My 20-year high school reunion is coming up this summer. I was planning on attending when I received a vitriolic e-mail from one of my friends saying she’d rather be dipped in gasoline and set on fire before she went. The e-mail went on at length about how she hated everyone from our school and then how it wouldn’t matter if she went anyway because no one knew her. It’s the kind of hate I usually reserve for telemarketers, auditors and that one pedicurist who stabbed my toe. Maybe I’m naïve (ok, who am I kidding, I AM naïve) but I never felt excluded at my high school. I was by no means popular, but I had my niche that I felt very comfortable niche-ing in.
See, I chose to be at my high school. I was bussed in, something a lot of people don’t know. I could have gone to the premiere school (ranked in the top 10 public high schools in the nation at the time) where I would have been in the top orchestra (hey, I was signed up for the music magnet in Dallas before we moved back here – orchestra was very important) and had the top teachers, but I coerced my parents into letting me go to Travis, my high school. Every day the bus made a special trek to my end of the world and brought me to school.
I made that choice because there was a brief shining moment where I spent 7th grade in one of the public schools in Dallas away from the people who had known me for years. On my first day of school I was punched repeatedly before getting on the bus. From that day forward, I was barked at in the halls by strangers, punched in the face and finally threatened with “if you ride this bus tomorrow, we will kill you”. I walked several miles to school the next day. I joined a gang, but managed to not be around when anything big went down, and many of my problems went away as the people who tormented me were “handled”. If you want to know why I swear like a sailor these days, well it started there. It’s amazing how far some foul language followed by a threat can take you and when you’re “the quiet girl” people snap to – quiet people who make threats really scare people. Some people smoke, others drink and I swear; it’s the security blanket that I can’t let go of to this day. Because of my experience in Dallas and even in Austin, I understand why people snap and shoot people. I’m not saying I agree with it, but spend some time being bullied when all you’re trying to do is go to school and you’d get it, too. Spend some time being told by your family and counselors that you’re not the victim, that you’re the cause of these people wanting to abuse you and you’ll understand. Anyway, that’s another topic for another day.
Almost as soon as I got back into Austin we moved into a new area of town. My parents asked “do you want to stay at Travis” and without hesitation I said “yes”. Maybe it wasn’t the best choice academically or the best choice for my music, but it was the best choice for me.
Travis wasn’t always a great place, but people knew me and accepted me as the nerdy, bad dresser with the bad hair that I was (err… that I still am). In 10th grade I started hanging out with my best-friend Julie and overall I thrived. I came into my own in college.
I guess what I’m getting at is that I don’t have any ill feelings towards the people who made up my high school (well, one football player named Steve) and I’m baffled that someone whom I thought was really at their peak during that time absolutely loathes it. My memories are of plays, the renaissance festivals, being stuffed in a trash can (I had it coming and it was funny), Rocky Horror Picture Show, live music, being in the top orchestra at UT’s String Project, dancing to Footloose, Padre Island and all that good stuff – plus, countless hugs in the hall, lots of notes being passed, crushes and all that fun teenage drama that at the time isn’t funny, but kind of is now. 🙂