Who after many years of reflection, such as sitting down at your 20-year reunion, has ever said, "I would love to have a repeat of my high school experience?"
I did not need a class reunion to help me recall all the terribly cliquey groups who superficially by style, serendipitously by chance, or simply because they had a common set of skills, huddled together to talk about the oh-so important things a teenager deemed significant or that was made popular by the media at the time.
In school, I was friendly and approachable. My home life made it a challenge to focus on my studies. Easily, I was not the most intelligent student among my classmates. Even more obvious, my exterior physical appearance was not attractive. I was oddly short, round, then skinny, but not healthy during my adolescent years. My skin was blotchy and head was filled with lice.
I came from a stereotypically large Latino family, but this very family was one I would leave during my junior year in high school. School officials had learned about the abuse I experienced, which I voiced to no one for more than 10 school years. Everything that I had convinced myself was normal was the very thing that made me different.
I leaned on friends for assistance and to obtain a sense of normal, laughing out loud awkwardly and at odd times. I was grateful for the handful of friends who passed down their clothes and shoes. I was even more thankful for the time that a friend took a note I wrote to her to indicate that I was not emotionally okay to the school counselor. It was my friend's action that moved me to take the necessary next steps, which included living in a children's home in a neighboring city.
I began to understand my evolution of this new self when I was in university. My head had been cleared of lice. My cavities filled. My body was nourished. This period of transition was what I needed to attain the next steps in developing a healthier lifestyle. My brain was ready to grow new dendrites. Most importantly, I had the luxury of building into my schedule study time, enjoying a quiet space when necessary and developing healthier relationships.
Which brings me to 2014, when I walked the halls of that school I transferred to mid-school year in 11th grade when I started living in the children's home.
A female student who saw me passing by in the hallway said, "Miss, you look beautiful." At 40 years of age, I smiled and thanked her. Then, I reminded her and myself, "When I walked these halls 22 years ago, nobody thought that."
The student who offered the compliment did not know me, or that I was stopping by to drop off two scholarships for a hard working female and male senior class man at my alma mater. While my high school years were pivotal to the positive change that took place in my life, I am grateful to currently be living the best years of my life professionally and personally.
For all the adolescents walking the hallways of their high schools, do not let a temporary, negative situation, or the unwelcome opinion from peers impact your deeper soul and spirit. What happens next is always up to you. May your future decisions be courageous, showcase your brilliance and allow you to evolve into a more defined you!
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