Monday, July 20, 2009

High School Cliques revisted

I have seen a lot of thing reverting to High School lately. Most notable, the latest season of Big Brother has assigned the "house guests" as they are called into groups according to what clique they would have likely been in when they were back in high school. Really? First, who the f*ck wants to go back to high school. Sorry, who aside from the people who peaked in high school wants to go back there? Second, how can you say who you are today determines what group you would have been in way back when? Or vice-versa, really. I know, I know....this is a contrived little device for trying to re-invigorate a Reality show series in hopes of earning ratings. I am sure it works for that very reason.

It has also made me think about my high school days and how they stack up to today. I think I felt in high school, much as today, like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Try, try, try - but it's never going to quite fit. That's not to say I fit into some sort of "outsiders" label. I think quite the contrary; I was a little bit of everything.

This would be hard to believe for some, but I was fairly sporty back in high school. I played 3 years of soccer before an injury forced me to stop. I know I was just a mediocre player on a good day, but I did get a most improved award my sophomore year. It was one of those experiences where I knew I was just along for the ride, but I enjoyed the camaraderie and the sense of being part of a team.

I was in all Honors and Advanced Placement classes in high school. It makes me laugh now because shouldn't those people all be Harvard grads with prestigious jobs? You know what, those classes were cut-throat. Those kids were so freaking competitive and I had no interest to play on that field. I remember getting into a few class debates and watching my opposition tweak out and seriously, I just backed down. I didn't care that much. Sign of things to come? Who knows. But at 17 I thought there was more to life than getting really angry about an Albee play. I hope I am still right.

Oh yes, I was in the shows at my high school. To be fair I didn't get in until my sophomore year and to my credit, I was cast in a very select/small group for the play "Our Town." At the time, it was a highlight of my life. It was amazing and scary and wonderful -- I had (some) dialogue and was a member of a cast that other people had tried out for and gotten cut from. I know the shows went by in a blur but that sense of terror before going out on the stage is something I remember to this day. Thank god my mom didn't record it, it's one of those things better kept to memory and not to video! But I liked the experience so much I stayed on in the drama program and was cast as a featured dancer the next year for two shows, and the Dance Captain the fall of my senior year. It was such fun, I smile know just thinking about it. The Spring of my senior year I decided to give my feet a rest and I opened up my mouth to sing -- to my surprise, i didn't totally suck and got to be an Apostle's Wench in our school's production of Jesus Christ Superstar. My experience on that show was such a fun one, I was heartbroken not to be able to have been at the last weekend of the shows because of my other school commitment....

Believe it. I was a high school cheerleader. People I meet laugh when I tell them this -- and I know, I don't embody the whole "rah rah" mentality. But I adored the two years I was on the cheerleading team. And I will fully admit, part of the reason I loved it at the time was because like every stereotype, I felt like I had arrived. Yes, I fell right into that stereotype and I felt superior and entitled and all of it. Stereotypes are there because they hold up to be pretty accurate time and time again, right? The teams I was a part of for those two years were such a fun experience for me -- our season stretched for about 9 months so you were with each other for a LONG time. Loved every second of it and loved all the girls and coaches.

I didn't hang out on the weekends with people from my high school, I actually hung out with the kids from the public high school in the same area as my catholic high school. SO scandalous, I know. I had a small core group of friends at my high school and for the most part we hung out with the public school kids. I don't really know why that was, maybe pining after boys at other schools made things more exciting? Truth be told, I never even tried to be a part of the social groups from my high school until around graduation. My bad. And I went out of state to college so I didn't have any chance to interact with them after that. Maybe that's the reason I never make the alumni newsletter.

So I look at all those groups and what they mean to my life today -- which is pretty much nothing. I can't be defined by these groups now and I don't think I should have been defined by them back then. But we are told time and again that high school is cruel and that is how things just go. I know people still get placed into these buckets. Although, now there are more buckets to help us sift through our friends -- moms, dads, husbands, wives, fiancees, fiances (that's the boy), single, relationship, "it's complicated". When do we get to come out from behind all these labels? I know that's a pretty pollyanna question but I'd like a real answer. If I am not someone's wife, or partner, or mom, or anything along those lines.....does that turn me back into a very square peg that doesn't fit into a round hole world?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cliches from the Coach

I grew up with a Coach for a dad. Now there are a lot of positives and a lot of negatives to that. Personally, I wouldn't trade the experience I had for the world. But one thing that has always bothered me is that my dad speaks in cliches. Constantly. To those who get to speak with him from time to time, they find it endearing or quirky. Seriously, any one who has ever met or known my Dad has loved him and I know I am lucky to be his daughter. But for me, who has sought advice or insights from him since I was a little kid, this quality irks the hell out of me sometimes. When I am having a tough time of things at work, it isn't very encouraging or inspiring for him to tell me "They don't call it work for nothin'!" I probably have a number of scars and bumps and cracks that were a result of shunning medical attention over the years and being told to "walk it off." But having heard them time and time and TIME again over the years, I know that cliches are used over and over again for a reason -- they're usually true.

You can't go home again. I find myself coming back to that one a lot lately. I think I started to understand what that meant for the first time when I went back home from college for the first time. "Home" wasn't my parents' house anymore. It was Route 1, my dorm room, and my friends at school. And some years after that, I felt that same way again going back to my college and experiencing the places and the sights and the people as an alum. Everything was the same but still....different. Because I was different. I think that everyone goes through a series of these experiences over the course of their lives, married or single, gay or straight, rich or poor. After all, isn't that what makes it a cliche?

There are ways I have physically gone back, to try and get some glimpse, some brief taste of experiences from my past. I don't know if I have done that to feel younger, or better, or safer, or what. And it is good -- for a little while it feels really nice. Just kind of warm and reassuring -- like some favorite, beat-up, old sweatshirt. I feel like a me that is younger and hasn't yet experienced hurt, or broke, or failure, or scared, or sick or one of the many other tough emotions I have personally felt in the process of growing up. For that brief little while it's kind of intoxicating. But in the end, I am left wondering, is it worth it? To just forget about or ignore who I am now to try and relive for a little while who I was then. If I am being honest, no, it probably isn't. I think if I can step away and look at it clearly I'd be able to see that it's a little self indulgent and probably pretty immature of me. The cons likely outnumber the pros.

But I have also been looking back a lot recently. Places I have been and people I have known, jobs I have had and things I have done. I have spent some time recently with people that have very much been a part of my past. But I can't say they are a part of my present. Personally, I have struggled with that one for a long time. I invested a lot of myself in friendships from college and many of those didn't pan out. Someone told me when I graduated that I'd find out quickly who my true friends were after graduation. While the process wasn't immediate, it did prove to be true over a bit of time. I hate that I grew apart from people who meant a lot to me and wish I could have meant something more to them. I know that I tried, and sometimes I wonder if it was valiant to have made the effort or if it was a total waste of time/energy/emotion. I can't answer that question, really. I am scared I might pick option B...and be right.

You can't go home again. And that's fine. Maybe the upshot in all of this looking back is when you eventually turn around and look forward, you can see how far you actually have come. Ugh, that sounds like a long winded fortune cookie message doesn't it? Damn it...maybe speaking in cliches is genetic. Thanks, Dad.