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

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.

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?

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