Recently, a guy from my high school published a book in which he describes his good and (mostly) bad experiences there. Having studied language, I guess that was his most logical choice of medium. I used to paint and draw when I was younger and it was my preferred way of expressing the feelings I usually didn’t know how to articulate. Some of my drawings have survived my rigorous “revisions”, but I burned or threw away many — just as all my diaries. For some reason, after writing a diary for a while, I’d read it from the beginning and feel stupid and ashamed of my words. Inevitably, I’d burn the damn thing dramatically, almost ritually. Today, I feel I could’ve learned more if I had kept those scribbles, especially regarding my high school experience.
My greatest worries at the time were social anxiety, sexuality, my physical appearance (I’ve been struggling with bad skin ever since puberty), grades and not disappointing my parents, the full-on rush of hormones and feelings that seemed to lift me in a second and crash me down as easily. There were also adults, education professionals, who seemed oblivious to our frighteningly sharp awareness and close to infinite energy.
In my first year, I struggled trying to adapt to a new environment, new people, new demands, new rules etc. I think I hadn’t properly adapted to everything until the second year when I actually started making some real friends. I was mostly a quiet child, doing my share of studying and rule-abiding in those first couple of years, but later on – as I was developing my mental capacities and critical thinking – I saw that people (especially adults) in my school had a soft spot for hypocrisy and shameless lying. Female supervisors, who’d spend afternoons and nights with us, forced rules upon us which they themselves had trouble following. Apart from couple of extraordinary exceptions, our professors were boring, old-school farts. They only expected us to regurgitate what they have said and dictated to us before. Not many demanded critical thinking or competitiveness; their lectures were bland, their attitude condescending and their expectations insulting.
At this point, I just think that the personnel in charge of so much potential have proven themselves inept (over and over again). We were but numbers and names to them. One would think that them being religious should have had more bearing on their sense of responsibility – which is a gross over-idealization. Essentially, as far as I could see, their religion served as a façade, a hardened mask they’ve been painstakingly wearing for ages, which gave them the right to preach and judge indiscriminately.
I remember a story about a girl who tried to overdose on sleeping pills. She went to this school just a year or two before I got there. Apparently, she felt overwhelmed and severely pressured by her parents to be an excellent student. I’m not sure how she got hold on those pills, but she tried to take her life, probably because she no longer felt in control of it. But you know what the professionals (the principal, pedagogue, professors and educators) in my school did? They kicked her out. So she’s having mental health issues? Pack your stuff and have a nice life – we ain’t dealing with that shit. How can you feel self-righteous and smug after denying help to a human being? As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve also struggled in my first year there and I’d asked the school pedagogue/psychologist for advice and didn’t really get far. After I’d poured my heart out to her, I’d feel judged and exposed. I couldn’t make sense of my feelings and thoughts at the time and she made me feel as if she didn’t have time for my nonsense. She never did any workshops with us (almost 200 girls in total, 25 in my class), never even suggested we have some consultations or Q&As. In my senior year, we had pedagogy as a subject and what we did was learn from a script she made ages ago. We’d learn definitions and examples by heart; no problem-solving, critical thinking or discussions. It was dull, numbing and brain-damaging.
The only true good thing about my high school was meeting people from different parts of the country and being in the position to make friends (hopefully) for a lifetime. We were doing almost everything collectively: we ate and slept together; we shared bathrooms, a bedroom, living room, dining room and classroom; we cried and laughed together; we fought and made up. It was an experience worth remembering because of the people I shared it with. I don’t really recall most of the stuff I had to learn for exams, but I remember discovering love, friendship, animosity, belonging and the beginnings of my identity in much greater intensity and clarity.