immigrant parents who were stereotypically aggressive about their child’s academic advancement, I was put in about a month before I turned three.

So, by the time this junior year rolled around, I had been with twenty of these 60 or so students for over ten years. Half of my teachers had taught my sister and, to be honest, since I was a nerd and my sister was NOT, I was mostly a nice academic surprise for them, or so I thought. But, I assumed that was the thought that my teachers would have when they thought of me at all. But after 14 years in the same institution I did not expect to be thought of. I mostly felt like wallpaper. Sure, I was there. Maybe you even stared at me idly while you waited for something good or exciting to happen. But I wasn’t myself good or exciting. I didn’t give people nightmares either (I don’t think – I mean, if I did, let me know so I can apologize) but, I just wasn’t memorable. I was unobtrusive background, quickly forgotten.

But, then….but, then.

I heard about this meeting. One teacher was saying something about my smart mouth, attitude or irreverence or something anyway, and my favorite teacher in the world, Ms. Jane, hopped quickly to my defense. I don’t remember the specifics of what was said on either side; after all these years the details are gone. But, what I do remember is that this teacher saw something in me worth standing up for in a boring staff meeting. The fact that she was a passionate and outspoken advocate of many things and people did not diminish for one second the rush of happiness, of acceptance, of approval I felt at hearing this. I remember with crystal clarity how she praised our creative project on Dante’s Inferno (we made the game of ‘Hell’ – like the board game ‘Life’- only you started in the Pit of Hell and tried to get to Limbo. The best part was that there was no way to win. Maybe we left one spot that would let you eventually make your way to Purgatory, but that was the beauty of it). And that was just one of the many weird and nerdy pursuits she backed with such enthusiasm that those chicks with the pom-poms could have taken lessons.

I don’t mean to imply that in my whole highschool career that she was the one and only true cheerleader our little band of tiedyednotebook misfits had; we had many. One teacher brought the principal and the other classes in to hear our musical rendition of the ‘Taming of the Shrew’ set to the tune of ‘Come Together’ by the Beatles. Even though performing it made me feel slightly like a kid does when her parents drag her out to sing some song for their dinner guests, I still felt appreciated. It made me want to be damn sure that when those teachers looked again, they wouldn’t second-guess their opinion. It made me try harder and achieve more.

Don’t get me wrong, there were always plenty of people who made me feel like a jackass, too, like the musical director of the first play I was ever in who strongly encouraged me to lip sync. That blow to my ego has stayed with me and even now makes me self-conscious to sing in public. But, I have tried to let that go and sing anyway, because life just sucks too much when you don’t.

Maybe it’s that some people were always designed to be creative and good at something and I don’t think I was. I think I learned that it was ok to try even when you felt like a jackass. And I thank my teacher, the best teacher in the world, who taught me that.

We thought we were so cool…

I recently spent some time with my niece who is a rising sophomore in high school. I’ve been sharing unsolicited stories of my own high school career. The thing that has really stood out to me is that the things I did in high school that I really thought were so cool, were the things that really alienated me from the “popular” crowd. I dressed strangely, wrote a lot of really bad poetry, and really, truly felt that my life was so tragic. As I recount these tales, the thing that sticks out the most is that while at the time these things seemed so very important, looking back they were pretty silly.

So what is popularity and why is it so important? I wanted to be part of the crowd, to have fabulous adventures with my fabulous friends, I wanted to date the cute boy in my class and I wanted people to look up to me. Funny thing is, I had all that, it just wasn’t with the the crowd I thought I wanted to be a part of. With my group of friends, I did belong. We had great times and adventures together and while I never did date that cute boy in my class, I kissed a bunch of frogs. Looking back I even had other people who looked up to me, I just couldn’t see it at the time.

So why is it that we can’t see how good we have it at the time? Why is it that we want what others have? I could blame it on the media, on how the “beautiful people” on TV and movies are shown, but that’s too easy. We want what we don’t have. We want what someone else has. In turn, that person wants something else too. I don’t even know how many of the girls I went to high school with have had some type of surgery. When I get my friends recommendation on Facebook I have to really look sometimes and try to imagine her with a different nose, or lower cheekbones and these were the girls i wanted to be like in high school! They are the people i looked up to and the ones i thought had it all together. In general, we are never totally satisfied with what we’re given in life. I really don’t think there’s any person out there who is totally, 100% happy with everything and doesn’t ever wish something about their life was different. Maybe that’s just a part of human nature.

I think I’ve said all that to get to this. Who we are is a direct effect of who we were. When we were talking about this blog, my friend said that we should examine how we’ve recovered from high school, and I asked have we really? Do we ever get over the hurts and insecurities of our youth. I see myself today as a totally different person. I think I’m more self-confident and sure of myself. I have more courage and I think I’m pretty OK. But it doesn’t take too much to send me back to that place. I can overhear something or feel snubbed by someone at work and all of a sudden that old insecurity creeps back in. Heck, throw in a new coworker who I think is pretty fabulous and I’m falling all over myself again to try and be noticed and be new BFFs! What I need to realize is that I’m pretty cool the way I am. I’m blessed with that prince who finally showed up after all those frogs. My kids are pretty awesome 90% of the time and I like the life I have.

So have I really recovered from high school? I think I’m still trying to figure that out.

The history of the tie-dyed notebook…

Back when I was in high school, (mumble) years ago, several of my friends and I invented blogging.  Well, okay, we didn’t have computers, and I’m pretty sure none of us had even heard of the Internet yet, but it was the same idea.  I had friends in my hometown, where I had gone to school up until seventh grade, and I had new friends at my new school, 30 miles away, and I wanted a way to bridge the gap between them.  I was also a notorious note-passer, and always looking for new ways to make snarky commentary to my friends during class without getting caught (in fourth grade, a friend and I developed a code made up different shapes, and that had at least kept teachers from being able to read our notes, but we still occasionally got in trouble for writing them).

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure who came up with the notebook idea, but it was a beauty.  You could write snarky comments through an entire class, and your teacher would just assume you were diligently taking notes.  The idea was that one person would take it each day to record their thoughts and experiences.  The next day it would go to someone else, who could add their own experiences, plus comment on the previous day’s notes.   So you see, it was essentially a blog, except much lower tech and less public.

The first notebook had a tie-dyed cover–appropriate, since we had recently had what we called a Hippie Party for friends from both my old school and my new one (there’s a picture from that party on Meredith’s first post).  That one was written and rewritten in, and passed around until it was falling apart.  The second “tie-dyed notebook” was actually red.  That one got filled up too, and also had the phrase “rat’s ass” written on every page (I’m sure there’s an interesting story behind that, but I’ve forgotten it).

Anyway, here I am now, a grown-up lady of (mumble) with two kids, and living far, far away from all of my tie-dyed notebook friends.  But we keep up through Facebook, which is shockingly similar, and we all still seem to enjoy making snarky remarks.  And even though it has been a frightening number of years since we were in high school, I still think about those days more than I care to admit.

So here is our electronic version of the Tie-Dyed Notebook.  Welcome back, old friend!

The Tie-Dyed Notebook Returns…

In new convenient online format!