You couldn’t pay me to go back to high school.
But I do sometimes wonder what it would be like to do it over again, only with the mindset I have now.
There are so many things that seem like the end of the world when we are navigating those musty halls and squeezing by crowds to get to the bathroom. (Then punching the hand dryer once inside to hide the sound of our pee.)
My anxiety was through the roof the first day of 10th grade as I entered the cafeteria with my books and sack lunch. It was the moment I had been dreading all day: the selection of a lunch seat. I moved from Ohio to Michigan in the middle of my Freshmen year of high school, so I was not walking into a crowd of familiar faces. I was diving into a writhing sea of the worst kind of antagonists: high schoolers.
I paused only a moment, hurriedly scanning the horizon of bobbing heads for a familiar face. I found no one. Biting my lip, I sat down at the nearest empty table. Alone. I was that girl. That poor loser without friends quietly eating lunch and reading a book. This was before smartphones, so I couldn’t even scroll to look busy. I felt the heat of an invisible spotlight as I munched on a carrot stick and felt a cold sweat on my back.
As an adult looking back, I recognize how ballsy it much have seemed to sit down by myself on the first day, and I’m proud of that. But now it seems so strange to think we ever dreaded sitting alone at all. I WELCOME it, now. Don’t sit by me.
If I could go back, I’d stride across the cafeteria with a bag of Bosco Sticks in hand (because I freaking miss those delicious rods of grease). I’d sit as far away from the crowd as humanly possible, then smile pleasantly to myself as I enjoy my quiet lunch in solitude.
But the anxiety of high school was, and probably will always be, overwhelming.
Where am I going to sit? Who is going to be my partner? What topic should I choose to present to make me look cool? Which people should I talk to? Should I even try out for this play? What if no one asks me to the dance? Will the groups for this project be assigned? Should I make eye contact with this person walking down the hall? What English elective is going to look better on my transcript? Do you think people will like these pants? Are seats assigned? Does this teacher like me? Who’s my locker buddy? What if lunch boxes are nerdy this year? What if I have to poop during this test?
I cannot believe how much time I wasted worrying about things that didn’t matter. The anxiety is devastating, and I wish I could do it over again knowing exactly what matters and what doesn’t. I wish I could pass this knowledge down to others, but it won’t stick. It never does. I can’t tell you how many times my mother tried to tell me it wasn’t the end of the world. I was convinced it was, and no one was ever going to tell me different!
Perhaps it’s a rite of passage. Maybe going back and doing it like a carefree loaner wouldn’t give me the necessary experiences needed to develop into a successful adult. I guess on some level, high school builds character.
Well. I’ve got enough character in me at this point, thanks very much.
You couldn’t pay me to go back.
Might do it for the Boscos, though.