I was not popular in high school. My knowledge of Hobbit habits and British literature did not bode well for me as a freshman. I would say that I was a social recluse, that I only had like, maybe, five friends? The popular girls only really had 10 friends, but since it was double my number of social acquaintances, they were "popular."
See, I did not live a normal high school life. I was homeschooled. The word "homeschool" may seem to refer to an archaic form of schooling in which a teen outcast studies in a dark room, by the light of a single candle, his skin washed to a new shade of white due to lack of sun exposure. But times have changed (for the most part), and this dramatic picture does not exist. I was homeschooled, but I spent little to no time at home.
Homeschooling today is more like attending a very small private school. It is more of an organic, co-op learning experience. College-educated moms, or dads, teach out of their homes or through a church-group. I attended a Homeschool Academy, which was church-based. It consisted of a small group of kids ranging from middle school to high school age. My graduating class had about 20 students in it; that was considered a large class. Classes met twice a week and there were six periods, and a designated lunchtime. However, staying the whole day was not required -- I could choose to take as many classes as I wanted and supplement with at-home learning, other courses taught by moms who were outside the academy, or through taking courses at a local junior college.
Now, one would think this would create a more equal high school society, one where we all came together as social outcasts, bonding in our love for not only religion, but "Star Wars," card games and other geek-related interests. But no: All nerds are equal, but some nerds are more nerdy than others.
You think we did not have cliques? Well, think again. Our school was simply a microcosm of a "real" high school. Let me take you on a walk-through. Two "emo" kids sit by the stairwell, a handful of jocks play basketball on the glorified parking lot called a "court," the popular girls stare me down as I come in, as I am not dressed according to "school regulations." Being an outcast among outcasts is tough to stomach. I would often think, "Put any of these kids in a school with thousands of students and they would all be lost in the crowd, but here, they rule like kings." It was an interesting social phenomenon, one that should be studied further. Here, I was able to see all the drama of high school play out, but compacted into a church auditorium.
It got to me for the first couple years. I was very shy and would not talk, could not talk, because I felt I had nothing interesting to say. On top of that, I was getting scolded for wearing clothes deemed "inappropriate" by this Christian school's insanely high standards (the same tee shirt and long boho skirt that showed about an inch of my midriff would not have received a second glance in public school). I hated it. I asked my parents if I could leave, pleading, crying, but they wanted me to stick it out.
Then one day, just like that, I stopped caring. I always felt like I was being glared at when I walked onto "campus," but after a while that feeling of judgment became the norm, and from that point, life was easier. I am glad I had this experience. It helped me develop a sense of style that was bolder than the rest. Since everyone was looking at my clothes, I started using them as an expression of my personality. Things got weird. I pushed patterns to their limits and embraced the art of thrift store shopping. I changed the outside in order to change the inside.
Today, I am driven. I know who I am. I may not always like who I am, but I know my true self and I am ready to defend my true self to the microcosm and beyond.
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