When I was in high school, I must have looked like I had everything together. I was an honor roll student, I had the “right” clothes and the “right” look. I always had a “popular” and athletic boyfriend. I was a cheerleader my senior year, and was involved in extra-curricular activities. And I always had friends.
I guess this is what people see on the outside and translate it to mean that I just glided through high school and loved every minute. After posting my yoga pants piece, I heard from some of the people from my high school years who expressed surprise about my feelings about my high school experience. Surprise that it was anything less than perfection. This theme kept re-appearing in conversation until it became apparent it was something that could use some explanation.
I guess I just assumed everyone struggled in high school. In one conversation I had, I asked, “doesn’t everyone kind of hate high school?” I repeated this question to several of my friends and some of them looked at me slightly confused and said, no, not really. Some people really do love high school.
Confession time: I was not one of them. Despite what it must have looked like on the outside, you could not pay me all the money in the world to go back and relive my high school years. That’s why I was one of the people who did not attend my ten year reunion. Just not interested in reliving those memories.
A gentle reminder for all of us out there: appearances can be VERY deceiving. The more years I live, the more I know this to be true. The couple with the “perfect” relationship, the woman who always looks “flawless”, the mother who loves “every single second” of being a mom, the boasting man: all begin to look like big ‘ol red flags to me.
I get a little suspicious of anything that claims or appears to be perfect, because I have yet to witness a “perfect” relationship, a woman who appears flawless who isn’t struggling with some aspect of her appearance, a mother who never has moments of “this is HARD and this part just plain SUCKS”, or a boastful man who isn’t hiding a boatload of insecurities. We are all human, y’all. Perfection is a big, fat, giant lie. It is the lie-iest lie we’ve ever been told.
Here’s the truth about my high school experience: it was brutal. Sure, there were good times too, but I don’t look back on those years with a warm, rosy glow. In high school, I was trying to learn who I was, and I made a lot of big, painful mistakes along the way. That’s life, you know? But as you get older, you learn to cope with that stuff. Learn that things work out in the end and that all those corny clichés are actually true. In high school, I didn’t quite get that yet. I didn’t have enough life experience under my belt to pat myself on the shoulder and say, “don’t worry, this will pass” and believe it. Now I get it, you guys. I get it because I have seen it. A big chunk of high school was a “this too shall pass” time. Only it hadn’t passed yet.
Growing up, (for me), was uncomfortable and painful and sometimes just plain old icky. I would love to go back in time and give myself a huge long hug and a tiny glimpse into the “post high school” world. I would show myself how big the world is and how teeny tiny high school is.
I tried to write myself a pep-talk to give to 14 through 18 year old Ashley, but it kept making me cry. I guess what I really want her to know is that it all turns out more beautiful than she ever, ever could have imagined. It is nowhere near perfect, but that’s part of what life is about, I think. Realizing that perfect doesn’t exist. And maybe everything looks a lot less messy on the outside than what is on the inside. High school Ashley, did you know that people are going to look back and think you had an amazing time in high school? Ha!
“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston