Ten years ago today, I received my high school diploma. At the time, I thought it was a big deal. At the time, I guess it sort of was.
I was never a fan of high school. Honestly, I felt my school bullied me more than other kids did. When we moved from Kentucky, my guidance counselor called me to her office and told me to get involved. What she didn't tell me was I would be rejected from just about every activity, club, or extra-curricular I attempted to join. Nobody wanted the new kid, so I spent the bulk of my first year alone in a new school.
I had some great teachers. I also had teachers who made me feel really bad about myself. Ever overhear a teacher say something rather unflattering about you to the group of kids you were working with? You don't forget something like that.
I remember watching other kids and thinking how ridiculous they were. Fights erupted over the most inane issues - crushes, drug and alcohol supply, dances, getting rides, who sits shotgun, sweet sixteen parties, prom plans, being invited to the kegger, and weekend vacations to the shore. These dramatic escapades evolved into inspiration for quality shows like Laguna Beach and Jersey Shore. Thanks, Drama Queens. Thanks for hijacking cable television.
I'm still not sure how I worked as a teacher. For one, I hate public speaking. I don't have joyful, giddy memories from my own schooling. I hate waking up early. I hate wearing a shirt and tie. I hate working with other people. I avoid faculty rooms like I avoid a colonic. And yet, for three years, I loved my job.
Considering the outcome of my career, it's no surprise I developed a hatred for public education. It left an unpleasant flavor on my tongue and kept me in a bad mood until I discovered writing. On days like today, it's healthy for me to spend time reflecting - to think about how I've grown and recognize what I can be proud of. In honor of my ten year graduation anniversary, I decided to share some highlights of my reflection. Thanks for joining me today.
- Graduating from college, magna cum laude, in four years with my Bachelor's in Social Studies Education.
- A phenomenal student teaching experience: I taught Sociology, Contemporary Problems, and Global Perspectives. The majority of my students were 18 year-old seniors. I was 21 at the time.
- Earning my Master's Degree in Special Education with a 4.0 GPA.
- Won $1000 from a local radio station.
- Achieving additional teaching certifications in middle school language arts and mathematics.
- Enjoying three years as a seventh grade social studies teacher.
- Surviving one year as a middle school learning support case manager.
- Upholding a gym membership (and using it) for the past six years.
- Designing and maintaining a blog (and the coinciding relationships) I am proud of.
- Completing the first draft of my first YA novel.
- Do not make decisions based on relationships; make decisions you feel are right in your heart.
- Those AP exams mean nothing. Don't sweat it.
- You don't need physics or trigonometry for any career path that interests you. Stand up to your counselor and take creative writing instead.
- You like to read. You don't think so because your teachers assign boring books. But you do. See that YA Contemporary shelf - go explore it!
- Buzz your hair. It will save you a ton of money on haircuts and products.
- The woman speaking on the third floor goes by the name Laurie Halse Anderson. She's about to become a famous YA author (and for now, she lives around the corner from you!) Cut your stupid gym class and go listen to her presentation. The book she's releasing (Speak) will become a controversial bestseller.
- Wear sunscreen. Just because you're dark, Italian, and don't burn does not mean you don't need it.
- Don't idolize that substitute too much. In eight years, she's getting arrested for having sex with a sophomore in a van. Just sayin...
- Stop worrying so much about grades, GPA, and class rank. No, you will not be satisfied where you end up because you are a perfectionist. But guess what; it will not matter one bit. You can relax. In fact, during your third year of teaching, your principal will ban assigning and grading homework. Can't be that important, can it?
- You have a handful of friends who will still be around to support your writing journey, and they are not necessarily the people you would expect. You also have some really obnoxious friends who would never lift a finger to help you. If you were bleeding to death in the street, they would step over you on their way to get free water ice. Thankfully, they will not be in your life forever, so do yourself a favor and cut the cord.
- The world is not fair.
- Hard work does not always pay off.
- We don't control nearly as much as we like to think we do.
- Never let your job define you.
- Friendships do not have to be face to face.
- It's okay to make mistakes.
- Mistakes cannot always be fixed.
- Not everyone can get paid for doing what they love.
- The only opinion that matters is your own.
- Life has funny ways of coming to your defense. Sometimes, it's immediate. Other times, it takes years. What we see in front of us is not always the original photograph; often, it's an altered replica adjusted to portray what a person wants us to see. Yes, people wrong us. No, it's never justified. But sometimes, you learn more to a story than what you thought to be true. It may not erase the hurt, but it may let us view a situation from a different perspective. And sometimes, it's enough to bring closure; to let us move forward from an experience or memory that haunted us far too long.