Our school days, although only a small fragment of our lives, are extremely significant to all of us. For me, I started school loving the learning experience. I was passionate about books and writing and poetry and I set out each day to do my best. I was a high achiever and I loved it. In first term of grade one, I began working on an enrichment programme for reading, phonics and maths and was already well above my year level. I also had lots of friends and we were all innocent and happy.
|My first day of school|
But unfortunately, my school days didn’t end in quite the same way they began. When I started high school, the socialisation side became far more important to me and I didn’t have the maturity, the drive or the belief in myself to focus on what was really important. Sure, I did well enough to get into the University course of my choice, but I do believe there could have been so much more.
I recently found all my school reports and looking back at my primary school achievements, I feel really sad that somehow, that innocent, clever and capable little girl got lost along the way. When I reached year 8, I forgot about my love of learning and achieving and instead focused on things that now seem far less important.
I had no idea who I was in high school. I didn’t know how to be myself. I failed to reach my full potential because I spent too much time trying to impress and fit in. I wanted to be liked, not by everyone but by a select group of people who I thought mattered – the ‘cool crowd’. These kids weren’t bad and I certainly didn’t turn from nerdy Suzanne into some kind of trouble maker. It was nothing like that. Instead of being true to myself, I simply chose to believe their opinion was the only one that mattered and in my effort to be liked by them, I adjusted my priorities accordingly. In hindsight, I now see all the experiences and friendships I missed out on that could have been fulfilling in ways I never imagined.
If I had been true to myself, I would have joined the school choir. I sang in church many times in primary school and I loved it. But as a teenager, the thought of singing about Mother Mary in front of all the kids I tried so hard to fit in with was incomprehensible. I thought my friends would have laughed at me but now I think, so what? If they had made fun of me, were they really my friends in the first place? I had a nice singing voice and I should have been proud of it.
As well as singing hymns in church, being true to myself would have meant working hard to excel in everything just like I did in primary school. My school work would have taken priority over all those lame parties and bitchy notes that got passed around. And the importance I placed on having a boyfriend and all the drama and emotional B.S that goes with that would have been at the very bottom of my priority list.
Bullying is a big problem in schools today and it certainly was an issue when I was at school too. I don’t think I was a bully but I know I could have been nicer, more accepting and inclusive of everyone in my year group – not just those who I thought were cool. These cool people were definitely fun but some of them were also mean. The teasing, the taunts and the judgements that were cast down on others (and each other) were awful. I am ashamed at myself for wanting to be part of that. I remember a particularly shameful time when a good friend of mine was being teased relentlessly by the ‘cool boys’ about her weight (among other things), and instead of standing up for her, I ditched her as my friend because I didn’t want these ‘cool boys’ to start teasing me for being her friend. How WEAK and LAME is that?
It makes me wonder, why are kids so mean? What makes teenagers forget about the importance of friendship and turn on those who they played with so happily in the sandpit in grade one? Why can’t they be nice and respectful to one another? Why do they feel the need to single others out for their weaknesses or even for their talents and great abilities? Why do they tear each other down?
The realisation of these bad behaviours and how wrong it is to treat people this way is one of the best parts, I believe, of becoming a grown up. There are still some people in this world who haven’t grown out of their teenage nonsense (and who probably never will) but thankfully, most people I know can see right from wrong. Like me, they have let go of their childish insecurities and want to live in a world where kindness and acceptance prevails. Sing hallelujah!
It has been wonderful to see Emma enjoy these early years of school and even though it is a long way off, I worry about high school and what it will do to both my girls. I can only hope they, unlike me, will stand strong in their beliefs and be honest and true to themselves and to others. I hope they will surround themselves with friends who are chosen for their kindness and good character instead of their popularity. That they will strive to be the best they can be. I want them to participate in school sport, join the school band or even sing their little hearts out at church if that’s what makes them happy. I never want them to be mean or unkind to anybody.
So this is my story. What was your high school experience like? Do you look back and remember them as the best days of your life or was it tough and filled with unnecessary drama?
I am definitely getting my 2 girls to read this piece…so far my Year 7 daughter (new to high school this year) has done a wonderful job of following her heart and not the group but that could all change in a heartbeat and it will be wonderful for her to read the story of someone who’s been there. done that and has some real regrets about some of her choices. Thanks for being so honest; reflection is an amazing tool for growth!