I hated high school.
I was in the Class of ’68, but it wasn’t Rydell High and I sure as hell wasn’t anyone noticeable, even in a class of 50. Hell, when graduation rolled around, I was tied for 25th in class rank, a C student in English even though I had received a Creative Writing Award and had performed as part of a “Simon & Garfunkel” duo at multiple events in the last three semesters.
Oh, I dated quite a bit that last year and a half, and had a couple of “steady” girlfriends. Through it all, however, I felt as if I was just going through the motions. I was playing the part, even when I didn’t know the lines. I couldn’t wait to get to college.
Eight miles away. Hey, when you are a C student and your guidance counselor can’t even recognize you despite the fact you dated his daughter for three months, you’re not going to have many options. Still, I was away from home, at least during the day—I commuted the first semester….
OK, OK. Yeah. That sucked. How much money did you have in the fall of 1968? But I was in COLLEGE! I didn’t have to be there at 8:00 AM (wait, yes, I did!), or follow a damned bell schedule until 3:25 PM. I only had FOUR classes!! On top of that, they were EASY!!
Between classes I could sit in the Student Union and drink coffee and talk to people from all over the US. Some of them weren’t even white! My math instructor knew how to explain things, so I got an A in a class that covered the same material I’d failed as a high school junior. My English prof couldn’t do anything but point out comma faults, as usual, so I didn’t learn anything about composition for a few years yet, but I had a lit class that let me READ and actually talk to someone who had something interesting to add to the text!
And I made friends. No. I gained family. I swear. There are many, many people I met as an undergrad who are as important to me as any member of my blood family. Some of them know me better (and have vowed to keep the secrets!).
Those four years in college were awesome. I had some unbelievable successes and some soul-shattering failures, but they were ALL MINE, and I had people around me (including my parents) who could help me start over or change direction. Most of all, I had the time and opportunities to explore LIFE!
High school for me had simply been elementary school for older students—too many missed opportunities and inept authorities. If it hadn’t been for the mediocre library (I think I own more books now), I’m not sure I would have learned much of anything. I was bullied by classmates and faculty, ignored by almost everyone, ostracized and penalized and abused like an ugly dog. When I had had enough and fought back, I was simply punished more. In my “old age,” it is hard for me to remember specifics, I think simply because I have a tendency to erase from my memory what doesn’t really matter. At the same time, I remember people who were both my friends and fellow combatants, and have a tendency to mostly remember only the good things about our relationships. I’ve mellowed. It’s better that way.
My memories of my four years as an undergrad, however, are primarily of the most wonderful experiences of my young life. I’m sure my foggy memory has put a haze of good feeling around some of them, but, I’ll take it. I prize those memories, and I’ll argue with anyone who was there and has a different recollection, and tell him or her that there was too much beer or whiskey to remember exactly…or too many years. And then I’ll be more than happy to give that good friend a bear hug and say, “Thanks, for the memories.”
It was my best start.