Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Now and Then

Here are some amazing transformations that I've seen of my friends from back in high school (1999) to now (2011), which have all involved evolving stylistically. The terms I sum them up in can only do so much. One must always remember that trying to summarize people through categorical terms can never do full justice in describing the whole multidimensional person.

Then: Hippy, Phish-following druggie
Now: Professional social worker with a graduate degree. Married.

Then: Introverted and smart, she dressed like a raver and hung out with the punks
Now: Professional businesswoman, new mom

Then: Suppressed in his sexuality, swim team diver
Now: Out of the closet with a steady boyfriend, successful media salesperson

As my friend Kathleen says, "the true test to friendship is when I ask myself, would I have been friends with this person in high school when cliques and close-mindedness prevailed? If the answer is still yes, then that means we have the potential to be close now."

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Hallowed Hallways: How to Get Through Hell

The first high school I attended, my fellow readers, was the illustrious Academy. It is a college prep, Catholic high school that does not allow tardiness. Though I had a lot of superficial acquaintances, I did not have many "real" friends,  except Anne G, whom I will forever be grateful to. As a minority student among a sea of preppy white kids, I really struggled to fit in.

Although in looking back, the Academy prepared me today to be okay when I'm with a crowd of people who are much different than me, stylistically and racially. The funny thing is: I am connected with some of my old Academy classmates via facebook. They are mostly 30, married, and settled down with kids. I, on the other hand, chose to blaze a different and more independent trail. I am confident that rarely any of them lived on the West coast, got an internationally oriented graduate school degree, and/or spent a fun urban existence in Manhattan like me.

At the start of my junior year, I transferred to one of the best college prep schools in Chicago, which could be easily mistaken as an office building in Lincoln Park. As the "new kid", my high school experience helped prepare me to be able to adjust socially post college in several "new cities," ranging from Boston to L.A. Although I only really had two close friends, Jenny and Cara, they helped me navigate the cliquey hallways. We clung onto each other in survival mode.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Oh Prom. Overrated.

I attended 2 proms. Both events mixed junior and senior year high schoolers.

At my progressive high school, it was completely normal to either a) go with a group of your gal pals stag or b) ask the guy you wanted to go with you to prom.

The first year, I asked a sweet, tall athlete named Tyler. Today, Tyler is serving our fine country in the military. After I took him, he also rescued a lady out of her car when she got into a car crash. I had to stretch my arms waaay up high in order to reach his shoulders. Now, interestingly enough, Tyler had "cool" friends, so the night we went together, his "cool" friends actually talked to me. After that, I was totally invisible again.

Would I ask Tyler to prom again? Yep, in a heartbeat. He was very gentlemanly, opening cab doors.

Senior year I decided to be a rebel and ask a punky, red-dyed hair, GED kid who was a year younger than me. Since his father was a taxi driver, Sean couldn't afford a suit. Hence, at his request, we rented him a velvet, plaid tuxedo jacket. Sean was well behaved, but seemed very bored half the night. Later on, post prom, Sean got hooked on cocaine.

Would I ask Sean to prom again? Nope. I liked his quirky style, but he was not into dancing or getting to know my friends better. Do I feel like I missed out by not being asked by the guy? Not too much, actually, and I'm not sure why.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Really God Awful Senior Portraits

The worst are the photographers that shoot senior portraits and have you "pose" in a thinkers position, or worse yet, laying your arms horizontally at shoulder level. Are you kidding me?!? Yes, my senior year photographer had me do the later, and my parents still have the photo framed. It's guaranteed to be an akward pose for anyone. No one has to take solo portrait photos anymore, thank goodness, unless you perhaps work for some high powered law firm who features your picture on a website?

Enjoy these sometimes intentionally funny and very awkward senior photos:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Oh jeez, where do I begin?!?

I graduated in the Class of 1999: the last class of the century. That prince song, "Party Like It's 1999" was waaay overplayed. This was the era of such fashion fau pauxes as: Steve Madden platform shoes and earlier on (as freshmen) flannel shirts and doc martens. (Shudder)! This was the time where you went to Dave Matthews concerts, worked hourly summer doldrum jobs, and (maybe) clung onto your friends for dear life to grasp shaky footing within the social hierarchy. Perhaps you counted down the days to graduation (like I did) or daydreamed about your eventual escape.

The diverse, professional group of alumni who volunteer at my alma mater (God bless them!):

It's funny because the majority of my career is in education, but mostly to a post-college populace. However, it should be noted that I am far, far removed from working with high schoolers, the hallways lined with lockers, prom, and the cliques, and honestly, that makes me so relieved. You couldn't ever pay to go back and repeat the experience, because at times, I hated my existance in high school.  This is a confession from a former, stressed out wallflower who blossomed into an accomplished, social butterfly.

Let's see: this story might make you laugh. What did I do to rebel? Well, my group of female friends at the Catholic academy I went to (who pretty much always attracted the older guys' attention), wanted to dress up as strippers from around the world for Halloween our sophomore year. The really messed up thing was that we were only age "15." Damn. Could it have been that our plaid skirt uniforms were that repressive?

I thought the idea was very lame and incredibly sketchy, so me and my friend Kara joined them and rather than wear a fur trim skirt up to here and a low cut top, we instead dressed up respectively as a cow and a puppy dog. Needless to say, when I opened up the door in my  the guys' faces fell and they were like, "what the heck? We thought you were dressing up all sexy?" (cough, cough, slutty). I look back, and am really proud of myself for not following the crowd and sticking to my guns with what I believed in.

My worst moment was when I went to this sweet, "cool" girl's party, my junior year of high school (This is after I went to the private, city school in Chicago). Of course, the host's parents were out of town at this "rager." The "cool," soccer playing guy my year, Patrick Rice, was sitting in the kitchen and smirked and said rather loudly and incredulously, "What the heck is Tanya [aka: that's me] doing at this party?!? Why is she even here?!?" How did I handle it? By drinking and slinking away, shoulders sagged, fighting tears, and feeling very, very ashamed to be pointed out directly for not fitting in. I had no chutzpah. Zip. Zilch.

How would I handle a reaction like that today? I'd definitely laugh it off and fire back sassily, "what are YOU doing here? Thanks SO much for the warm welcome!" (This would, of course, be delivered with wonderful sarcasm).

Now Versus Back Then

12 years removed from finishing high school, I am finally at a safe distance where I can look back and appreciate how far I've come. But this blog is meant to be a comfortable, triumphant space for sharing you looking  back to a day when you were more unsure, more unaware of yourself, and comparing it to your great progress as an individual. This blog is meant to be an immense source of relief, because maybe you'll be able to relate to some of the shared experiences.

Being a teenager was not easy to say the least, but I am fascinated with people's different experiences back in the day. Maybe you went to a magnet school, Catholic school, a high school for the performing arts, a private prep school, a public school, or an all girls' school.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Never Been Kissed, when a successful journalist Drew Barrymore does an expose of what high school is like and goes undercover as a "student", but has the benefit of being much older and wiser! For 3 years in my late 20s, I was together with a guy who had never, ever been to prom. In a moment of nostalgia and tenderness, as a gift I took him to what I thought could be a recreation of prom

This is a blog for absolutely everyone: to take a moment to dust off the far recesses of your brain to find your memories that you've long since left behind. The most significant, connection, then involves reflecting on how far you've come since then and how MUCH your perspective has changed!

I want to hear from the geeks, former prom queens, drama students, athletes, stoners, loners, and you name it! Even more interesting, perhaps, would be to capture the words of current high school teachers who have an excellent grasp upon how they were back then, and how they are now.

The thing is, though, is that Glee, High School Musical, etc. never really captured the true angst, apathy, or really raw emotions of high school, nor featured a retrospective of those who had long, long long ago graduated. And Saved by the Bell, one of my fluff favorite programs about high school, was a sunshiney yet comedically shallow portrayal of high school. (Apparently, only the cool kids (Zach Morris, Slater, Kelly Kapowski) or total nerds (Screech) existed in that SoCal world at Bayside High. 

Dawson's Creek featured in-depth conversations and relationships among its high schoolers, and was one of my favorite shows back in the day, but shied away from coverage of the experiences within school, Capeside High, itself. The TV show My So Called Life, featuring high school angst, apathy, misdirection, and rebellion, is a relic of the 1990s. And that's why this deeper delving blog into your high school psyche now exists.

(See above, left, my high school crush of Jordan Catalano played by actor Jared Leto: eye candy to look at but definitely NOT much intellectual substance)

Here are some some sets of questions you can chose from (please pick 1 set) that I am looking to have friends, acquaintances, family, and strangers answer:

1.) What was your worst moment in high school? (Perhaps related, but it horrifies me to no end about how brutally mean and exclusive people can be as teenagers)
1a.) How did you handle it then? How would you have handled it now?

2.)  How did you define yourself in high school? (ex: in terms of your activities, what "group" you hung out with, style, etc.)
2a.) Knowing how far you've come now, how do you describe yourself now in comparison to back then? (Ex: Knowledge, emotional maturity, etc.)

3.) What did you dream of doing back in high school?
3a.) How have you fulfilled your aspirations today? (And they could be completely different!)

4.) How did you rebel in high school?
4a.) What do you think of your "rebellion" in a more modern day content, looking back?

"You've come a long way, baby." - Fatboy Slim, 1998

Interested in sharing? Please get in touch with me at: islandgirl.TNL@gmail.com.