Is There Life after High School?
I am always taken aback by others' intense recollection of their high school days, experiences which have a persistent power to bring a pleasure-filled smile, a grimace or even tears.
Some revel in the glory days of cheerleading and football. Others find dismissive comments by teachers or ugly words by classmates tenaciously clinging to the edge of their consciousness, never far from threatening to erode happiness and self-esteem. For still others, there is a fierce determination to succeed in order 'to show them.' The high school experience is intense enough, and general enough, that it got published in a book, Is There Life after High School?
All this came to mind as I went to St. Paul to attend my first high school reunion, the 50th. Recognizing few individuals, I felt unengaged, as I did when in high school, with only a few pleasant memories stirring within me. Although glad I went, it quickly became clear to me why I had not attended other reunions. My non-involvement was due to four factors: it was easy to be lost in a large class of 344 students; shyness, combined with being from the wrong side of town, made me part of the undifferentiated mass; my outside-school time was consumed with three jobs (a morning-evening-Sunday paper route, an all-day Saturday job at a supermarket, and setting pins [by hand] in a bowling alley five-to-seven nights a week); and my hang-out friends, in what little non-school, non-work time was left over, attended other high schools.
What I do remember with pleasure was skipping one day in the fall and one day in the spring each year to loaf and think long thoughts on the high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. (Perhaps those skip-days were laced with some defiance of authority as well.) Whatever the motive, I learned in those escapades to never confuse schooling with education.
Not confusing education and schooling was an essential lesson, but, still, schooling was important: memorizing poetry that continues to reside in my memory and shape my spirit, touching past history that still maintains a deep sense of gratitude, and smelling such wonderfully pungent odors in chemistry that formed a delightful and never-broken bond with this earthy world.
As I listened to former classmates delightedly recall their half-century old experiences, I could begrudge the off-center ordinariness of my own. But, then, those years were happy in their own way. Also, remembering those whose lives have been scarred, and those today whose lives have been made so miserable that they angrily strike out at others with guns and at themselves with the silent anger of depression, I can only feel deep appreciation.
"Tell me about your high school days" is a sure way to begin a fascinating
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