I don’t usually think about my high school days much anymore. In May it will have been fifty years since I graduated and I suppose that reaching that milestone has prompted me to think back to those days. I was only seventeen years old on commencement day and still somewhat of an emotional mess. My experience during the four years at Mt. Carmel High School were a mixed bag to say the least, but then I suspect that everyone feels that way about their teen years to a certain extent. I certainly had some incredible moments but I also endured some painful episodes that caused me to question my self worth. I would have no interest whatsoever in repeating that grand adventure but overall I have to admit to mostly enjoying myself.
If there is ever a time of life when one gets stuffed into a clique it is in high school. The placement process at Mt. Carmel added to the creation of very artificial groupings. Each student was essentially ranked based on results of an entrance exam and grades in junior high. Initially I was slated to be in the second tier from the top but my teachers insisted that I receive a chance to run with the big dogs in the honors class. In a sense that decision determined my destiny for the next four years. I was so frightened of demonstrating that I didn’t belong with my more intellectual peers that I worked day and night to keep my grades high. This created a kind of self imposed isolation for me that was further complicated by the fact that the only class that I shared with the rest of the students was Religion. I literally only saw the other members of the Class of 66 when I was passing from one room to another or at lunch.
I joined a number of clubs but the ones that I chose tended to keep me with the same students with whom I shared classes. I had been the Captain of the Twirlers in junior high but when I saw how beautiful the members of the high school baton team were I lost my nerve and decided not to try out. I certainly possessed the needed skills but I was an unbelievably late bloomer. It would be a very long time before I no longer looked like a small child. Somehow I couldn’t see myself wearing the short skirts of the twirlers nor having anything in common with them. When I announced that I simply wanted to be one of the marchers my mom let me know how heartbroken she was. It became such an issue between the two of us that I found it easier not to even become a member of the Cadettes. That has perhaps been my biggest regret because it would have provided me with an opportunity to meet more of my classmates.
I loved my teachers and other than a science class here and there I don’t recall disliking any of the courses. I felt an amazing world opening up before me and I reveled in learning. I had always struggled a bit with arithmetic but I found Algebra and Geometry and Trigonometry to come quite naturally to me. That is when I really began to actually enjoy mathematics. Of course my first love was English and little wonder with a teacher like Father Shane. He taught me an appreciation of grammar, literature, writing, music and art. He introduced me to a world that I had never before known. I suspect that in many ways he was much like my father who had so long before given me a love of reading. Father Shane took my natural instincts and honed them until I was truly ready for more difficult challenges.
I had wonderful friends. My life wasn’t totally about studying. We had tons of fun attending sporting events, talking on the phone, shopping, listening to music and planning parties. Of course boys were a reoccurring topic of our conversations. I won’t divulge the names of my heartthrobs but there were certainly a number of young men with whom I fell in love from time to time. Nothing ever came of those crushes but it was fun to dream. I was socially backward at that time and as shy as they come. I would grow out of my self consciousness rather quickly in college but during those high school years I often wanted to just be invisible.
I can’t say that I was unpopular. I did indeed have a large number of friends and I was often the victor in various elections. I served on the Student Council and became an editor of the newspaper. I had at one time considered becoming a doctor and as such became a member of the Medical Careers Club where I eventually served as the president. Surprisingly I had no fear when it came to speaking or debating. Somehow I was able to think of myself as another person when addressing a crowd. It was something that I enjoyed and for which I had a certain talent.
I’ve spent fifty years becoming someone far different from the little girl that I was back then. I’ve been around the block a time or two and I’m not self-centered like I once was. I am who I am and I really don’t worry about what others may think of me. I’ve had a wonderfully purposeful life and I totally like myself. I have experienced all of the things that back then I worried would never happen. I found my kindred spirit, married, and became a mother. I did well in my occupation and achieved a certain level of respect. I have formed amazing friendships that have sustained me through the good and the bad times. I can honestly say that I believe that I have contributed positively to the world. Now that I am retired I am living the dream that always lingered in the back of my mind by finally writing for an audience on a regular basis.
I’ve begun to reconnect with some of my classmates, many of whom I only vaguely knew back then. I have found them to be wonderful people. We were all brought up to cherish certain qualities and characteristics that would make us good and worthy citizens of the world. We have each done our very best during the last fifty years. Some have become wealthy but most of us are mostly average middle class sorts whose worth is not found in fame or materialism but in the way we treat the people that we meet.
We have all grown in wisdom and age and grace before God and man. Our faces and hands bear the lines of experience. Our heads hold varying numbers of gray hairs. We remember those good times when we were so young but treasure this moment. We are proud of ourselves and our accomplishments. We exchange jokes and come together when one among us is sick or dying. Hopefully many of us will gather together sometime this year to reminisce and catch up. After fifty years the only clique is the great big family that we have grown to be. We will celebrate one another and the fact that things turned out pretty well for almost all of us. Life is wonderful that way. We mature and learn to value what is most important. It’s too bad that we didn’t figure everything out way back when. We would have had so much more time to enjoy one another’s company.