Life didn't end with Bad Hair.

The days are shortening, and the evenings are starting to feel a bit like autumn.  The skies of the prairie are starting to take on the harvest technicolor we are blessed to have here in North Dakota.  All of this signals the return of the Great American Drama, also known as School.

I recently did a little "research" on Facebook, asking friends who have known me for at least 20 years, their perceptions of me, back in our school days.  One of the beauties of social media is the ability to stay in contact with people I met 35 years ago.  My intent of asking for feedback was to see if the perceptions held of me were similar to those I had of myself, or completely different.  I was delighted to see my friends play along and generously obliged me with feedback.

The unscientific data resulted in many descriptions, including kind, outgoing, smart, athletic and determined. More than one person mentioned my great laugh and that I was funny.  I was also described as an "includer" and "maternal."  Some of the people who responded knew "of me" and some of them knew me well.   I'll be honest, I was kind of shocked by these perceptions.

I found the responses hugely interesting, because the reality is I felt incredibly insecure and as though I didn't really fit in any particular group.  I felt more comfortable talking to teachers than most classmates.  I was in band, but played percussion, so I was "one of the boys." 
7 to 2.  Us girls were slightly outnumbered by the boys, but we ROCKED those painter caps!

I was a skater and golfer, but didn't view myself as "athletic" because I didn't play the big-gun sports of volleyball or basketball.
Sweet rolled jeans!
A Senior Picture back in the day when they didn't look like soft porn...

 I was smart, that I knew; however intelligence doesn't always rate high on the list of things high-school guys look for in prospective dates.  I really didn't view my GPA as more than a way to get $100 out of my older brother since he bet me I couldn't graduate with a 4.0. 
Bad Fashion & I were BFFs.
I made the hugely unwise decision of chopping off my hair into a cut usually reserved for phy-ed teachers.  This occurred at the same time most of my class was killing the ozone with Aqua Net hairspray.  I learned the hard way that if you cut your hair during puberty, it will take eons to grow back, so I couldn't rock the big hair that didn't fit in margins of year book pictures.  

We couldn't afford the latest trends of clothing, so when others sported their "Coke" rugby shirts,


Girbaud jeans, I did not.  And in High School this seemed to be, in my mind, the stuff of what fitting in was all about.

I had often wondered if the discomfort in my own skin may have actually come across as being aloof or haughty.  My 'research' apparently disproves this concern.  It also shows that my own self-perception was really distorted.  I want to make it clear that these internal conversations stemmed from no comments or interactions with people, as we today would call "bullying." Nope, it was just that annoying little voice in my head whispering negative crap to me.

My senior year I got involved in theater.  If there was ever a place to be accepted, it was the "pit," as the locker bay behind the theater was referred.  I don't know if universally, theater is the land of misfit toys, but it was in 1991-1992 at MCC.  And it was glorious, and freeing, and wonderful. I just wish I had discovered this refuge of beautiful miscellaneousness earlier in high school.
Just a tiny portion of Pit Dwellers. Beautiful girls who became fabulous Women!

Quite a few years ago, I remember telling my niece, "Just get through High School. Just survive. I would NEVER ever do High School again!"  Her sweet face looked at me with sheer bewilderment.  "Really?!!" she exclaimed.  I realize now, more than ever, that these precious beings, teens and pre-teens can not see beyond the chaos that is their world.  Their worth is dependent on the labels they wear or their number of "Likes" or "Retweets."  Their value depends on achieving thigh-gap and looking flawless like the airbrushed facades in magazines. 

I want to take them all, the walking vessels of hormones and angst, pull them close and whisper, "It doesn't matter! NONE of it."  I was filled with self doubt in a time when my constant movement wasn't recorded on social media.  I didn't have to worry about my number of "friends" "likes" or "shares."  My own insecurities stemmed from my interactions which I, more or less, had control over in a real world, not from instances that could be created in a cyber word. 

For the teens I love, this terrifies me.  I want them to know that none of that stuff matters. It doesn't matter now, and as "research" shows, it won't matter in 20 years.  What will matter is the stuff of character and attitude.  What will matter is how you made someone feel and not the bling on your buttocks.  Your laugh will take you further than your model of car.  I want young men to understand that masculinity is not determined by the number of girls they "got with" over a weekend, but from integrity and respect they show to others.  I want them to know they shouldn't trust that naggy little voice filling their head with negativity, because it's usually a liar.  I want them to know that this, the time when EVERYTHING is important, it is just a blip. A single yellow dash on the curvy highway of life.  It is just a moment.  Just survive and get through it. Just breathe and know that all those insecurities you feel, everyone else is feeling them too. Trust me on this.  Your self discovery is just beginning and 20 years from now you will be amazed where the highway has taken you.

by Diane