Monday, November 8, 2010

High school flashbacks

Two news items this past week and weekend drew my attention back to my hometown, high school, and a few characters that I had met while I was there.

I read that a guy in my graduating class was stalking and harassing his exgirlfriend by calling her over 80 times a day. The girl's name doesn't ring a bell for me, but she wised up and called the cops on him. When the cops went to his house to arrest him, they found pot and thousands of dollars on him. Then they proceeded to search his home and found large jars of pot, packets of heroin, even more money, and handguns. So, needless to say, he got charged for more than just stalking. I looked at his picture in my senior yearbook and I remember him as one of the nicer punk kids who was well meaning enough.

The second story is the one that's been on my mind a lot more. I found out that a guy that was in the class below me died in a car accident. He had been missing for a few days prior, so it looks as though the crash occurred days ago and no one noticed it until Saturday. This is completely possible as the town I grew up in is rather rural and a lot of the roads go through unpopulated, wooded areas. They're curvy and don't have many guardrails. His car apparently struck a tree and got thrown into a ditch, so it wasn't visible from the road. The thought that he just sat there, dead or dying, for days is the most haunting part of this story for me. He was involved in a car accident a few years ago where the driver, a guy that was in my graduating class, died. He survived that crash only to find himself in the same fatal situation. I did not know him well by any means, but two girls I knew dated him. My most direct contact I had with him was when I interviewed him for my junior yearbook. I was in charge of the life after 3 page where we highlighted some of the extracurricular things the students did that had nothing to do with school. He skateboarded, so I talked to him a few times and got a picture from him. He was a nice guy, a jokester type that was the center of attention. Smart, but unmotivated. A pothead and partier, a dreamer that had an infectious personality. When I looked in my senior yearbook for his picture under the juniors, he wasn't there. I looked at the not pictured section and his name wasn't there either. This really bothers me because I was the yearbook editor my senior year. How did he get overlooked?

My senior year of high school was hell. I overloaded my schedule with excessive AP classes and topped it off with being the yearbook editor. I was working through a depression that had boiled up that summer and was incredibly bitter and jaded. Yearbook was a pet project and I came at it with an obsessive vigor. I spent hours upon hours perfecting the layout and stressing over wording. I became rather close with the yearbook advisor only to have bitter words exchanged and the relationship smashed. I ultimately gave up on the yearbook once I graduated. I had grand plans to go in and finish it up that summer so that I could give my seal of approval on all the pages, but the yearbook advisor stopped me in my tracks. She called my house one night when I wasn't home, demanding my mother tell her where I was and why I hadn't been in to work on the yearbook recently. My mother related the conversation to me the next day. I was appalled at how rude that woman was to my mother. I had gotten a summer job that was taking up a lot of my time, but the reason I was away was because my grandfather had just died unexpectedly and I had gone to West Virginia to pay my respects. The next day, I barged into that woman's office, bubbling with anger, and told her off. She had no right to be that rude to my mother, I demanded she apologize to her, and I let her know that I wasn't being a lazy ass after all, I was simply being a good granddaughter. When she started crying and apologizing to me, it was one of the most powerful feelings I have ever felt. Little me had stood up for myself and I brought a much feared, grown woman to her knees. I never went back.

By a funny course of events, I was dating the next year's yearbook editor and a few months later, while I was in my freshman year of college, he asked me to write the introduction to my yearbook. He didn't think it was right for anyone else to write it since I was the editor and he knew how much effort I put into that book. I was still incredibly bitter about the whole thing and got a horrible taste in my mouth when I thought about everything that had occurred, but still, I agreed because I knew that he was right and I figured this would be a good way to form some kind of closure. So, in my dorm room, I thought about the movie theme we had for the yearbook and the absolute hell I went through in high school. I wrote out the following introduction:

"John Barth was quoted in saying that 'everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story.' Each of our lives has played out, like a motion picture, for all to see. Every film has been full of originality and depth and, even though admission may be free of charge, these real life stories are by far the most inspirational and worthy of our observation. While the steady beat of life continued to play as the soundtrack, we discovered that the starring role is none other than ourselves and the plot is our very own reality.

High school was just the beginning of each of our life stories. The experience gave us the ability to not only discover our strengths and weaknesses, but to utilize resources that improved upon both. For the Class of 2004, this year dictated the closing lines to the scene of adolescent life and offered significant foresight into the next. The robes were worn, the tassels were turned, the caps were thrown, and the documentary of life continued on. There will be much more to learn and many more moments to treasure. However, the bittersweet year of 2004 will be immortalized for most of the seniors, looked back upon as the time when they were old enough to endure responsibility, yet young enough to accept dependence. This moment of teetering on the edge of adulthood found a special place within all the graduates, reassured by the fact that no matter which roles their classmates pursue, they are bound together by their common roots at [Pennsylvania High School.]"

I can still pick up on the bitter undertones and where I carefully choose my words, but all in all, I'm proud of what my 18 year old self slapped together after all that high school threw at me.

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