High school is a shit show. A chaotic time. A scary time. And so often a depressing time. A time when – because of all that’s new we deal with, and all that’s unfamiliar we’re forced into – we become something else – something different than what our family has known, and what we had once thought of ourselves.
And when you look back on who you were then (or are now if it’s the case), odds are…you won’t be proud of who you were…
My brother and I were talking about it – though I don’t know how or why, really.
About how awful we were back then.
About how, when we remember it now, we just aren’t proud of who we were.
Things we said to others.
Things we did to others.
And the times – the many times – we never spoke up when we should have, never defended someone we ought have, never helped those people around us that we saw everyday being messed with, picked on, pushed around, or lonely.
Or the times it was we ourselves who were those bullies – the stupid, childish shit you do when you’re young and immature.
Just so many things, really, that we think of now and are ashamed, really – of how we handled it or didn’t, of how we avoided it or looked away, of how we simply treated other kids no less hurting and struggling in that place, in that time than us.
I told him…
…I remember this kid from Home Ec class – Juan – who had, I guess, suffered a stroke when he was younger. He walked with a limp, foot turned inward. His left hand wasn’t of much use, and he spoke awkwardly, like half of his face was paralyzed.
He was such a sweet kid, though. A funny kid. The kind that never caused trouble for anyone.
But, of course, that shit doesn’t matter in school.
Cause he was different.
And so mostly Juan was ripped on. The dudes would have fun with his disabilities. They’d be nice at times, of course, but when they were bored, or when they found the opportunity, or when they just freaking felt like it, they’d be the total opposite.
And I still remember standing next to him when this dude came up one day, grabbed the glasses of his face, and bent them broken right in front of us.
The kind of senseless abuse you only see in school – that would never happen in college, or at work, or on the street even. Anywhere else, really. The kinda crap that happens all the time, though, in middle and high schools around the world.
And of course, I just stood there and watched it happen.
And of course, I said nothing.
I remember, though, that I didn’t laugh like the others. I remember feeling inside that it was too much, too far, that it wasn’t right, that I felt sorry for him.
But mostly I remember doing nothing. Like I always did nothing.
Better to be quiet, I thought, than to make yourself a target as well. Better to let it happen, than to let it happen to you. Better be one of 100 against 1, than one of 2 against 100.
I’m shaking my head right now thinking of it – of how stupid I was, of how cowardly I was, of how regularly horrible shit like that happened every day unstopped.
But the reality is…
…we’re rarely the best selves we’ll be at 15.
We know too little. We’ve seen too little. We’ve done too little.
And when you look back on who you were, the way you acted, how you treated others and let them treat others in your presence – you won’t be proud I’ll guess.
I look back now and can’t help but cringe at who I was – at the things I did and the stuff I said. The way in which I treated them. How I took such joy in hurting them in some cases, and felt such fear to help them in others.
Cause as someone who’s better now, and, of course, as someone who writes about growing up here on this and other sites, I know now what I didn’t then…
That that shit was awful.
It was horrible.
That it wasn’t cool, and, most importantly, it wasn’t right.
That I myself was making, or so often at least helping, make life miserable on kids who were struggling the same as me, as miserable as me, as depressed as me. Kids who were going home and crying themselves to sleep. Kids who just wanted to fit in, to feel normal, to have a friend, to have someone. Kids who’d never forget, who’d never be the same.
And I’m still ashamed.
And yet, the horrible truth is…we were all that way.
All of us high schoolers. And middle school too. In some way. In some amount.
Because school – for teenagers – is basically several thousand kids, being as shitty as possible to one another.
As judgmental as possible. As vindictive. As hateful, and callous, and mean.
As excluding as possible. As rude as possible. As truly and life-alteringly abusive to one another as they possibly can.
Several thousand little devils really – who think they’re so grown, and so mature, and so cool. Several thousand little punks – so lame in their attempts to seem so cool, and so shameful in their attempts to feel strong.
That call themselves “friends”.
It’s awful, really…
…but it’s possible that the worst place to put a teenager is in a school of their peers.
It’s sad, even.
And yet…we all go.
Cause for the most part we have no choice, or had no choice, and so we have to make of it what we will, because I’m not too sure the alternative is much better anyway.
And so this is a reminder to those who are in school now, enduring this still, that what you see and experience every day in those hallways, and classrooms, and playgrounds is not the best of human behavior. Nor even normal human behavior. It’s not the world as it is anywhere else. It’s not life as you’ll live it after, when you’re no longer forced to spend as many as 12 years, almost everyday, for most the day, with people you can’t stand.
It’s high school.
It’s everything magnified.
It’s all the worst of social dynamics multiplied tenfold on people who don’t yet understand who they are or what they do.
And all you bear witness to now, and all you participate in now is nothing of what you’ll find acceptable or cool 5 years from today.
And likely, you’ll be ashamed of it all.
You won’t be proud.
That is…unless you try.
Unless you start giving yourself reason to.
Unless you act differently – now, today, when next the bell rings and all those kids file into class to be and act as I hope you hope to never be anymore…
Someone you won’t be proud of.
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