"So does everything seem smaller now?" She meant my surroundings, being back in the hallway of my high school for the first time in thirteen years. "Well your life sure has changed." It has, and it hasn’t, but either way, I was there to talk about it. "You know Stephanie, even after all this time, what I remember most is–here, sit with me." This was coming from Faith, my English teacher from sophomore through senior year. "You really did carry around the wrong impression of what people thought of you, and I worried you’d carry it still." I do.
"Well, don’t we all, Faith? Isn’t that life? Don’t we one day let ourselves feel something because of something someone else did or said to us, then spend our lives either believing it or trying to dispel it?" She shook her head, agreeing.
"They didn’t hate you, the kids; they were afraid of you." She didn’t say that with words, but she said it just the same.
"I know, Faith. Thank you. "Things do seem smaller now."
It’s amazing that I can return to high school and have conversations like that, taking the "going back to high school" thing to the level you’d expect, to the drama and insight. We hugged goodbye with promises of coffee and walking in the city together soon. I hope that happens.
My other, kindred-spirited, English teacher Katy, who’d invited me to speak to the SWS community, then met me. She and Rick (my director from my Oklahoma! days) hugged me and wanted to hear the details of my new life. I held off until I was fastened to a podium in the front of the painted room. I didn’t know what I’d say.
"So how many of you know what a blog is?" then became, "well you know what MySpace is, right?" Then they understood. I was surprised so many of them didn’t know what a blog was. It made me realize just how big and small blogging is. It’s just like high school. I was asked many questions about my life, and I answered honestly. "No, I didn’t like high school. I was miserable here, vocal, and miserable. But when I left, I remembered the people, the stories, the time Josh Alpert brought a gas mask into the center ring of community sharing day. So be nice to one another because you’re going to spend the rest of your life trying to get over everything that happens here. Well, that, or you’ll write a book about it."
"Stephanie, that was always a fear I had about you, that you’d never come into your own and know yourself, that you’d always rely on some guy to do it for you," Rick said as he hugged me goodbye. It’s amazing that came through with my playing "The Girl Who Caiiin’t Say No" in Oklahoma! "Amazing" is the wrong word. "Fucking hysterical" works better. Type-cast, certainly. Now I’m the girl who can. Who can live, really live, and know she’s okay without the guy. Without having to relationship-hop. Soon my talk with the students became a therapy 101 lecture class about self-esteem and the difference between talking about doing something and just doing it. It was so Nike meets Freud.
Maybe I should have stuck to a list of things I never understood about high school:
I never understood why they had to weigh us, the meaning of "abstain" as a "not a no" in an SWS Wednesday meeting, why "there’s no running in the halls." ( Then quit trying to weigh us!) Gym. I never understood the importance or function of gym. To me, if it was a gym day, it was a bad day. The whole change in front of one another thing. The inactive showers in the "shower room" where they stored kickballs. Why we stopped playing kickball in high school. Why our backpacks didn’t come with wheels. How I ever made it without coffee. Why the stage smells like brass instrument oil, why no one else is afraid of walking on bleachers, why hot lunch has such a social stigma. Why Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, or Phish are all listened to as some rite of passage. The lockers, how narrow they are. Why between classes, they still call it the bell, but it’s no longer a "bell" but a "tone" through an intercom system. Why people underestimate adolescents. Why I remember the bad stuff way more than the good.