Tag Archives: high school

Back to the…past

Every now and again I imagine what it might be like to go back in time in my life. Like, just to visit for a day, not to live. But the thing I get hung up on in my imaginings, is whether I would like to go back as I am now – with my current knowledge, ideas, self, etcetera – OR would I like to go back and be the person I was as I experienced the moment the first time around. I simply can’t decide. I realize it’s not super-important to make decisions about fantastical notions that ain’t never gonna happen, nonetheless I get fixed on this particular question. Given a choice, which would it be? I can see advantages to both.

Supposing I wanted to go back and relive a day in high school. It would be fun to be the girl I was then and see my old friends and exist in that skin. Because as years roll by, it gets harder to remember how it felt to me at the time, as well as other points along the way. What was I thinking and feeling at various times? Particularly at a crossroad? Or in a relationship? Maybe I’d like to go back to the last time I did a certain thing or saw a certain person, not knowing then that it would be the last. On the other hand, it would be so informative to go back knowing everything I know now. I could be useful to my younger self, although I’d feel kinda bad to tell her some of what I know now. Would she believe me anyway? Even if some of what I had to tell her was factual (and not just sound or pointed advice)?

There’s other moments I’d like to re-visit. A particular day at the ocean. Or when certain people were still alive. Like that. Again, not to stay – I am not the sort of person who wants to go back instead of forward or who repaints the the past as better than it was, safely blotting out the parts that weren’t so great. Remembering is a kind of “re-visiting” but I’m talking about something much more literal, the way it sometimes happens in movies. And it’s MY life in particular I want to see, not 1840’s Paris or something.

Yesterday when I was ruminating about going back in time, it suddenly occured to me I never contemplate visiting the future. I never imagine “visiting” a day in my life – assuming I’m still here – 5, 10, 15, or 20 years ahead. Part of the problem there is me; I suck at looking ahead in general and always did (that’s another subject). The other part is more practical and/or uncertain: what if I don’t like a day in my life in the future? What if I’d rather not know? It’d be nice if I looked down the road and pictured a fantabulous future sitting there for me, but in truth, that’s not exactly how I imagine. I am hopeful about the future but not overly fanciful, let’s say. I’m tentative. Tentatively hopeful? But not optimistic enough to charge forth shouting, “Bring it on!! Let’s go now!”

Ooooh, here’s another little notion for me to consider. What if somebody (whoever doles out these things) said yes, you may go visit a day in the past of your choosing BUT you must also agree to visit somewhere in your future? And you can even pick which one, name a date. Now THAT would be tough.

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Drug(s) of choice

Drugs were never my thing. I remember back in high school the way many people drifted through their days stoned out of their gourds. Red-eyed and slow-witted they were, which I did not want to be (although a pair of crappy hard contact lens that I wore then did redden my eyes which led classmates to frequently accuse me of being high. Grrr.). Anyway, like I was saying, stoned-n-stupid didn’t appeal to me. I liked my mind and wanted to keep it the way it was not spaced-out and fried the way I saw it affect others. Nothing about smoking weed looked attractive or tempting.

When cocaine became a fairly commonplace drug, I have to admit the high it was said to give did sound rather appealing – that is, the euphoric feeling of confidence that you could do anything. Mind racing with ideas, getting stuff done. Going UP and happy as opposed to DOWN and mellow. No, no, never tried it. I wouldn’t have on my no-drugs philosophy but maybe because I thought I might like something like that (give me a healthy, unharmful, non-addictive equivalent and I expect I’d be all over it like a happy clam. The effect of sunshine is the closest I’ve come). I should mention that my cheap frugal ways always made me a poor candidate for a drug habit had I even wanted one.

I bring the above talk about drugs up because I was thinking how I keep my addictive, compulsive leanings to fairly benign areas. For instance, I cannot have potato chips, fritos©, tortilla chips, doritos©, candy, cake, donuts, pie, ice cream, or anything of that ilk in my house. Basically any sweet, salty, or greasy treat. Can’t do it. Not unless I’ve made peace with the idea that I’m going to gobble it up in short order. Now people look at me – tall, lean, athletic – and don’t believe it. But it’s true. I let myself buy a bag of potato chips about twice a year. I stand in the grocery aisle and read the back label. Typically, it’ll say something like 150 calories per serving and “10” servings per bag. Yes, most of us know that servings business on snacks is laughable (like it’ll say 7 or 8 chips is a serving). I do the quick, basic math and I pretty much know I’ll be wolfing down a not-especially-healthy, extra 1500 calories in about 2 days. I don’t kid myself about how I’ll “ration” it out and “make it last”. When I do buy it, I generally have enough willpower to make a bag into 2 or 3 servings – i.e,, making it last 2 or 3 days – but no more than that.

It’s the same story with any other (rare) treat I bring home. I become obsessed with its presence. I cannot forget if there is a frozen Pepperidge Farm© cake. Or a bag of tortilla chips in the cabinet. Or some Turkey Hill© icecream in the freezer. They are like the beating heart in Poe’s wall, thumping loudly, beckoning to me, impossible to ignore. Sometimes I shove them to the back of the shelf and move other foods (like a nice bag of frozen broccoli or a bag of flour) in front of them so I don’t see my temptresses. If I see them, forget it.

When I visit other people’s homes and they actually muse over whether or not they have a bag of chips, for example, I am shocked. How can they not know if they have potato chips?!? Or maybe they have an abandoned box of donuts sitting on the counter. Who are these people?!? Clearly not me.

I think I need a high school education

I want to go back to high school. Not to relive “glory days” or hang out with friends or in order to be 16 again. No. It’s the taking classes part that is on my mind. I think I might appreciate a high school education now. I’m wondering what did I learn in high school? I’m drawing a bit of a blank. When I look back, it’s my friends, relationships, and various moments outside the class room that stand out. Not history. Or math. Or geez, what DID I take in high school? And why don’t I remember it?

Graphic Arts. I took Graphic Arts. That was pretty cool. Prior to that class, I’d had no exposure to the subject. We made pinhole cameras and took and developed b&w photos I have to this day. I had Child Development (or rather was stuck in it after “Single Living” for which I’d signed up, was filled). We made lesson plans for little kids who were brought in by their parents for half days. Spanish. Two years of Spanish. But I didn’t use it and it fell away quickly. Pablo esta en la casa. No hablo Espanol. That’s about it.

Would I be bored in the average high school curriculum today? Or would a modern education be more suited to my learning style than the one I actually had? I.e., sitting quietly in standardized rows for hours on end. Would the teachers’ personal biases and opinions and personality quirks bother me even more than they did when I was a teenager? Would I find the environment stifling? Would I learn?

I’m reminded of Cameron Crowe’s memoir about going undercover posing as a high school student, which was the precursor to his film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It’s been a long time since I read the book, but remember that Crowe, in his twenties but passing for a teenager, wrote of misinformation being taught by high school teachers. If I recall, he said the gym teacher was also teaching another subject – History? – and clearly getting facts wrong. Does that still happen? (In 9th grade, I had a gym teacher for Health class and I remember very clearly that he decided to entirely skip the text chapters on sex. Just flat out said we wouldn’t be covering them.)

Why is this on my mind? I think it’s because I’ve been away from formal education for so long. I’m starting to wonder what I know – and don’t know – any more. So much of what I studied in college even, is just very hazy. I actually went to college with the desire to learn. Yep, that was my overarching plan. That didn’t entirely work out. College was undeniably better than high school but it still left a lot to be desired. I was frequently bored in my classes. Too many instructors used their class time to pontificate and hold forth on their pet topics to a captive audience, often about subjects that weren’t on their syllabus. I didn’t have a slew of great teachers, but many average ones, including poor planners who farted around all semester and then tried to cram 3 months of lessons into a week or two before finals.

So that kind of messed up my plan of going to college to learn. And, the intensity of the experience rather quickly became about surviving it, more than about broadening my horizons. Yes, I was exposed to a lot of information, but all crammed in at once. That’s not how I retain stuff. And — to pay for school, I depended on, in addition to part-time jobs, grants and scholarships. For that I needed good grades, and grades became my focus; A’s meant cash. I’d do it no differently now.

One of the things I did really like about college – outside the classroom – was all the free lectures that were available on campus. I was – and am – a consummate bulletin board reader and I’d find interesting, or potentially interesting topics, familiar and not, advertised on flyers. They were held right there at the school and often during the day, which was great – I’d go to my classes and if I hung around awhile, I could attend an open lecture, perhaps by a guest speaker or one of the school’s professors. Or a panel forum. Talks and lectures would be attended by students and instructors alike, which raised the level of interaction and discussion. It kept me engaged and up-to-date. I really miss that, and I started missing it as soon as I graduated.

Both before and after my college years, I had jobs on other college campuses, but it wasn’t the same. When you work somewhere, usually the last thing you want to do is hang around longer after your work day is over or worse, come back to attend this or that. No, you want the hell out of there.

I don’t go to classes of any kind now. I have little interest in pursuing more formal education, like a Master’s. Instead, I read books and spend time online. Online I don’t learn who was the 15th President of the United States or what’s in the Bill of Rights or where Madagascar is located or how to conjugate verbs or anything whatsoever about Sartre. No, I learn trivia and gossip and innuendo and scandal and what’s been linked to cancer and who’s died and what sports figure is drugging and all about the latest shooting spree and terrorist bombing. All that without even trying. The dopey path of least resistance. I bet there’s a study out there that correlates point drops in I.Q. to time spent online.

I don’t mean to denigrate the internet. I love the internet. And it’s brought me a lot of good things. But lordy, does it need to be managed. It requires so little of you. That’s the problem. I’m a critical thinker. I don’t tweet. I don’t even WANT to try to think in 140 characters. Not ever. I don’t have a Facebook status. I don’t haves inane arguments or flame people. I require more of myself. It’s too easy for it to become your world. Suddenly you find yourself caring about things you don’t care about. Your head is full of rubbish and you wonder how it happened. Didn’t you used to think bright thoughts and contemplate important things?

I don’t know what I know any more. I think the things I’ve learned or studied on my own, since my formal education, have been relatively narrow. I think about doing it, but I’m not learning Italian on CD or online. I’m not trying to teach myself Algebra or god forbid, Calculus. I don’t try to understand the current state of the Middle East. Nutrition. Psychology. A bit of Literature. Gardening. Some American History. These are the things I’ve been interested in and studied on my own. Not a broad selection. I don’t have cable so I’m limited there, but I used to watch NOVA and other science programs – they’re SO much more interesting than any science I was ever taught in school – but I’ve gotten away from that. Is the internet and the culture ruining my attention span for anything else or is my restlessness stemming from elsewhere? A combination ? One thing now – I’m intentionally quite active – and I neither want to sit around for hours on end or can. Further, when I do stop and relax, I usually want to be entertained. Documentaries are about as scholarly as I get.

There is a particular saving grace. I like crossword puzzles and in doing them, I realize I know more than I would have thought. That is, I can retrieve information I didn’t know I knew. I could never offer it up voluntarily, but when prompted by the puzzle and given a little time, information evidently buried away, finds its way to the surface. How did I know that?? I have no recollection of learning it and yet I know it. This is encouraging.

Sometimes I’ve attended public lectures, but I often lose patience. So few people are good teachers and I’ve grown so particular about that – maybe by all the years of having to sit through what was at hand, like it or lump it. The other thing – the problematic thing – is the other attendees. A lot of adults feel pretty free and easy when attending a class or lecture. They hold forth, dominate class time, talk to their neighbor, and even – in some lectures I’ve attended – get up and wander around the room. This makes me want to knock heads together. It’s so distracting and annoying. The way I feel is this: I’ve come to hear the lecturer or teacher, not to listen to other adults carry on. But that is too bad, yes?

I’ve taken IQ tests online and done respectably. But it’s been several years since I’ve even done that. I’ve never taken a practice SAT but I’m wondering if that would be a good idea. I imagine I’d find one online or in a book. (I recently read an essay by a columnist in his sixties who took the SAT and was pleased to receive the same score he had in high school – although I believe he noted that the way they’re scored has changed.) The thing is I’m not sure I want to know what areas I’ve fallen way behind in, maybe because I’m not certain I’d do anything about it. How much do I care? Enough to do anything?

I do know this. I’m thinking about what I know and don’t know for a reason.

Things Men Have Said To Me (#12)

I’ve always been very fair-skinned, quite the pale gal. In high school, I participated in a fundraiser slave auction (we can debate the wisdom and political correctness of the event another day). The auctioneer, a black guy and fellow student who I didn’t know, had this to say to the bidders when it was my turn on the “block.”

HIM: “She ain’t got much of a suntan, but she sure is good-looking!”

Older guys

A post I wrote recently got me to thinking about older men, specifically older ones I encountered when I was still quite young. As a teen, I thought guys out of high school and beyond were intimidating. Why, they looked like grownups. Even factoring in that guys that age back then would likely have been more mature than their present-day counterparts (not a swipe at younger guys today but a reflection on the fact that 20’s then is like thirties now and so on, given increased life span, each stage taking longer, etc.), the idea that they were really so worldly or grownup is laughable.


One summer when I was 15ish, a guy 3 years older, who had a reputation as a flirt decided to bestow his attentions on me one afternoon at the public swimming pool. It amounted to holding me in is arms in the water, tossing me around, and so forth for a long time. Playful, not icky or pushy, if a bit too much considering we had no prior relationship. I was flattered as hell. An older boy focusing on me. I remember he walked me home and that was that (although 3 years later, after I’d graduated high school, the two of us did have a serious, memorable, if fairly brief relationship).


In high school, I rode a bus to and from school. One of our drivers was an attractive, mustachioed guy in his twenties. After school let out, a bunch of buses followed one another down the main drag leading away from the building. One day a girl I didn’t know, sitting at the back of the bus ahead of ours began flirting wildly with our driver, blowing kisses and more. She really went for it, to a degree that pretty much shocked me at the time, particularly because she was so brazen and in full view of everybody on our bus. With the distraction, it’s a wonder our driver didn’t careen his busload of high school kids off the road. In retrospect, maybe this girl felt brave because she was at a safe distance from our driver. I really don’t know. The incident made quite the impression on me, though, because I couldn’t imagine coming on like that with a guy clearly out of high school, clearly older.


I did meet an older guy at a dance but the circumstances were different. Through older siblings, I knew a member of a band that was going to perform at a dance at my high school. I may have even had a small part in the arrangements because beforehand I talked on the phone with another band member who I did not know. We seemed to have a friendly rapport. At any rate, we met in person, if briefly, at the dance. I remember having a good time and enjoying the band.

Apparently though, it was another girl who caught the band guy’s attention that night. One of those high school girls who seems older than high school if you know what I mean (I was not such a girl). She was very pretty, popular, and acted like she was 25 or so. I learned about this after the fact when talking on the phone with band guy. He seemed to want my advice and I liked the attention. I wasn’t used to that from an older guy, being treated as an equal. He hadn’t gotten the girl’s information, however, and needed me as a conduit. His thought was that I should approach the girl at school and get her phone number for him (since he couldn’t go waltzing into the high school looking for her). I wanted to help but no way was I going to walk up to a strange girl and request her phone number. Without telling him first, I found her in a group of friends and instead gave her HIS phone number, saying he wants you to have this. Guess it worked out, because I stopped hearing from band guy and later heard the two married.


I knew I turned a corner, when, after graduating from high school, I and two older sisters went to a party hosted by people one of them knew. My sister was forever scouting about for an eligible man to date and this time was no different. There was one particular guy that was attractive and charming with us all. He commented that I seemed especially young – and in that group, I was – but when there was a lull outside and we momentarily found ourselves alone, it was me he kissed. Maybe I should have kept my yap shut later when we girls rehashed the party and my man-hunting sister claimed this particular guy was interested in her. But I didn’t. I set her straight. I never saw the guy again, but the barrier was crossed; older guys were starting to look different to me now.

Short Thought 62 (old classmates)

I doubt very much I’m the first person to think this about my past, but if you had told me in grade school and high school what might become of some of my classmates, I wouldn’t have believed it. Teenage pregnancies, suicides, prison, heart disease, deaths, divorces, alcoholism, and romantic pairings I’d have never considered. And this is just the stuff I happen to know about.  When I think about old classmates, even if I know them in present day, I still imagine kids. And these sorts of things don’t happen to kids.

Once upon a high school job…

In high school, I had a few part-time jobs. Typically, one was in the local mall, at a new men’s clothing store. My job was on the floor and seemed to mostly be tidying up stock. They had big tables stacked with sweaters and I folded them to keep the display attractive. My co-workers, which were plentiful, were a varied group. The first week, I was folding sweaters with an older man who started before I did. While discussing the job, he told me, “They hire everyone who walks through the door.” On hearing that, I felt a bit less special for having snagged the job. They DID seem to have an excess of “sweater folders.”

There was an air of disorganization about the management of the place. Although the store was very new, it wasn’t getting the kind of attention to detail you might expect. I remember a man and a woman who were supposed to be running the business, mostly being in a back office. In fact, I was shocked to see fellow employees boldly stealing from the store! The layout was poorly set up with a row of check-out counters up at the store’s front, where it opened onto the mall corridor. I witnessed cashiers letting their friends come through their checkout lane, put a bunch of clothes in a bag and hand it over with no money exchanged (this was before the days cameras were everywhere, especially stores prone to theft). Once I saw a young guy pull an expensive leather jacket off the rack, put it on, and walk right by his friends the cashiers and out the door!

This was just what I happened to see. Now I have to imagine much more occurred. Geez, I wonder if there was any cash left in the till at the end of the shift. These employees were not being clever or covert, obvious by the fact I saw them being so brazen. I was not naive and I was already aware life wasn’t fair, but I still thought it odd that they took such big chances. Those employees were scumbags in my estimation after that and I steered clear but I didn’t tell the bosses. It’s been too long for me to remember exactly why I didn’t, but I do know I felt no rapport with the latter. Maybe I thought they were in on it?

Right away the store started letting employees go. I’d only been there a short while when one day I came in and I overheard one of the management people saying that “tall girl” shouldn’t have come in today. Apparently, they’d meant to send me, whatever my name was, packing. And so they did. It burned plenty that they let me go and kept the thieves – oh yes, they were still there – but I said nothing. I expect I thought they all deserved each other at that point.

I had to return to the store a couple weeks later to get my check (I don’t know why it wasn’t mailed). On handing me the check, the manager guy asked if I’d found “another job.” I answered with a decidedly cold, “No.” I was pissed how they’d treated me. I sensed a possibility he was going to offer that I come back to their store, but I wasn’t about to give him an opening to do so.