My School Experience and the Identity I Left Behind

I really didn’t care for junior high school nor high school.

It felt like everyone changed when we were thrown into a larger community since several elementary schools funneled into one junior high school in the part of San Jose that I lived in. Hormones were rampant. The ways I saw boys and girls behave with one another felt uncomfortable. I didn’t like the way boys approached me, not as friends but with an agenda to touch my body or make a move in effort to express their physical interest.

Girls were mean, too. There were a few friends I kept close to but besides that, I felt judged and often received sideways glances. There were girls that played the game with boys with confidence and laughter. Jokes were thrown across hallways and where everyone gathered to eat lunch.

It was hard to concentrate on my education. Classrooms felt like places we squeezed into not by choice but by obligation. Teachers were weird and quirky, trying to make the best of a room full of hormonal, energetic young people.

The cliques were the worst; groups of friends who bantered and teased one another. Cool spirited groups who wore the right clothes and behaved well, running school functions and for class elections. The stoners, the cheerleaders and football players, the hippies, shy nerdy kids and dorks who didn’t care what people thought of them, all spread out around so we could see and hear one another but not having to interact. At dances or assemblies, you never knew what would happen. A prank or loud boisterous shouts to get attention. The cute girls leading the show where everyone’s eyes turn to them and what they happen to be wearing that day.

I cut school a lot. I didn’t go to school functions and I barely graduated with a 1.8 GPA. Nothing felt real. It felt like survival. My parents divorced when I was a junior in high school so I flung myself into the shadows of boyfriends, drugs and alcohol to hide myself and try to find a sense of belonging. I had reckless fun going to parties and concerts with friends much older than me, already out of high school. I found connections with them more grounded in real life. They paid rent and had jobs so they could have more choices on their own terms. This spoke to me.

When I went to the local community college the Fall after high school, my GPA jumped to a 3.8. I took classes that I was interested in plus a few general education classes and eventually moved to Santa Cruz a short hour or so away with my boyfriend at the time. I had been working as soon as I could with a job permit in high school when I was 15 ½ and now was paying my own rent sharing a big house with other college students. I went backpacking on the weekends. I still went to parties but I also learned yoga and found authentic friendly women who some of which are still my friends today.

I left my high school identity behind. It was not inspiring to me. Sometimes it still scares me to think about. I sent my kids to private schools because I feared for their experiences in public schools. When I went to my 10 year high school reunion I had just separated from the father of my children. They handed out awards for those who had children and who had been married the longest. That evening, I returned to my old ways, self-destructing just like when I was a student there. I drank way too much that night and felt terrible the next morning.

Growing up, I didn’t feel like I got the support or education to encourage my best self. I had to find it on my own over the next 20 years. I wonder how young adults can be set up to really succeed and have the tools to navigate life in healthy ways. Out of my own experiences, I created a girl’s rite of passage program. 

I love being in the inquiry of what that is for each of us. To connect authentically with the stories we all share and to either relate to or have empathy for. How to lift one another up in the face of the challenges is something I believe we all innately want to be able to do effectively. To Evolve in ways that enhance our life experience instead of hinder it. Ready to join me in these conversations?

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