“Best years of my life,” says my mom. “I was senior vice president and played Maria in West Side Story!” As she reminisces, she’s standing at the stove cooking me a plate of vegetables. She’s more enthusiastic than usual. I’d guess starring in her high school play far overshadows the pleasures of cooking broccoli. “My favorite part was Klompen Dancing. Enjoy these years, Kat. They go by so fast and you’ll never get them back.”
An aside for those of you growing up in most of America: Klompen Dancing is where people dress up in traditional Dutch outfits and “klomp” their wooden shoes on the pavement; sort of like stomp but with pointy hats. It’s about as cool as it sounds. I spend most of my dinner wondering if I’m adopted.
My suspicions are settled when I talk with my father, who offers an opinion more in line with my own.
“Awful. Just awful. You have no idea who you are. Adults rule your life and you’re not allowed to do anything you want.”
I tell him I’ll have an easier time finding myself if he extends my curfew. I’m nothing if not an opportunist. He says, “Nice try.”
Since I don’t get to stay out until 4AM, I spend some time thinking about what they both said. I realize these polarized opinions also run rampant through my school. As for me, I’ve pretty much skewed towards the suck side of the scale, and know loads of kids who share my sentiments. On the other hand, a quick walk through the halls and you’ll find the opposite opinion written over the turd-eating grins of the very merry cheerleaders, and the like. As my mom and dad said, when it comes to high school, people seem to love it or hate it. (Granted my parents aren’t the only living post high school folk, but I don’t know too many other adults. All of my friends are my age. Sue me.)
But since when did my parents know everything?
For those in the “best four-years of your life” camp, aren’t you setting the rest of your existence up to be downhill from graduation? Everything in your adult years (and there are a lot more than four) will live in the shadows of cheerleading for the Mighty Wolverines or whatever. Just imagine a thirty-eight year old journalist saying, “Being an independent, successful editor-in-chief of this incredibly popular magazine is alright, but it’ll never beat doing back hand springs for acne faced football players.” It’s a little ridiculous. Yet, it seems like my mom considers high school her peak. And everything that follows is worse than dancing in a Dutch costume. Like I said, I’m not looking to be anything like my parents.
On the other hand, if you expect something to suck, it probably will. (Or the saying I prefer: Expect suckage and ye shall get it.” That’s an official Kat Fierce proverb. Feel free to cross-stitch it on a pillow or something.) Here’s what I mean. Say, hypothetically, you get invited to a party. You’re excited, understandably. You love you some shindigs. That is, until you hear rumors that the event is widely known as the worst party of the year. (For some of you this may be the prom.) Reluctantly, you attend anyway. You’ve already RSVP-ed, so what can you do? Like walking into class Monday morning, you totally expect the night to suck. Since it’s hard to dance and complain at the same time, you go find a porch or a quiet corner and look for the first person who’ll agree to get the hell out of Dodge. Hopefully they’ll have a cool car.
Now, say your crush shows up. Looking for you. But you caught a ride. No point in spending the night staring into your cup. Unable to find you, your crush gets into a conversation with another chick. They agree to go on a date. It goes well. Well enough for him to forget it was you he was looking for in the first place. What could have been your amazing night, turns into the joys of watching them cuddle during lunch every freaking afternoon forever and ever. All because you convinced yourself the night would be a snooze long before the sun set. In short, you never gave it a chance.
Granted that’s a total worst case scenario. And the moral here isn’t, “High school is just one big party. So get on the dance floor and give it all you got!” That’s lame. (Super lame. It reminds me of those crappy posters math teacher’s love to put up. Like, “Geometry! It’s not just for squares!”) The point is, you can’t label any part of your life as the “best” or the “worst.” It just “is.” Let the cheerleaders dread graduation and the goth kids whine “four years of soul tears.” But are we gonna let their perceptions be our reality? Can I get a, “Hell no?!”
The reality is, high school is what you make it. Maybe you make some friends. Maybe you make an A in ceramics. But whatever these four years render, it should be nothing more that your minute-by-minute, original experience; prefabricated opinions be damned. By expecting nothing you open yourself to everything. So, you know, kiss the boy! Audition for the band! Get on the dance floor and give it all you got!
(Just, do me a favor. Don’t quote me directly on that dance floor bit.)