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The Awkward Days of High School (or were they?)

June 22, 2012

Next year will be my milestone high school reunion. It will be 20 years since I was an awkward teenager graduating with the Class of 1993. Quite honestly, I’m probably still awkward. But it’s now been 19 years and I’ve at least mastered the art of being awkward (I think).

It’s strange to think back to those years and to the person I was then. And while I was not that much different from who I am now. That part of my life seems so distant and strange. Here’s a picture of what I “looked like” in high school.

I was quiet and not very social. I never went to parties or dances (except senior prom). I was kind of a loner and not considered popular by any standards.  Classmates may have possibly described me as snobby because I kept to myself a lot. Not because I didn’t like the people around me; but because I was comfortable being alone. I wrote for my high school newspaper for three years and was in advanced classes (except math and chemistry). So I was kind of “bookish, ” but not in a valedictorian sense; I was never that smart (having always struggled with grades and tests).

I remember feeling very alone. Not lonely, but alone. There’s a big difference. I was convinced I was the only person who felt this way. I was the only Class of 1993 graduate who felt awkward, unpopular and scared all the time. Because after all, why wasn’t anyone else like me? If everyone else felt scared, they would show it, I thought.

Now – nearly 20 years later – I think back on those feelings and realize that I was probably not the only kid who struggled during those adolescent years. I’m willing to bet that every other person felt the exact same way I did. We just all showed it differently. The popular kids who always ate lunch together – the group that I thought had it all together and would have loved to sit with – they were probably just as scared as I was.

If you think about it, why were all those classic John Hughes high school movies so popular? Because every teenager feels like those movie characters. We all felt like we needed to fit into a category a la Breakfast Club; or that we were the outsider looking in from Some Kind of Wonderful; or the forgotten girl (or guy) who has a major crush in Sixteen Candles. Those universal feelings are the reason those movies are so relatable.

That’s why there is so much power in John Hughes / Anthony Michael Hall’s closing words of The Breakfast Club. 

“What we found out is that each one of us is a brain … and an athlete … a basket case … a princess … and a criminal.”

It’s great now being Facebook friends with so many of my high school classmates. In fact I communicate more with many of them now than I ever did then. Probably because – 19 years later – we’re all a little less scared and awkward in life. Or if not, we now at least have screens to mask the insecurity.

The Breakfast Club (Gotta love Judd Nelson)

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What were your high school years like? Did you feel like you were the only awkward person at your school? Do you feel differently now?

12 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2012 1:07 am

    “You mess with the bull, you get the horns young man.” -Principal Vernon

  2. June 22, 2012 1:36 am

    Hey! I’m awake too!!! High school was okay for me I guess. I realize that I wanted to show people I was a moody, brooding guy, but in the end, I was just rough around the edges (now I’m fuzzy around the edges). I can say humor kind of helped me out, and I didn’t really dig the red cup keg parties that my T-Town peers would rant and rave about in classroom conversations while I was trying to hide my anger about their ways. I’d vent my frustrations with my art, and by not talking to them or by giving them the cold shoulder. I was lucky at least to have a best friend throughout that awkward time. I did visit Serra a couple of weeks ago, and walked around parts of the campus with my pal Dion and his lady. We pretty much were in agreement that those days seemed like they never happened, and as if it was all a dream. I’d have kicked it with you back then. 🙂

  3. June 22, 2012 4:40 am

    Ok, my 40th hs reunion is next year. Not sure if I’ll go. I haven’t gone to any hs or college reunions. But I’ve reconnected with some hs friends mostly through facebook… so who knows. Don’t feel awkward! You have so much to be proud of!

  4. June 22, 2012 5:38 am

    I don’t think you said if you’re planning to go to the reunion? My 20th hit a few years ago, but I haven’t been to a reunion, though I, too, have enjoyed reconnecting with some of my classmates from HS.

    And I can totally relate to your “awkward” feelings about high school. I just never did the social bantering/chit chat very well & still prefer to spend time alone. I’ve gotten more outgoing with age but deep down I’m still very much the introvert!

  5. June 22, 2012 5:58 am

    Great post Leah, and a very honest one. I think we can all relate. My 20-year reunion is not for two more years — class of 1994! — there may not even be a reunion (our class can’t seem to get its act together when it comes to things like this.) But if there was not sure I would go., Just living in FL makes it logistically hard since I went to school in Maryland, but it would probably be nice. I feel I have been very successful in life and love and would love to see that that has happened to friends as well. I have no ill will towards anyone and agree very much that most of us were probably scared, and really, just hoping to get through high school with few or no scars!

  6. June 22, 2012 6:58 am

    I also felt very awkward in HS. I was very nerdy and self-conscious. Maybe things haven’t changed that much. 🙂 I haven’t been to a reunion because I’m a long way from my home town and my family doesn’t live there anymore. Next year would be my 25th reunion if there is one. I’m sure I could reconnect with some delightful people, but I have a feeling I’ll “forget” to go.

  7. June 22, 2012 9:30 pm

    You had me with the Breakfast Club pic. What a great line and what a great observation about why we loved John Hughes movies. I recently saw the end of Pretty in Pink while hanging out in a hotel room (we don’t have cable) – I was transported right back to that era. Happy reunioning!

  8. June 23, 2012 8:13 am

    Gosh, Leah, that’s exactly how I felt too.
    This post is so spot on. Age does have it’s perks, and one of them is the wisdom to process our former experiences, isn’t it?
    You’re gonna be such a great mom (helper) to Sophie when she goes through her teen years. 🙂

  9. June 23, 2012 8:24 am

    Spot on.

    I was extremely shy and self conscious in High School and have kept in touch with 1 friend – my cousin. Have never been to a reunion and probably never will. FB has put me in touch with a few kids I went to grade school with and I always felt suspicious of high school acquaintances who’ve contacted me now — they didn’t talk to me then, why now? But .. I’ve let them in and discovered some decent people who’ve turned out OK.

    I hope you have a blast at your reunion!

    PS – If I ever went, I’d want to go like the one in “Peggy Sue Got Married” – where she’s young but knows how it all turns out … ha!


  10. June 25, 2012 2:22 am

    Great post. I agree. The Breakfast Club was a wonderful movie that truly expresses how we all felt at one time or another.
    I used to have nightmares where the faculty took my diploma away and made me go back to school. It’s probably one of the reasons I’ve never went to a class reunion. lol

    I hope you have an awesome summer.

  11. June 26, 2012 2:02 pm

    High school and I did not get along too well — mostly just did not fit into any group so I was pretty much a loner. I don’t know if I felt like I was the only awkward one, but I definitely felt like I didn’t really care… I was pretty checked out. Unlike you, I’ve not reconnected with (or ever stayed in touch with) many friends; I think it’s great that you have!

  12. June 26, 2012 4:05 pm

    I felt pretty much the same way. And my 20th is this year! You’ve inspired a blog post.

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