Monday, December 5, 2011

Am I Going to Prom, or to Hell?

No, this post isn’t about prom, but it is about ...the hells of high school. Honestly, I had a hard time narrowing my post to one topic, because looking back, high school was the worst, most miserable time of my life. (Think HEATHERS, minus the cute boy with a sexy voice and all the murder.)

So, in analyzing my high school years through the 20/20 lens of retrospect, I came to the conclusion that it all boils down to identityor lack thereof. I’m no psychologist, but I would venture to guess the lens through which we view ourselves guides every aspect of our lives. As adults, most of us take for granted that we know exactly who we are, and conversely, who we are not. For example, my current identity stems from my faith, my roles of wife, mother, daughter and friend, and of course, writer. But I also know my own limitations, so I’m fairly certain I’ll never climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, or teach ballroom dancing, or be a contestant on Project Runway.

But in those hellish years of high school, where insecurity, zits and raging hormones rule, most of us drifted from one group to another, seeking that one thing to make us feel unique and valued. To complicate matters, this is also when we pull away, with every ounce of our strength, from our families, as if we’d rather die than admit we have parents.
Me with Drama Club in NYC
In high school, I was friendly with everyone, but didn’t fit anywhere. My core group of friends were all in The Drama Club, but since I was too shy to audition for any of the school plays, only volunteering for various crew jobs like make-up and costumes, I was never fully accepted as one of them. My other friends were a group of popular girls, who seemed to accept me at face value, until I dared to invite the drama geeks to hang out with us. Of course, my Cure-listening, poetry-reading drama friends could not fathom why I would ever want to spend time with superficial fashion plates. I tried my best to be Switzerland, but instead, ended up lost.
Dance with 'popular' friends

I envied people like my good friend Ann, who found her identity in academic achievement and wanted to be a doctor since she was a fetus. (BTW, she became our class salutatorian and is now a successful pediatrician – Go Ann! J) Or my buddy Brian who caught the acting bug our junior year and spent his every waking hour in pursuit of his dream. (He lives in NYC and does commercials and off-Broadway productions—you rock, Brian!) Or my husband, who cruised through the entirety of his teen years safely ensconced in the same tight-knit group of friends he’d had since elementary school. (I’m pretty sure this is why he’s so well grounded today—love you, Tom!)

And then there were the girls who found their self-worth in boys. Cruising from relationship to relationship, they were never alone for more than 24-hours. It always mystified me how this occurred, when I couldn’t even score a date to homecoming! Maybe because I wasted all my time pining after a certain rapping football player in a Santa-suit (see my September 12th blog for that humiliating story).

But I think my hellish high school experience had a purpose. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d have such a passion for writing novels that empower teen girls. Specifically, stories that provide hope that there is life beyond the impenetrable doors of high school. And that afterlife is amazing!

So how about you? Did you have a strong sense of identity in high school? What defines who you are now?



Melissa Landers said...

Oh, Lorie, Lorie, Lorie, I *SO* get it. Great post. No, I didn't have a strong identity in high school. I flip-flopped from one activity to the next, and I didn't feel secure unless I had a boyfriend. I'll go one step further and admit I didn't feel secure on my own until I was in my late twenties! (Shh...don't tell. I'm not proud of that.)

Unknown said...

Nope, I didn't have a strong identity in high school, either. I never felt like I fit in and I hated the way so called friends turned on each other over the silliest things. I did start to develop some self-esteem in my junior and senior year, but I would never want to go back to those days.

Jennifer McGowan said...


I totally had a strong identity, even if it wasn't a cool one. :) I was the "smart girl" for the first 2 years at my small Catholic high school. Not the "smartest" girl, but up there. Then my dad passed away and we couldn't afford Catholic school, so I want to the large public high school. By some freak twist of fate, I fell in with the "Debate Club" people (I did extemporaneous speaking). So I wasn't cool, but I hung with good, funny, smart folks who were a little odd but only in the best way. I was sheltered, without a doubt.

GREAT post, and hugs to you for having found wonderful people yourself, in the end!

Lorie Langdon said...

Melissa – Good to know even Prom Queens can be infected with the same insecurity disease. ;-) Perhaps if I’d known we were all equally lost, my teen years would’ve been a little easier. :D

Lorie Langdon said...

@Hi Tina! – Isn’t it funny how so many of us were insecure? Yet I used to think others had it all together. If only we had known then… :o)

@Jenn – I can totally see you in the smart/debate club crowd! I can’t imagine losing a parent during those formative years, but I’m glad to hear you weren’t alone through it all. Thanks for sharing. Big Hugs! :)

Jo Ramsey said...

I didn't really have any identity in high school. I still don't know if I have one now... I had a few friends, but wasn't really part of any group. I did drama, and even acted in a few plays, but I wasn't really a drama geek.

I couldn't score dates, either...

Lorie Langdon said...

Jo – Thanks for sharing! Glad to know I wasn’t the only girl who lacked an identity.
Hugs! :o)

Tonya Kappes said...

I did have a strong sense of myself. I didn't follow the norm or popular or nerd etc....I was nice to everyone and didn't get caught up in all the drama.

Lorie Langdon said...

Tonya – That’s wonderful, but not at all suprpising. I wish we all could have been so wise as teens. :)

Jennifer McAndrews said...

Lorie, I'll crawl out on a limb and suggest all that drifting from one group to another in high school has given you the skill of related to all sorts of people today. Okay, not much comfort when trying to decide who to sit with in the high school cafeteria, but I think there's some bit of comfort to be had knowing that the high school horrors do eventually pay off.
Me, I was firmly ensconced with the nerd herd in high school -- and I remain there to this day! Geeks are my peeps ; )

Lorie Langdon said...

Jennifer – LOL! I love that you know who you are and are proud of it! I believe you’re right that even today, my friends are a very diverse mix of people…and all of them will tell you that I’m a major geek. :D

Micki Gibson said...

Looking back, I'm not sure I had a strong sense of identity, but maybe I did and simply didn't understand it. I was a bubble kid like you. I was never at the center of any one group. I was in honors classes, but I don't think anyone looked at me as one of the "smart kids." Considering I had a total of 3 dates in high school, it's safe to say my identity wasn't tied up in boys. I'd been in band and a twirler in junior high but my high school dropped the majorette line so I wasn't totally in with the band kids but was friendly enough with most of them. All of my twirling happened outside of school, so I didn't think the other kids cared about my "silly little hobby" even though it was my life back then. Because I didn't identify with a single group, I kind of felt like a nobody, but I guess not being a "jock", "band geek", "nerd", "redneck", or "surfer" gives me the strength today to simply be "ME."

Lorie Langdon said...

Hi Micki! Bubble kid is a great way to describe it. I’ve definitely never been a follower and it sounds like you weren’t either. That’s something to celebrate. Go bubble kids! ;D

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