In the past two days, I’ve toured three different high schools. By this evening’s end, it will be four. By the end of next week, we’ll have attended four more events at those schools. I am drowning in high school right now. I use the word drowning quite purposefully, because this immersion is not an altogether pleasant experience. And in that, it seems I’m not alone.
The Divine Miss M starts high school next year, my efforts to halt time notwithstanding. Our school district has open enrollment, which means that regardless of where you live you can theoretically attend the high school of your choice. Luckily, unlike many places, there isn’t a bad school in the lot. In fact, the four we’re considering are all amazing. It’s a bit of a process but most people end up in the school of their choice. Which brings us momentarily to ‘choice.’ It’s a little like Dumbledore’s description of ‘truth’ – “a beautiful and terrible thing and therefore should be handled with great caution.” Having a choice between amazing schools is a marvelous problem to have. Making a choice between amazing schools is hell.
All of that aside, what has really stood out to me in the past week is my renewed skepticism that any of us ever get over high school. A few people, Jodi being one of them, left high school relatively unscathed. But many among us are like me and wouldn’t go back for all the money in the world. My stomach twists into knots just thinking about it. It must be a perverse joke that the time period in which we are the most sensitive, awkward and insecure is also the time period we are surrounded by the most concentrated number of vicious people, who are of course their most sensitive, awkward and insecure. As I recall, high school was many things but forgiving wasn’t one of them.
I’ve been in three in two days. Walking down hallways, through classrooms and labs, cafeterias and libraries and watching students do the same. All while trying to determine which school will be the best fit for Miss M. I’m indecisive about the most trivial of matters so choosing our daughter’s high school was inevitably going to be overwhelming. I expected that. What I didn’t expect was how this immersion into high school life was going to bring up memories of my own experience.
I’ve been trying to clamp down on those thoughts and avoid projecting my own anxieties about my four years onto my daughter. After all, she certainly has a much stronger idea of who she is and what she believes than I ever did at her age. And regardless, her experience will be her own. Not mine, nor anyone else’s. Still, this process has certainly brought old memories and insecurities right back up to the surface, as if twenty-plus years of education, travel, career, building a family and basically growing up into an entirely different person never happened.
And then at some point last night I realized, I’m not at all alone in this. I heard one dad make an off-hand comment, not once but twice and on two different nights, about how he’d spent most of high school getting his a** kicked. The Arist later admitted she was having a hard time and knew part of it was her “own shitty high school experience.” She indicated a mutual friend of ours had expressed similar thoughts.
Huh. I thought I was weird for struggling with that the past couple of days. Obviously not (and thank goodness for those moments friends remind us we’re normal, right?). I looked around us at all the other parents who have been doing this forty-eight hour whirlwind and thought, bitterly, “God, we’re like the walking wounded.”
After all this time, how is this still possible?
I remember my 8th Grade English teacher saying something once about how middle and high school really make up such a small amount of time in our lives overall and isn’t all that relevant. It was a fairly trivial statement then. Odd how it stayed with me. And technically, it’s accurate. Yet, here I sit, literally decades later, wondering if we ever get over high school. Or, is it always going to be lurking somewhere right beneath the surface?
It isn’t all gloom and doom, of course. In learning about these schools, I’m reminded how fortunate we are to live in this district and the unbelievable resources and opportunities available to Miss M and her friends. The next four years will truly be something to watch. And it’s hard to worry too much about a child who when faced with the possibility of choosing a school not many of her current friends will attend responds with, “Eh, I’ve never had any problem making more friends.”
Maybe she’ll be one of the lucky few like Jodi who come out unscathed. Or perhaps she’ll have the same scars the rest of us have. Obviously, she won’t be alone.