The high school senior

Eleven years seemingly disappeared.

I rounded the white, bright hallway into a darker one with gray lockers. Thoughts of band practices, home work assignments and dates to dances filled my head as I climbed the stairs to the third floor. I floated through the halls as if I had never left, my world still confined to this roof.

But, there wasn’t too much time to reflect because I was late. Under my arm was a stack of ungraded papers and I walked into the class, full of confused teenagers wondering why they didn’t have a teacher.

Today I substitute taught at the high school for an English teacher. More specifically, my English teacher, whose honors class I had taken more than a decade ago as a high school senior. It was a fairly easy day of dealing out instructions and grading papers (I also filled in for an art teacher at the end of the day, allowing for the trip upstairs) and more than once I tried to remember myself in those seats.

Was I the girl in the Kelly green letterman jacket?

The one with the wool sweater and a cross on her computer screen?

The one filling free time with homework and other assignments?

Sadly, I didn’t keep great journals back then and it’s hard to transport to that period in my life. For a long time I looked back at high school with few fond memories and thought that most of my classmates unfairly misjudged me. No matter what I’ve done or where I’ve been, who I was in high school is sort of frozen in time for those that knew me then and I only perceive them in the ways that I did in high school. It’s the ugly innocence of youth and a fact you must accept when living at home and your past greets you daily.

Today as I watched these seniors and juniors worry about tests and discuss papers, I thought about who I was then and my perceptions for the future. I was dating someone I thought I would marry and I was barely eating, fearful that any piece of food will demolish my worth. I had big goals but little courage to chase them. My world felt so small and limited.

If the teacher would have passed out a description of our lives 11 years later, would I have recognized my own? After she read them out loud, would I know to claim “Returned Peace Corps Volunteer writer who lives at home at 29 and likes ultra running, meditation, traveling, yoga, folk music, vegan foods, men with beards, organic coffee and hosting wine parties”? Moreover, would I be proud when she said that future belonged to me?

There is absolutely no way that I would have predicted that outcome for me. Not at 18. Not at 21. Hell, not even at 25 when I went to the Peace Corps for the first time.

But, I would be proud. I’ve ventured beyond the comfort and embraced myself. We all have regrets about high school, which really never matter, but I wish I wouldn’t have tried so hard to cover up my intense, eccentric side in order to please people who barely acknowledge me now. Those awkward memories do make me proud of the person I’ve become and blessed for all that I’ve been able to do with my life, even though it is far from complete.

I am at a threshold. My life could go in about four different directions and it’s scary to give up control to the universe and let the true path reveal itself. But I was reminded today that that is OK and life is more fun when you can’t predict it. There are things I would like to happen in the next 11 years, but I honestly can’t say I’ll be here or there, doing this or that. Yet, I know that I’ll find the right route. I always have.

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2 thoughts on “The high school senior

  1. You’ve really inspired me to start journaling, even before I leave for PC. I know I feel the same way in that I’m changing so much, already have. My teenage self is already a stranger.

  2. “If the teacher would have passed out a description of our lives 11 years later…would I be proud when she said that future belonged to me?”

    What a fascinating concept to think about! Would I recognize my 11 years later self, 11 years ago? No, I don’t think so. I don’t think a timeline quite as strange or interesting would have even crossed my mind as being possible, especially by me!

    “I am at a threshold…” Indeed. Re-adjusting, trying to figure out what to do next. It’s intimidating. But isn’t it also exciting that your next 11 years could be filled with many more adventures?

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