Authors Note: If you haven’t read Part 1 – I would really recommend going back and reading it first before starting Part 2. All of these posts build off each other and if read out of order I imagine it will end up being really confusing! Here’s a link to Part 1.
Part 2 – High School
Has there ever been a more teenage angst-y song that Paint it Black, by the Rolling Stones?
I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors any more, I want them to turn black
I’m sure we’ve all felt this way at one time or another in our lives. Mine was no exception.
Going into high school, my personality had changed. I expected the worst from people and I didn’t have much hope for humanity. At this point, the childish notion of life being good as long as you’re a good person was dead and I retreated into the safety of sci-fi and fantasy novels where, for the most part, good people did win. (This was obviously before Game of Thrones…)
I went to Chief Sealth High School which was notorious for all the wrong reasons. (My best friend ended up going to another high school.) The drop-out rate was 50%. It seemed like every year our most promising student athletes would get shot and die from gang violence. (The early nineties were especially violent in the inner-city of Seattle – at least for Seattle, anyway.) It felt hopeless.
As you can imagine, this didn’t help my outlook on life! The few friends I had, got wise and transferred out of the school by my Junior year. With no real close friends, and no interest in being in any crowd, I hung out on the margins, sitting out back in the smoking area, chatting with the stoners, rockers, and alternative types. Even in that crowd, I didn’t really fit. I didn’t share their interest in the music they loved, I didn’t dress like them, and I wasn’t really interested in getting high in between classes, but we did share a common jadedness about the world. We could all agree that it was pretty shitty.
There were some bright spots, though. I had an English teacher in my freshman year who called me up to her desk after class one day. Our assignment was to write an alternative ending to a book we were reading called, The Contender. She liked it and mentioned that she felt I had a real talent for writing and encouraged me to keep writing in my spare time. That simple act of encouragement was like somebody giving me a candle in the darkness. It was like, “Oh my God! I might be good at something?!?”
In my Sophomore year, my art teacher, also reached out to me. I had been skipping classes – even his class and he was notorious for giving everyone an ‘A’ if you just managed to show up.
One day, he seemed concerned and asked how I was doing and if everything was okay. I was so caught off guard by that question that I immediately became suspicious, went into a panic and snapped something nasty at him. At that time, I was cutting, though I thought I was hiding it pretty well. The thought of anyone else knowing was almost too much to bear. I wish I could have reacted differently, and I wish I could have said I was sorry and that I appreciated that he cared enough to ask. But I never did. He retired before I graduated and I never matured enough to tell him before then.
I also had another friend (who eventually transferred out of the school) who shared the same interest I had in God. One day The Gideon’s came to our school and handed out little pocket Bibles which we were both excited to receive. However, we seemed to be in the minority because on our walk home we found Bibles in the bushes or thrown out into the street, and some completely ripped in half. I remember it really bothered us so we tried to save as many Bibles as we could. When we got to her house, we both read the little salvation prayer on the back together and then the 23rd Psalm. It’s so weird now that I think about it. Neither of us was going to church or had any adults in our lives that were practicing Christians. I think we even smoked some pot that same afternoon.
So, high school was a drag. I didn’t care at all, I skipped most of my classes, and naturally had terrible grades because of it. My parents did their best, but I think they were just unequipped to handle me at the time. In short, I was a stubborn, manipulative ass and nobody could tell me what to do.
However, in my Junior year the school finally contacted my parents and I had to go to night school to make up my credits so I could graduate. Even despite working hard to get my credits back up, I just couldn’t muster the will power to get through my senior year. I dropped out and decided to enroll in an alternative school instead.
At the alternative school, I met some people I finally connected with. For the first time, I found a group of people just as weird and burnt out as I was. What most people believed was odd about me – they actually thought was cool! It was one of those group of friends that you meet and you feel like you’ve known your entire life – and it was glorious. One of these friends was a great comic book artist who liked my writing, and eventually we tried to collaborate on a project. Sadly, at that time, I had absolutely no discipline to push through a big project and it eventually fell to the wayside. But, it definitely gave me confidence to keep trying with writing and it gave me hope for the future.
Also around this time, I was desperately trying to find meaning. I explored philosophy books in the library, which just depressed me even more. I was interested in spirituality and I believed in God and Jesus, but Christianity totally turned me off. I just didn’t see anything in Christianity that matched what I thought I knew about Jesus, so I went looking for the answers in New Age mysticism.
To be continued…
Authors note: In an effort to make this a manageable read for a blog post, I left out a lot of details. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments. Thanks!