I hated high school. From the fall of 1990 until the spring of 1994, I tried too hard.
I tried too hard to be cool, to be popular, to be pretty, to be smart, to polish my college applications, to have a boyfriend, to be involved in everything, to be a perfect daughter, etc. It was hard to keep everything together. Added to the general turmoil and angst of being a teenage girl who desperately wanted to be liked and approved of, it was downright exhausting.
My school was like any other in the suburbs, maybe a touch edgier with its ban on wearing certain color combinations, multitude of security guards, gang fights in the cafeteria and the shooting I once witnessed outside the gymnasium, but pretty normal by most standards.
And by normal, I mean separated into cliques. And I fit no where. I was a brain – 15th out of a class of 537, secretary of National Honor Society and editor of the school paper. I was a jock – participated in volleyball and track. I was a leader – a member of the student council and president of the Latin Club.
But I was more defined by the things I didn’t have than by the things I did. I didn’t have perfect skin. I didn’t have self-confidence. I didn’t have designer jeans and $100 highlights and real Birkenstocks (just those fake ones I bought at Payless). I didn’t have pom-poms to wave on the sidelines or a booty to shake during half time. I didn’t have a dark personality. I didn’t want to do drugs or drink. I didn’t want to rebel. I couldn’t do complex mathematical equations or type 100 words a minute.
I spent a lot of time worrying about whether or not the popular girls: the Claires, the Betsys, the Megans, liked me. Instead, I should have been worried about what my real friends thought of me. What did the other normal, fun and friendly girls think every time I broke plans with them because I was invited to a party thrown by someone more popular? What did they think when I grabbed my books out of my locker near theirs and ran down the hall to the popular girls’ spot?
It took me a long time to get over this, this need to be liked. I still have it in a lot of ways. But I hope I would never again behave as I did in the early 90s. Because as much as that girl convinced herself she was nice, she didn’t have the first clue what nice was.