High school is never over!
I heard that in a film the other day, and I’m not sure which one, because I probably wasn’t giving it my full attention between the internet, Microsoft Word and iTunes. I think it might’ve been The Jane Austen Book Club, in which case I was most definitely not giving it my full attention. (Still, it’s better than Georgia Rule)
It fairly echoed in my head, though, like someone at a great distance away rang a bell which turned out to be somewhere in my head. I tried, being now a fully operational human being, to put it back out of my head.
Then a few days ago, I was friended on Facebook (yes, that again) by someone who was in my form at secondary school. Haven’t seen him since he left, which I guess was ’97 or ’98, so we’re talking a decade in most anyone’s language, right? Even so, I could hardly tell you a conversation I ever had with him. Still, his name did not fill me with the kind of heart-thudding terror some might have done, so I smiled a slight smile and friended him back.
I’m not sure why he friended me, but I like to occasionally give people the benefit of the doubt and not assume it’s to fluff up Friend Stats. It’s cool, I just wonder why, you know?
That line about high school came back into my head, though, and that’s when the heart-thudding began again.
It’s eight years, or thereabouts, since I shuffled out of that place for the last time. I remember I did it alone, because my friends had other plans with each other. That’s how I remember it – my last day as a student, I shuffled down the deserted main corridor as the younger folks were still in their classes, knowing that I left the school much as I had spent my time there: very much alone.
It’s at this point I take pains to point out I did have friends, did have people who cared about me although it didn’t always feel like it at the time. I suppose that ultimately, they were just better friends with each other than with me. It’s at this point I should say that going to pick up exam results I was with my friend Emily, and as I recall we went into town afterwards where I bought My Generation: The Very Best of the Who, which my dad, being an aul’ rocker, roundly mocked. Yes, I had people who cared about me, about whom I cared and still care… it just often felt like I was absolutely alone.
My remembrances of That Place were skewed at the time and I don’t suppose that they grew any more accurate with the passage of time. I simply hated it too much, simply had too much of a miserable experience, simply allowed myself to be changed too much by it, to ever possibly be objective or unbiased about it.
It affected my life then and it does to this day. I’m not going to sit here and blame every ill of my life as it is now on That Place, but my life during that time and the way I reacted to it all did directly colour where I went, who I became, what I did and who I am today.
Of course, a lot of who I am today is in spite of it all there.
I didn’t have the worst secondary school experience of anyone. That monumental LJ thing a few years back when literally every single person on LJ shared their bullying experiences proved that. I was never physically bullied, although I was certainly threatened a few times. Even the mental anguish which rained down on me was not as despicable as it could’ve been – it was my inability to deal with it better that caused the real damage. I’m not taking all the blame on myself, not at all, but I’m not going to sit and blame it all on anyone but me.
I should’ve said ‘fuck you’ from the moment I started there. It was apparent to me from the beginning that I didn’t fit in, that I never would fit in. It didn’t stop me hoping I would. Reading Sweet Valley High both helped and hindered me, I suppose – it was my outlet away from That Place, but it was also feeding what desire remained to fit in.
I never did fit in. I never will fit in. At the time I was somehow proud of being a misfit, of being on the outside, but although I possessed the arrogance to say ‘fuck you, and your little dog too’, I didn’t have the inner confidence to believe what I said. Being ignored as I was crushed me. It’s really the one thing that could’ve ground me down, which is presumably why it happened. Being insignificant, mediocre and invisible… for me, that was worse than being kicked into the ground. I wouldn’t have been able to hide being kicked into the ground from the ‘rentals either.
Incidentally, I’ve no idea what they thought of me then. I can’t imagine many parents being particularly happy at having a daughter as I was then: I left the house only to go to school, guitar & keyboard lessons and guides. I never went into town on weekends if I could help it. I rarely went out with my friends, partly because they rarely asked and partly because I rarely asked. While everyone else who was fifteen in a suburban town was out on Fridays and Saturdays getting hammered, I was at home. While everyone else got crushes on boys and went out with boys, I stayed at home.
I can’t imagine I was much fun to be around for anyone – at school I recall hardly saying a word, at guides I recall never shutting up and at home I was… somewhere between the two.
The funny thing is, I now question a lot of what I remember. I wonder what people actually thought of me and what I assumed they thought of me. It’s not exactly unknown that I’m a drama queen with an overactive imagination. Perhaps I wasn’t hated, perhaps people just didn’t like me much. Perhaps they did, but I didn’t give them the chance. Maybe after all seven years of wanting to fucking die, nobody thought I was odd at all.
Fuck, wouldn’t that be the fucking icing on the fucking cake of being fucking normal after all these fucking years of assuming all the fucking people thought I was a fucking freak.
Sorry, I keep going all John Cooper Clarke every now and then.
What if, after all this time, the only thing wrong was me? What if I let myself slide down into that terrible, dark pit just because nobody was going to stop me? What if, after all this time, I’ve wasted every single day of every single year since 1993?
There were a few things that kept me going during those days when honestly, I wouldn’t have minding waking up dead. One of them was a dream that is long past saving. Another was a murdered scouse tosser who at least helped me find the courage behind the ‘fuck you’. Finally, there was the belief that one day, I would be Something. Time is running out for that one, and my not going after it is directly tied in with what was done, or what I felt was done, when I was at That Place.
When I was at That Place, I believed as much that I was destined for Greatness as that I was absolutely insignificant.
I might have mis-remembered everything after all. What I have not mis-remembered is feeling that I was the lowest form of life, an unimportant shard of nothing, ugly and unimpressive, unloveable and unlikeable, an ogress fit only to sit in my cave like Grendel, or Shrek before the movie starts. I did not have the luxury of being without vanity – I have a massive fucker of an ego even on my darkest, worst days. I became insular and self-centred because it felt like all I had was myself. I, I, I, I… I’m always talking about my fucking self, even now, and I detest it, but I don’t really know any other way.
I (yes, me again) surrounded myself with the ghosts and fragments of greater people than myself and as one of them said, I locked myself in a prison of my own devise. I know that. I knew it then, but what I also knew was that it would be better than being out there, in the world, with the real people who detested me, who hated me, who couldn’t and wouldn’t understand.
I got called ‘moody’ a lot. I remember that, because I remember how enraged I would get. Didn’t they see? Didn’t they know that I wasn’t moody, but that I was ready to die? Not waving, but drowning! It seemed proof to me that nobody saw because nobody cared. I wasn’t in a seven-year mood, kids, I was ready to die. I believed not so much that there was nothing to live for, but that there was no need for me to live. I wasn’t in a mood, I was so unhappy that to recall it now, so many years later, I get the fucking shakes.
To this day, if I’m walking down the street or whateve,r and someone (or worse, someones) nearby bursts into laughter, I will assume they’re laughing at me. Egotistical perhaps, but it’s what it felt like walking the halls of That Place, or sitting in the common rooms and classrooms of That Place. Maybe even then they weren’t laughing at me at all.
Maybe it was all a product of my fevered imagination. It’s getting to be so long ago that I don’t remember enough of the details, especially as I’ve been forcing myself to forget in an apparently vain attempt to get over it.
I have no doubt that if my life at That Place had been different, I would be a different person now. If I’d been Jessica Wakefield instead of *insert token SVH ubergeek before Elizabeth’s intervention here* then it would be different – I don’t even know how. I’m guessing I wouldn’t have as many DVDs or Doors CDs. I wouldn’t have needed old Jim if I’d been happy, if I’d been an insider – the Doors were never a band for the popular kids, because believe it or not, Jim wasn’t one of the popular kids. Hell, the kids at Jim’s school thought he was an oddball.
Although, if I’d been happy (as opposed to popular, I know they’re not the same thing) I probably wouldn’t bring that fucker’s name into most every conversation. If I’d been happy, I might be able to connect with the world as a person is meant to do. I might be married, I might be a mother, I might be rich or famous, I might be poor. I might be stupid. I might never have known what it is to scream at the sky, nor have looked mortality in the face and only smiled in reply.
No, I never did belong. I didn’t belong in the town, nor even really in this country. If I belong here in London it’s because this little corner is my Granddad’s corner of London. I never did belong, I was never going to belong. My life was written out for me before I got to That Place, was written for me the first time I asked to hear that Buddy Holly record again. It was written for me in the dark earth of Ireland, and in a dingy corner of Paris. It was written for me by Kathleen Ni Houlihan, Mark Chapman and Natacha Rambova.
I will never, ever get over how my life turned at That Place, whether it was of my own creation or someone else’s. It will never be over for me, not if I get as much money as Paul McCartney, as much adoration as Marilyn Monroe. That said, it did not make me and I am not a slave to it.
This post was not friendslocked, this post will appear on my Facebook feed. If you’re reading and you were at school with me, please do a girl a favour and tell me honestly, truly honestly, how I appeared to you then. By knowing my past, I can at least have a stab at the future.