Afternoon Inquisition

Sunday AI: High School

I’ve spent a lot of time lately talking to people about high school.  This is unusual for me, since I found high school to be a horrible, traumatic experience, and I avoid thinking about it as much as possible.

There are a lot of reasons I hated high school; one of the biggest was my chest.  I was a 36DD as a freshman in high school. Half the time I had to slouch with my boobs under the desk just so I’d have room to write.  Boys noticed my boobs, and pretty much every interaction I had with boys was about my tits.

I tried really, really hard to be a normal girl, and hid my interest in science. I spent hours in the bathroom trying to make my hair look just like Farrah Fawcett’s.  Boys threatened me so that I would let them copy from my tests.  Oddly enough, if I deliberately got lower scores on exams, boys liked me better.   In Texas in the 70s, your worth was all about what the boys thought.

It’s hard for me to even imagine being that person now.

I’ve been interviewing students applying to be peer mentors this week, and one of the questions I ask them is “If you could time travel, what would you tell your freshman self about college?”

They mostly have good answers. Personally, besides saying “don’t date that guy in your PE class, he’s going to hurt you,” I can’t think of what I could possibly have told my fucked up freshman self that would have made any sense.

What about you?  If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give your younger high school self?

bug_girl

Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

Related Articles

48 Comments

  1. I’ve been reading this blog for some time now, but this is the blog entry that has finally driven me to register.

    It just so happens that, as a high school teacher 9currently taking a year off), I did this very thing in class. A few years ago I had a gr12 homeroom, and they were asked to write down advice for the incoming gr9 class. I wrote it all down, and every year since, I have shown their notes to new gr9’s.

    Here is what they had to say. It’s worth noting that:
    1. The writers were all just starting grade 12, putting them at age 17 to 18.
    2. 75% of that particular homeroom happened to be female.

    *** BEGIN ***

    – I would tell the younger students be to accepting and tolerant of the younger ones, because when we were in grade 9, we took a beating. Stop the cycle!

    – I would tell them not to rush to get a boyfriend, because you will only end up hurt.

    – Don’t skip school. It’s not worth it. When you want to go somewhere after school (like college) you can’t get in because you won’t have the marks.

    – Get involved in lots of activities and find something you enjoy.

    – Be enthusiastic about your work, and find something you feel passionate about.

    – I would pay more attention to my classes and make a better effort in my school work.

    – I would have played sports, instead of getting a job. You have the rest of your life to work.

    – Don’t be catty, the drama isn’t worth it. Remember, secrets never stay secret.

    – Don’t believe that you only have to do well in grade 12.

    – Don’t give in to peer pressure.

    – Grade 9’s should wear more appropriate clothing.

    – Keep on the principal’s good side.

    – If you skip classes because you don’t care, it means you don’t care about your future. After high school, things aren’t given to you. You have to work for them.

    – I would have done more to help out with school problems, and I would have helped more students to make changes in their lives so they could be better human beings.

    – Take academic courses and challenge yourself.

    – Spend less time partying, and more time doing homework.

    – No one is too cool for school. Try not to miss classes. Do your homework.

    – Study harder, and try to get better grades.

    – Find something like sports or fine arts. They can be a sanctuary.

    – If you have the chance to be a part of something, take it!

    – Mistakes aren’t the end of the world. Learn from them.

    – Don’t screw around. Don’t take the non-academic classes, just because they seem like the easy way out.
    Be responsible, go to class, wear cloths that cover you, and don’t be a jerk.

    – Smoking is not cool.

    – Clean up after yourself. This is a school, respect it.

    – Don’t slack. Try hard, even if you don’t want to.

    – Don’t be late, and stay organized.

    – Don’t give in, and don’t give up.

    – Stop looking for love, and focus on school.

    – Don’t look down on those who are different.

    – Be as busy as you can. High school is a time to discover yourself, so take every opportunity to try new things.

    – Don’t think you have a lot of chances. Do it right the first time. You don’t have as much time as you think.

    – BOYS: Show more respect toward the girls.
    GIRLS: Stop sleeping with older boys.

    – I would have taken the academic courses, instead of the easy ones. Now I have to do another year of school.

    *** END ***

  2. Ummm…

    “It is OK to be a quitter, when you’re in over your head and you have a chance to quit while you’re not too far behind.”

    Also, “Life is LONG. You don’t have to do it all before you’re 25 or feel like a failure.”

    I actually had a rulebook, lost in one of the couple of dozen moves I’ve made in the last 20 years, that I wrote that would have been great to send back to 18 year old Joe. Lots of stuff about not drinking so much, not dating women with untreated mental illness, avoiding Michael Bay movies, that sort of thing.

  3. “STUDY ABROAD!!!” I really want to kick my 20 year old self in the balls for not doing that.

    “Go to grad school. You’ll have a really good reason to not do that. You’ll be wrong.”

    “Double major.”

    Or, truthfully…

    “Drop out. You don’t actually need to go to college.”

  4. Sorry for the somewhat downer practicality:

    (1) Don’t make any plans for Summer 2007. That’s when the brain cancer is going to show up. I know 2007 is fifteen years away, but just remember this.

    (2) After that, CHECK YOUR BALLS. If you catch the second cancer early, maybe you won’t have to go through so much chemotherapy. The second cnacer showed up within six months, though there were warning signs earlier. LOOK FOR THOSE WARNING SIGNS.

    (3) You’ll get into every college you apply to. Don’t choose the first one that says yes, and lock yourself in.

    (4) Keep writing.

    Any social advice I could give would be pointless, as I’d already figured it all out. I was still (and am still) too anxious to get it done, but I knew what I should be doing. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

    Besides, mentioning specific people at this point is kind of pointless, since… even discounting the third bit of advice, the first two bits of advice would probably cause quite a lot of divergence, so I’d be less likely to meet and/or interact with the people I’m likely to warn myself against.

  5. I had a terrible time in school. I hated it. I had the same large-breast problem (34B in grade 7, never wore a training bra, only got bigger). I would tell myself:

    -Stay active. In the future you are going to seriously fuck up your ankle and you will really dislike being overweight, so get in to something active.
    -Keep hope, things get better after high school
    -Learn to deal with bullies. No, none of your teachers are going to help you, and you’ll deal with them after high school
    -Stand up for yourself and learn confidence. You’re not going to get that stability and comfort from anyone or anything else.
    -Treasure the friends you have.

  6. Secondary school was a nightmare for me as I was bullied for being gay (I am but didn’t want to own up to it but it was perceived) and later on as a Christian. I wanted someone, anyone to accept me as I was a odd child who grew into a odd adult. So I would hold and hug past me and screw the paradox and tell him he is not useless, that people do love him (even some that don’t know him yet) and that his existence is not causing misery for people who know him. I would tell him that religion will not help him and he has to be true to himself. I would tell him when he goes to 6th form to study hard, not to slack off and listen to a teacher called bob.

    Anyway now I’ve turned skepchicks into my therapy time for me.

  7. I’ve often thought of that question over the years. I don’t think I’d ever come up with anything useful, until just recently.

    I would tell myself this: Don’t buy into the “nice guys finish last” myth that makes you think you’re better than the other dudes getting dates. It’s a wholly misogynistic myth that’s damaging to you and to women. It only feeds bitterness and anger into an ouroborus of self-indulgent pity that’ll vomit itself into a pool of bad behavior later on. And don’t perpetuate this myth, either, because that’ll only make it worse for people around the world.

  8. Dear high school self:

    You know that religious order/movement that runs your school? Once you’re in college, you’ll realize how close to a cult they actually are, how corrupt the leadership is, and the fact that they brainwash their members. REBEL. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person–it means you won’t put up with BS. Don’t be afraid to get in trouble. Don’t let them make you fearful and plagued with guilt, because that guilt will follow you even after you disown them and everything they taught you. Years from now, each time you stood up for yourself and communicated your frustration will be a great source of pride and encouragement.

    Love, grad school self

  9. Put down Ayn Rand and pick up John Rawls. It will save you several years of being a naive, entitled dick.

    Don’t take the German senior seminar freshman year, even though you tested into it. It will just give you a complex.

    Learn some French. You’ll need it later.

    The PhD will take longer than you think. No, really.

  10. High school wasn’t too bad for me, but as others have said, be more confident. Use all those summers that you were stuck around the house and couldn’t go anywhere to get a job. Give some of the money to mom.

    Put more effort into Navajo language class.

    And counter to other posters, I wish I’d asked a few girls out. And put more effort into the one relationship I actually had, even though I doubt it would’ve worked in the long run, we could’ve had alot more fun together. (That was just out of high school anyway).

  11. “It gets better.” I’m not gay (well mostly not), but knowing that life would get better after high school would have really helped. I was an outcast too until I found other peers, but even then, I didn’t really related to anyone except for my boyfriend (who I’m still with almost 20 years later!).

    In 1995 when the Beatles anthology came out, I remember realizing that the only person I should care about impressing, was myself. It was actually the Beatles that taught me that I could like stuff that didn’t conform to the teenage level of acceptable. And strangely enough, the opening of the mind to musical possibilities opened my mind to science, and evolution, and other stuff. I can pretty much pin point all major development to that moment when the Beatles anthology came out. It was the moment when I STOPPED conforming, and started trying to figure out who I really was, and where I wanted to go. I’m lucky that I had that moment when I was 15. Some people never have that moment.

  12. After more than 15 years in a high school classroom, here’s some advice that I find myself repeating from year to year:

    – No, you are not going to make your boyfriend stop being a jerk (or worse). No, leaving is not going to be worse than staying.

    – If it’s not your business, stay out of it. If it is your business, only share it with those whose help you want.

    – Arguing with your parent is not a good reason to get a place with some friends. There is no faster path to dropping out than this.

    – Just because your friend’s baby is cute, doesn’t mean you have to have one yourself.

    – There are plenty of people around you who care, but you have to let them help.

    – If you can’t find a club you want, get a couple of friends together and start it yourself.

    – Make a friend of at least one teacher in each department. You’ll always have someone to go to for help with assignments.

  13. Well, I suppose the most obvious one would be to give myself a list of the medicines that work really well for me and a list of the ones that are going to make me fail courses. Advice that I might have conceivably received without violating causality, though:

    -Take more math; there is math that isn’t calculus that is a lot more fun and a lot more useful.

    -Don’t be creepy when asking girls out. This would necessarily require me to also explain how I was being creepy.

    -Goddamn it, you’re not just shy; you’re sociophobic. Get some professional help. It will make things better much faster.

  14. I was thinking about this all day, and the sad conclusion I’ve come to is that all I *could* have said to my past self was “it gets better.”

    I was so consumed with self hatred and embarrassment back then, I don’t think I could have listened to any more complex message.

    1. I didn’t realize until much later that some of the ladies I knew felt the same way about themselves, and I’ve wished I could go back and cultivate more a relationship with them. Tell them they’re smart, tell them they matter.

      Would it have made any difference, or is it just my own inflated ego making me think I’m Dr Phil?

  15. My freshman high school self: Stop being self destructive in order to be accepted by your peers. To be honest, you will never be accepted by your peers, and nor should you want to be. They’re idiots. Also, in the future you’ll be studying both film and sociology. If you get a head start now, you’ll feel better about yourself later. And yes, you’re a nerd. You’ll never change that.

    My college freshman self: You should have gone sooner but you can’t change that now. Just embrace the fact that you’re unusual because soon enough people you don’t know will be shaking your hand, congratulating you on your film accomplishments.

  16. I’d have advised my younger self to cultivate a social life, especially upon entering university.

    Also, to pay attention to my emotions since I find it really hard to notice I’m having them sometimes.

  17. Oh boy, instead of traveling to my past self, I would have gone to my dad to warn him to beware of that stupid lawyer that for some reason cancelled the green card application.

    Then I would have told myself: “When you get to America, don’t get a high expectation. The American dream is called that because that is what it is, just a stupid dream.”

  18. Wow… talk about a hardcore question.

    Well…

    – First of all, as others have said, “it gets better”. No, seriously. It does.

    – In regards to the gender and sexuality stuff: that’s NOT going away!!! Deal with. Accept it. Embrace it. Learn to love yourself and who you are and don’t bother trying to escape or compromise or bargain or deny or hate yourself for it or any of that. That’s going to get you nowhere. DON’T try dating girls thinking that’s going to make you like everyone else. It’s just going to be really unpleasant and humiliating for both of you. She WILL notice when you don’t sleep with her for three months straight. TRANSITION YOUNG! Spare yourself a whole ton of pain, expense, misery, trauma, years of living a half-existence, and irreversible physical masculinasation. Like every trans girl, you’ll still end up wishing “I should have done this sooner”, but at least you won’t be wishing it as hard as I am. I mean you are. Or you eventually will. Or however this works. And really, it’s not nearly as scary and horrible as it sounds.

    – Get out and meet people. Make friends. Talk. Take social risks. Social skills are just like any other skills… you get better with practice. And you, in particular, can end up being pretty good at it if you just bother to learn. You may (read: will) find that you’re not only capable of building friendships and socializing, you’ll actually come to enjoy it! And not only that, but even sort of come to depend on and cherish it, while people will end up depending on and cherishing you. It’s one of the best things in life. Don’t deprive yourself of it just because you’re scared of being rejected.

    – Give science and science-y things a chance! Before it’s too late! I know you’re “artsy” and “cool” and “alternative” and “punk rock” and queer and everything, but seriously… that stuff can be SO amazingly cool and fun. Just read about it and explore it in a non-high-school forum before writing yourself off as “not into science”. Read about neurology and neuroscience, read about biology, read about game theory, read about medicine… I promise you’ll come to love all of it!

    – Don’t waste your education. Don’t take the easy courses. Don’t take the courses that let you sleep in or smoke weed or take mushrooms. Don’t take the courses you already know the answers to. Read the assigned books COVER TO COVER (you’re a fast reader, you’ll still have plenty of free time). Ask questions. Engage your professors. CHALLENGE YOURSELF. When all is said and done, the degree isn’t going to matter much (the economy is going to tank in 2008, btw. Sell in 2007!), and the lazy afternoons will provide a few pleasant memories, but what’s going to count the most is what you learned. Don’t let there be whole semesters where you didn’t learn a damn thing.

    – You’re not as smart as you think you are. And you’re not as worthless as you think you are, either.

    – Don’t touch the heroin. Just don’t.

    – And for that matter, stay away from the booze. It’s pretty easy to do without, actually.

    – Being creative doesn’t amount to eff-all if you don’t bother to create anything.

    – Weymouth is a manipulative psychopath and half of everything he’s going to tell you is a lie, B. Cameron believes that megaliths were the technology of an ancient race of giants (don’t listen to him), don’t let John, Tom and Irv say all that homophobic stuff around you all the time (who cares if they accuse you of being “over-sensitive”?), cherish Andy, Holte, Holly and Anders because you won’t be close forever, tell Sam you have a crush on him (he secretly likes you too), don’t let Welby touch the heroin either (RIP), and don’t let Pat crash on your couch (“one week” = “nine months”).

    – And when Griff asks if you’re in or out, say you are OUT! No matter what he says. Just say no! But be careful… he has some faulty wiring in his bionic implants.

  19. “Cheer up. Work towards acceptance in Computer Science at _that_ university. You’ll find that that’s where you truly belong. You’ll find some great friends there. Also, choose Computer Science from the start. Apparently, something about the Software Engineering line attracts most of those people who care more about money than about the subject itself. Another thing: If you work at it with this goal in mind, you may manage to get accepted a year or two before I did.”

    That’s about it. I’m not sure if I should mention that one of the other great things about going through university, apart from the friends, was that it caused me to eventually become atheist. I could try to convince myself to just go atheist right there and then (with any luck, I might actually trust myself). Being atheist would probably have helped my attitude and self-confidence, but there is a risk that my past, christian self would become scared and do something stupid (like choosing NOT to go to university).

  20. Hmmm, never really had any problem with large-breasted girls. I mean at grammar school I was unable to communicate with almost *any* girls at all, but that was just my personal introverted insecurity. And I just never thought of class-mates in a sexual manner.

    Large-breasted TEACHERS however – ah, that was something completely different =(^.-)=

  21. “Look, there’s a whole bunch of advice I should probably give you, but knowing me/you, I know you won’t listen.

    However, in about five years’ time you’ll tell somebody you’ll call her. Don’t put that off – do it as soon as you’ve sobered up. Just trust me on this. You dont want the words ‘I’ll call you’ to be the last words you’ll ever say to anyone, ever.

    And don’t try to fuck the pain away. It won’t work.”

  22. In an all male catholic high school, being lapsing episcopalian on my way towards atheism made my life difficult. Boobs weren’t an issue, what with me being a dude, but being shy, angry, and tired all the time made me an easy target for bullies till one guy went too far and discovered my karate background. I didn’t have to punch anyone and they left well enough alone after that.

    As for what to tell my young self…

    “Despite what your parents say, it is not normal to be this tired all the time. You can’t sleep enough, you’re never happy, and unless you do something about it, you never will be. Make them listen. Get help.”

    1. This is something I also have to deal with. It can be fairly debilitating, and unfortunately it often just gives others the impression that I am lazy. I have not been diagnosed with anything specifically (though I highly suspect it’s a non-24 hour variety sleep disorder).

      Would it be prying too much to ask you for more details?

  23. I had a good time in high school, but that may have to do with the fact that I am French Canadian, and a man. But I was still a geek. Still, the level of bullying I experience was extremely low compared to the horror stories I heard coming from the US. What is so different between the two countries? Anyway, I have one important piece of advice, which may the hardest one to put in practice as a teenager. Carefully choose the people you care what they think about you. Make them your closest friends, your best teachers. All the rest, don’t give a crap. Look for other geeks, and reinforce your interests. Don’t take this as an excuse to feel superior to anyone: that kind of attitude will make you: 1) an asshole, 2) ultimately incompetent. You have the rights to your own interest and the best way to do this is to find people who will support you in your interest and to forget about the people who don’t.

  24. – The reason those cute guys don’t pay any attention to you is because they’re gay, but still in the closet. It has nothing to do with you. You’re not unattractive.

    – Have more confidence.

    – If your schedule puts math class right after lunch, see if you can get it changed to first thing in the morning. Calculus is no class to be falling asleep in.

    – Major in math, not physics.

    – Spend more time with Dad; you won’t get a chance later.

    – You know how you look at your peers wearing high heeled platform shoes to school and baking their tans in the sun all summer, and you think how much they are going to regret it later? You are absolutely right! Stick to your instincts on that, because they all have bunions, wrinkles and skin cancer now.

  25. Hmmm, soooo long ago… . I enjoyed high school for the most part and had some great friends and a few really good teachers I can still point too as making a difference in my understanding of the world and who taught me some rational thinking skills. The school I went to was fairly large and there were enough kids to find the ones you liked and limit your association to a certain group.

    And as for advice I’d give my high school self, well that’s a difficult task because any advice that I would have followed would have likely resulted in a change of beliefs, a different college, different spouse/children/career; and that’s a what if game where the winner gets a pot full of simmering regrets. I’ll have the fresh salad thanks.

  26. “Stop trying to make them like you. Also, don’t use them as excuses not to go to school. You will regret it.”

    “Also, that particular a**hole that played cruel pranks on you and threw your books out the window? Some day he will be in a real fix and need your help. Don’t. He won’t be nicer to you afterwards.”

  27. Exercise, and keep up with it.

    Spend more time with Dad. You can give him the time you were gonna spend with the Lutheran chick. Trust me, it’s a better investment; she’s way more fundamentalist than she realizes.

    Girls are not characters in your personal John Hughes movie. The way to catch their attention is to be so damned interesting they don’t want to look away, not to hang around quietly and hope that they notice you’re there. Ask them out–once–and if they say no, thank them for their time and move on.

    If anyone ever asks you if you want to go with them to Idaho to help, suggest–no, INSIST on–renting a sturdier vehicle than a friend’s minivan.

  28. Oh, wow.

    I know about the breast size bit. In 7th grade some boys thought it was a good idea to try to toss little paper balls down my cleavage. I am not one to sit still for that, and a biting retort worked.

    I was an Army brat and spent one hellish year living in a small Midwestern town because my dad could not get on post housing. I hated 4th grade, but it did teach me the tools to endure or fight back later. I was teased and harassed for the audacious crime of actually being willing to do well in school, and for having lived in other parts of the country. One good thing about the place is that I grew a backbone.

    The one thing I would tell myself is to arrange for my friends to find a way to get me to the prom. They all went as a group, and then ended up at someone’s house. My step-mother would not let me go unless I had a real date. My younger son did the group prom bit and had a blast. I would also tell myself to skip the all night senior party, it was stupid.

    One good thing I did: I took summer classes before and after 9th grade. I hated high school, and I looked at the graduation courses. Seeing how that particular school district required four full years of English, I took English courses. Then we moved to a district that only needed three years after tenth grade. I used those summer courses to graduate after 11th grade (before my parents moved again!).

    I escaped high school. And so has my daughter. She is a senior in high school taking all of this year at the local community college. It is part of program in Washington State called “Running Start.”

  29. Drop french, keep up the german – but you do have to work at it. Ask your english teacher for help – just because it doesn’t come naturally like science or maths doesn’t mean you have to give up on it.
    That girl that asks you out in the corridor in front of everyone – don’t tell her she’s fat just because you’re scared of talking to her. It didn’t help you or her. You don’t have to give an answer immediately, ask to meet later and tell her why you are scared. She’ll probably understand but if not you’re no worse off than if you hadn’t tried.

  30. Ask girls out. Hope that the resulting alternative future doesn’t suck due to unforseen random consequences. Or just burn and forget this message as your present is pretty good and the future even better. Except for the girl thing.

  31. Where to begin? I’ll try to keep it short:

    Do not trust your best friend’s brother, he is just manipulating you and trying to get in your pants.

    Do not trust your therapist, she will get you in even more trouble, landing you in a mental hospital for over a month.

    Do NOT go to Central Square ever, lest you meet your rapist.

    Do not think that all of your friends who you are fooling around with are your friends. Some are, some just want in your pants and are pretending to care.

    Do not trust that sleazy Italian, he will lie to you about everything under the sun and get you to completely screw up your high school life to the point of no return.

    Do not wallow over missing your first love, your first love is an idiot and a jackass, no matter how fondly you remember him.

    Don’t let her hit you. Ever.

    Get a fucking job, the real world is hard and you need to spend your money better.

    Try.

    But I mean, really? In the end? It’s worked out…. Mostly… Okay? I mean I still have issues, but I’ve survived all my high school horrors for the most part. While there are some that I 100% wish could’ve not happened…without them, I don’t think I’d be the driven, thoughtful, getting-to-be-independent person I am today.

  32. Honestly I’d tell myself to chill just a bit because I was one stressed out little over achieving kid:

    1) Yes, these advanced highschool courses are helping you. Yes, I know they are a lot of work. Also go to RYLA – people tell me it is awesome.

    2) You are not going to die a lonely virgin as a result of all this work in high school. I promise. Also you will make up for all the not under-age drinking in university.

    3) Your depression is temporary and stress induced. Incidentally do not become a club president of anything. You will think that this is a thing that you have to do. You do not. It will give you a nervous breakdown and cause your grades to tank for the semester, which is the last thing you need.

    4) Try not to fall so hard for people who are unavailable. I can’t stop you from falling, but lets try to keep those crushes to under a year okay? By unavailable I mean: gay boys, straight girls, and flirts in LTR okay? (Yes I said girls, you should probably try to get over that too pretty quickly.)

    5) Tell your brother he can wait another year to get into university – but then make sure he applies early enough. No I don’t know how you can get him to do this either. He only gets more stubborn with age.

Leave a Reply

You May Also Enjoy

Close
Close