Red Walls, Landrum, and Why I Love Eminem

Junior Year – 2002-2003.

My roommate situation Junior Year at Cornerstone proved to be a phenomenal turning point.  Mita (from the year before, you remember, who made excellent dumplings) and I needed a place to live now that Elise had decided to brave the life of a commuter.  So in one of those friend-of-a-friend moves, we signed up to live with Bobbi and her friend Gloria.  Bobbi had lived across the hall from me Freshmen Year.  I was told Gloria was on the track team.  That was all I knew.  Well, that and Bobbi’s assurance that “Gloria is cool.”

My first day back on campus, I took a small load up to our apartment in Babcock and dodged the others moving in.  Walking into our apartment, I found this 5-foot-plus-few-inches girl with long hair, Gloria, sitting at her computer.  She turned and asked if I needed help.  My immediate response to this question is always “no,” but I figured if she was willing it might be a good way to get to know each other.  So, Gloria walked with me back to my car to get the next load.  Then something happened that bonded us instantly.  A guy I knew from the years before had parked near me and started unloading, and he commenced chatting away at me so that I went into my obvious (at least I think obvious) humoring voice that also is meant to imply I’m not interested.  With one sympathetic glance from Gloria, I knew we were going to be friends.

Gloria, Bobbi, Mita, and I got along extremely well.  We were all a little bit country, a little bit rock-n’-roll, funny, and not above being a little nuts from time to time to let off steam.  Bobbi came up with the idea of painting plastic bright red and hanging it all around the living/dining room, and I’m told people in the parking lot looked through our windows and thought we were Goth and angry all the time.  Mita and I would often pretend to be napping rather than answer the door when a certain visitor came a-callin’.  Gloria once came up behind me in the student union and asked if I would help her get lunch; I turned around in confusion and found her to have both her arms in slings from a pole vaulting attempt gone horribly wrong (this may have been the next year, actually, but I can’t remember – the girl got injured almost as often as me, which was another bonding point).

So, yeah, good roommates = check.  Elsewhere, I was also finally realizing that I kinda liked people.  But by now, the normal people had all established their friend circles, and I realized I didn’t really have one, largely because I seemed to have a talent for befriending people who transferred out.  Then, on one of the first days of 20th Century British Lit, I sat by one of Elise’s friends that I knew but for whatever reason we’d never been close friends before.  Thus entered Becca.  She invited me to lunch, and I soon found myself with Becca, Pete, Adam, and Aaron.  They adopted me, lost puppy that I was.  These were also really the only people in my own year that I was friends with, because along with my ability to befriend transfers I also through Gloria knew her sophomore friends (more on that later).

Odd things I remember:

  • Becca – Mostly I just remember sitting around in the student union between classes, goofing around or helping each other with English homework.  Ours was just an easy friendship, which was a relief.  But we did have really good talks too, and I remember one in particular where we discussed how we needed deeper connections on spiritual grounds with people in our lives.  Immediately after this, Pete came up and asked if we’d seen some TV show the night before, and Becca and I both rolled our eyes but broke out laughing.
  • Pete – dragged us to at least one Shane & Shane concert, and I witnessed my first platonic man-on-man crush. Pete was a goofball but could also switch gears in an instant to help people, which I always admired.
  • Aaron – We once were left in the student union for like 3 hours between classes, he doing homework on something about fish and me working on a paper for Stevens.  I’m not sure we actually spoke until Aaron wanted me to go help him pick out Thank You Cards in the bookstore.  To my surprise, he picked very flowery ones.  (I really don’t know why I remember this.)
  • Adam – Okay.  I took this group up to the Haymarsh for an outdoorsy field trip during the spring, as Adam and Aaron were both very into environmental biology.  Driving my dad’s truck out in the back 900 acres somewhere, I should have known better than to drive through a soggy area – HayMARSH, after all.  I got the truck stuck.  More in annoyance than embarrassment (shame on me), I left my friends in the truck and went to chase down my dad, who was on the tractor not far away.  As this was my first ever “Are ya busy?”  (code in our family for being stuck and needing help) I was kinda amused with myself, and Dad laughed and drove the tractor to pull out his own truck where I had lodged it in knee-deep mud.  I, assuming Adam knew what he was doing, left Adam behind the wheel while I helped Dad hook the truck to the tractor.  Dad pulled and pulled on the tractor while I assumed Adam was in the truck trying to steer it out. Once the truck finally got free, turns out Adam had left it in park the entire time.

Back in the classrooms, I was still enjoying myself and gobbling up all I could.  I had a lot of Prof. Landrum that year.  He was probably my favorite professor because he flat out said that he didn’t care what grades we got, that the main point was that we get something out of it, and that that was up to us.  He had a very lecture-style of teaching, and it reminded me of Mr. T back in high school.  He was also the most eclectic of the profs I had, so that didn’t hurt.  Anyway, I had Landrum for Shakespeare (we watched many movies), 16th Century Brit Lit, Literary Criticism (where people on either side of me played solitaire on their laptops the entire time), 20th Century Brit Lit, and he was one of the three profs for Love & Friendship (sort of like a real class except that the profs clearly got bored and wandered in and out of the room to get handfuls of cookies from the office across the hall).  I also had Christian Theology with Duff, American Lit with Stevens (“Does it scare anyone that I have scissors in my pockets?”), Public Speaking (in which I got an A+ for a speech on my name, thanks parents), and a few others that I’ve mostly forgotten.

Academically, I started to realize that, whether I tried or not, I was still a pretty good student and was going to get noticed for it. Classmates wanted help with their papers; profs clearly remembered who I was outside the classroom and sometimes even told me on the sidewalk that they’d liked my last paper.  So on the one hand – oops, guess I couldn’t avoid the Golden Child problem entirely.  On the other hand – affirmation is a nice thing.  It definitely encouraged me that I actually could write after all.  It wasn’t just something I liked doing; maybe I was actually good at it.  (Although I still think Stevens missed the point of my “extremely good” anti-Fussell poem that he HANDED OUT TO OTHER CLASSES, but that’s a whole other thing.)

Because of this boost, I started to seriously start working on my hobby project – The Kota Series.  It’s not a coincidence that my journal entries significantly dropped off during this time, for all my free-time writing now shifted to The Kota.  (Brief explanation:  The Kota is a sci-fi story that my brother and our friends Kaly and Luke made up when we were little and played every day.  Over the years, it had grown into a short-ish story of 4 “books” that I’d written based off of what we’d played.  Now, I started to flesh them out with the goal of making them real books at some point.  I was never aiming for “ooh, I want to be a big published author” or anything.  I just wanted this story that had meant something to me for over a decade to actually be in print, in book form that I could have forever.) I don’t think that I told anyone other than my roommates what I was doing cooped up behind my laptop all the time, but I’d finally found my creative release and kinda dove into it during this time.

Then “8 Mile” came out.  I connect crap all over the place anyway, but “Lose Yourself” really hit home with me as I was branching out in my own creative project, and the song felt like a kick in the butt so that I decided I was actually going to publish this thing.  For that, I will forever be thankful to Eminem.

Anyway, the rest of Junior Year for some reason is a blur, probably because I actually enjoyed myself but I was still in a place where I only held onto the bad times (baby steps…).  But really, by this point, I was pretty happy.  I liked my friends (a new concept, but delightful).  I liked school (and the renewed affirmation).  And I had my own thing that I could work on in the background, smirking and scribbling down notes for my book whenever something inspired me.

Old Country Buffet, Candle Lights, and Why It’s Good to Talk to Classmates

Sophomore Year — 2001-2002.

8-8-2001 So I think I’ve figured out that I have no happiness in my life.  I was listening to the song that says, “I don’t know where my soul is.  I don’t know where my home is.  I’m like a bird, I wanna fly away.” Because of my extensive time with pheasants, I can picture a bird as some kind of symbol for my life.  I think that it would really help me if I could catch that stupid shimmering bird of happiness.  I don’t know where my bird is, though.  I don’t know where I will feel like I belong.  I’m getting close to the point in my life when I need to either change or turn to gluttony for comfort.  I need that bird, I just don’t know entirely what it is or where I can find it.

8-26-2001 I recently had another one of those moments when everything that’s been jumbling through my head makes sense.
It has been really humid and hot lately.  I mean, really humid and hot.  I remember when we were in Las Vegas a man was complaining about the 20% humidity that day. Being from Michigan, I don’t complain until the humidity percentage reaches the upper 90s, and today the heat index was 106.  It honestly hadn’t rained in a little over a month until two days ago, and everything has been horrid.  The humidity (here’s where my point comes in, by the way) was so bad that it clouded everything in this grayish blue haze.  I’d stopped noticing it because it had covered everything for so long.  I could look out my window and not be able to see the tree line behind our fields because of the haze.  Anyway, after the rain the humidity dropped, and everything looked different.  More real.  The colors returned, and I could once again see the distinct leaves instead of a grayish blur.
Along with this clearing, I had one of those old feelings again.  I was sitting in church, listening to the sermon, when everything just engulfed me and I felt alive again.  The thing was, I really hadn’t seen before that I was in that deep of a funk.  I just sat there, in church, thinking things over as usual when I found tears forming for no explainable reason.  Something in the sermon did trigger it all, although now I can’t think of it…something about prayer, and I thought suddenly how little it seemed to matter lately.  That started my upward spiral.  I can’t really explain it, but I know it’s happened before.  I get stuck in a slump and God picks me up and I’m back on my feet again, ready to get back to life.  I wish I could say that I’ll stay awake this time, but I know myself better than that.  I can try, though.
I have so much inside of me that I chew over, and I don’t know what to do with it.  There are very few people whom I feel connected to enough to talk about certain things.  I think a large part of my personality doesn’t want me to talk about certain things because they are mine.  I have this horrible control thing.  But I’ve been kicking myself lately because I know there is something wrong with me but I don’t know how to fix it or if I even want to.  It suddenly came to me that I probably should sort through the fog and figure this out, though.
I’m not entirely sure why I saw the connections between this and the humidity so strongly.  Timing, I think.  The mind-numbing shroud being lifted, certainly.  I don’t know, I think that humidity is a weird enough metaphor for me that I’ll remember what I’m talking about.

Sophomore Year was when I really started figuring out what I wanted out of life.  I still didn’t know what I wanted to do vocationally, but I was gradually learning that I could do anything and still be happy as long as I had some fulfilling creative outlet.  Or maybe this was just what I told myself to survive my job at Old Country Buffet.

Here’s how that happened.  The head manager of the OCB in Grand Rapids was a member of the Haymarsh Hunt Club, so my grandfather took it upon himself to use his connections and get me a job there, even though I said I’d be perfectly content working on campus.  (He ignored this, not surprisingly.)  We met for lunch at OCB, I had an interview which basically consisted of my Gpa and this guy talking hunting, and then I was hired.  I’m pretty sure the fact that I spoke English was all that was required, and I ended up being the cashier/hostess.  Pretty much all the other employees were Romanian, and I had the privilege of being exposed to a new culture and was even given permission to say “ciao” for the rest of my life.  These genuinely likable coworkers were the highlight, because most of the English-speaking manager guys were kinda off/terrible/jerks in one way or another.  And I still can’t stand the smell of frying chicken. It lasted 6 months.  Maybe.

But back on campus, I was actually starting to enjoy myself. My freshmen roommate, Elise, and I moved over to the apartments on the other side of campus, and joining us now were Melody and Mita.  Being in an apartment instead of a dorm room was lovely, as was having the ability to choose our roommates (as opposed to our nightmare suite-mates the year before).  For some reason we decided to cram all four beds into one bedroom, and we stayed up many nights giggling and talking.  It was really quite nice living with girls who were less tomboyish than myself, and I felt like I was catching up on what I’d missed all these years.

A few memories:

  • One night we each shared stories of the worst things we’d done as kids.  I don’t remember the rest of our stories, but innocent Mita told hers.  “My siblings and I snuck out of the house, went down to the river, and went fishing…”  Elise, Melody, and I all waited for the big reveal. Then we realized this was the end and burst out laughing.
  • On 9-11, we were having a class meeting when our class president rolled a big screen TV into the room.  We sat and watched the news as the second plane crashed.  Later that day, I remember everyone panicked and went to fill up their gas tanks before prices skyrocketed. I stayed in our apartment and painted.  I don’t know why this calmed me down, but it did.
  • Candle Lights.  Whenever someone would get engaged, it meant a stupid wonderful Cornerstone tradition where girls would run and squeal down the halls, banging on everyone’s doors so that we had to get up and go to the lounge area.  However late it was, you were expected to attend, which did not result in a good attitude on my part.  We would sit around in a circle, and a candle would be passed around the circle until it got to whichever girl had gotten engaged.  She would then blow out the candle; more excited squealing followed. As I rarely knew the girls who got engaged, I viewed this whole thing as an intrusion on my sleeping patterns.  I’m a hopeless romantic, I know.
  • For some reason, Cornerstone held fire safety drills/meetings at least twice a month (maybe not, but it felt like it.)  One such meeting was held in a building a whole 100 yards from our apartment building, so Elise drove us.  Everyone was a little slap-happy and annoyed with the meeting, and it was very late by the time we poured out of the building to return home.  Elise drove back to our apartment behind a van full of boys, one of whom (I know who you are) decided to moon us.  Elise COVERED HER EYES, so we jumped for the wheel before crashing as she continued to accelerate.
  • Then there was Smelly Guy, who always wore too much cologne and we somehow always ended up in the stairwell at the same time.
  • And of course I’m not likely to ever forget the time Andria, the girl who lived across the hall from us, screamed with so much obvious pain that I ran out into the hall to discover she’d chopped the tip of her finger off in the doorway.

Classes during this year were pretty great too, since I was mostly done with the general requirements and could steer more into my own interests.  World Lit with “The Fab” allowed me to write a paper on Sci-Fi, which thrilled me not in a small part because I got to pick first and grabbed it before any of the guys could.  There also was some group presentation we had to do about Oedipus, and my group performed a dramatization out the window as if it was a TV screen, me jumping off a ladder as Jocasta and Derek smearing his eyes with a gory mix of red dye and peanut butter while screaming,  “Oh, my gods!” Intro to Fine Arts was again with Burghart and meant looking at more cool art stuff.  Intro to Philosophy was with Bonzo.  I kinda half-assed that class and got a B+ because I was annoyed with the philosophy students who clearly thought they were all brilliant (apologies to those of you who are now my friends.)

But here’s the funny thing about my classes in the second semester:  I had at least 3 classes with a guy I never talked to. We would go from Weight Training in the morning immediately to Religious Authors, and either I would follow him or he would follow me all the way from one building to the other.  As time went on and we had more and more classes together, I realized that this guy and I probably had a lot in common.  He spoke in class enough for me to realize he was pretty smart, which quite frankly was the kind of person I needed at this point. But we never spoke, and looking back (now that we’re good friends) it seems ridiculous to both of us.  Had I bothered, it might have led to my introduction to my current group of friends much sooner, but without time-travel (and wouldn’t that be handy?) I guess there’s no point thinking about it.

Anyway, classes and friends and jobs and life in general opened me up this Sophomore Year. I learned about the Dalai Lama, Wendell Berry, more holocaust literature than I’d ever planned on reading, and Li-Young Lee.  And although I still feel bad about lying so obviously when Stephens, my Creative Writing prof, asked if the class had helped me with my own writing, maybe it did and I just wasn’t aware of it yet – learning what doesn’t work for me is useful too, I suppose.  At any rate, this year brought me a little closer to figuring out what I wanted. 

10-3-2001  When I was under five feet tall, I remember running through the woods on my stick legs and not caring about the scratch marks I received that would leave scars which would stick around for years to come.  My hair, which I rarely bothered to brush, would flow down my back during the few times when I was able to escape the house before my mom could put it up in pigtails. Life was so simple then.
I remember one particularly wild run through the woods vividly.  I was wearing my favorite blue T-shirt that of course had the most holes of any shirt I owned, and I was barefoot, running along the unfinished berm on the front of our house.  (Dad had assured mom that he would finish the berm within the first week after we moved in; it remained unfinished so long that Mom had quite forgotten about it and it was my favorite shortcut to run into the house.)  As I was skipping along, I remember thinking that I would get serious and become a girl once I hit sixteen.  I would wear pink, put ribbons in my hair, have a boyfriend, and be popular with the cool girls.  I also had this thing about changing my name to Erin, but that’s not important.  It seemed so far off, so I think I was comfortable with this resolution.  When I was sixteen, I would settle down.
Well, needless to say, not much of this happened.  Okay, none of it happened.  But I remember how important it seemed that I do these things by the time I was sixteen.  I can’t figure out why all of this suddenly flashed into my mind today as I was walking back from bombing a psychology quiz, but it did.  I think it’s because I have to start deciding what I want to do with my life, and it’s a little more serious than the color pink, ribbons, boyfriends, and being popular.  What AM I to do?  What do I even want?  I didn’t want those things that I did when I was under five feet tall, and that’s probably why I never attained any of those “lofty” goals.
So what do I want? Before I die, I want to have seen a little of the world outside my bubble.  I want to see the British islands my family is from, Egypt, Asia, Rio de Janeiro.  I want my own bit of earth. I want to find someone who makes vulnerability not a thing igniting in me complete terror.  I want to have found a haircut I actually enjoy for two days in a row.  I want to own at least two dogs.  I want to come up with a short explanation for why I am the way I am. I need something that is my own that no one else can get to, something that makes me smirk like “I know something other people don’t,” as I was told the other day.
I have been to Las Vegas, San Antonio, Orlando, Branson, Daytona, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, Chicago, Mackinaw Island.  I have seen the Mammoth Caves, Grand Canyon, both Oceans, sunsets over Lake Michigan.  I have hiked the mountains of West Virginia, played in Tahquamenon Falls, climbed the dunes of Silver Lake, walked the circuits of Disney World and Gettysburg.  I have seen twisters, storms at sea, meteor showers, aurora borealis.  I have friends whom I have known since birth, and I will have friends whom I haven’t met yet.  I have created paintings, crafts, stories, and my share of joy and pain.  I have problems, concerns, frustrations, tears, and grievances.  I don’t know what to do with my life.  I don’t know what to make of Spring, Winter, and the unusual Michigan changes in between.  I have seen 20 winters of gently and not so gently falling snow.

Nessie, Scat, & The Freshmen Frenzy


It’s safe to say that I knew I was a mess when I entered college.  I hadn’t sorted it all out yet, but I at least knew that making other people happy could not be my focus anymore. So, I basically entered Cornerstone University with the single goal to go unnoticed. I didn’t want to shine, I didn’t want to work so hard to excel, I didn’t want the professors to expect me to get A’s.  (I know… #goldenchildproblems)  And I certainly didn’t want my peers to look up to me or rely on me.  I needed ‘me time.  (It’s interesting now to look back on my journal entries during this time and trace my growth/healing, so I’ll include some as I go along below.)

Also, I knew that I wanted to see more than what I’d been exposed to in high school. I needed a wider range of humanity. I’d always been eclectic in my interests without the resources to explore them, and now in college I was thrilled to have academic guidance in my pursuits.  (Not that Cornerstone was a widely diverse world, but it was better than where I’d come from.)  I remember feeling so relieved that I could now learn in a richer soil.  And, since I had nowhere near enough personal stability to know what I wanted to do vocationally, I decided to get a degree for my hobby.  Thus, I  decided on an English Literature major, and I set forth to gobble up all I could.  And maybe try to enjoy myself.

Freshmen Year – 2000-2001.  I remember meeting my roommate, Elise, for the first time. We both realized instantly, I think, that they’d put us together because we both had listed Art as one of our interests.  This was clear mostly because on paper we had so little else in common.  But we bonded at the very least because we were both equally baffled by our suite-mates – one turned out to be a pathological liar/thief, the other had no boundaries and cleaned out our frig on a regular basis, among other things.  But Elise was a godsend, really.  She was emotionally stable (certainly by comparison to yours truly), she was kind, she was sweet, and quite frankly she was such a contrast to myself that she made me a better person.  It was also interesting that my high school English teacher, Michaele, knew Elise from when they worked at camp together, and Michaele had sort of followed me to Cornerstone to work there.  This helped Elise and I because we had a very welcome third-wheel at lunch. Although, I still don’t understand Michaele’s preferred meal of peas and cottage cheese mixed into her salads.

Adventures of Elise and myself:

  • Coming up with a story that Nessie (the Loch Ness Monster) lived in Cornerstone’s shallow pond and ate regularly sacrificed students.
  • Covering our walls in plastic so we could paint them.
  • Going to bed by 9 after we’d finished homework.
  • Naming our pet fish “Discernment,” which was one of the buzz words at school.  We later had to give Discernment medicine (and later burial) after our suitemate decided to pet the fish and gave it a fungus.

Living in a dorm with several hundred classmates was definitely a whole new world – I’d just left a senior class of 11, after all.  The first thing that hit me about these people as we settled in was how annoyingly Christian-y they were.  Apparently the fact that we’d entered a  Christian university meant that everyone was trying to prove their faith or fit in or something, but I found it obnoxious considering I’d come from a Christian high school where you kinda just learned to incorporate religion/faith into the everyday.  Or, maybe it was just that this was the first time many of them had been able to live in a Christian community like this.  Either way, it settled down after a couple of weeks, much to my relief. What did not settle down was the “Freshmen Frenzy” – the instant drive everyone seemed to have to find “the one.”   I, knowing that I was a mess and needed to be alone and sort myself out, was constantly surrounded by silly girls who fluttered over boys.  And the boys fluttered back.  I grew incredibly sick of hearing the campus mantra of “if it’s God’s will” – which I like to believe God hates as much as I do.  I find it hard to believe that God is a Holy Matchmaker with nothing better to do.  Anyway, I kept my head down and once again realized I was a magnet for freaks, but more on that later.

Rock groups were Cornerstone’s way of trying to help us make friends.  I don’t remember what sorting system they used (it was not a magic hat), but basically groups of 8-10 (?) were clumped together and taken through the tours, etc. so that we were supposed to bond.  Figuring I had to have some friends, I went along with my suite-mate (not yet knowing about the pathological behavior) and joined Rob, Tim, Amber, and some others.  We were an odd mix of characters, but I truly did like them.  I remember very quickly Amber and I realized that we would be sitting next to each other come graduation because of our last names, and this did end up happening, even if we weren’t close friends by the time of graduation.  And something our Rock group did that I’m not sure others did was that we took turns going to each other’s homes on the weekends.  On Rob’s weekend, I remember lying around, laughing with these people, and thinking, “Huh, maybe I like people after all.”  It wasn’t much, but it was a step in the healing process and meant a lot to me.

10-23-2000 –I recently went to one of my friend’s houses for a short weekend getaway.  “We” being two guys and three girls, it probably looked a little interesting.  We went to visit his great grandmother for an hour, and we were all amazed that she acted like us.  The first comment out of this elderly woman’s mouth was, “Wow, you sure have quite the harem, Rob.” We stood dumbfounded as she went on to discuss underwear, my friend’s girlfriend, and various other subjects which are usually not discussed with great grandparents…or parents, for that matter.  Sure there was also a conversation about digestion problems, but it was incredible how she connected with us.

There were ups and downs as I progressed with this new life.

10-29-2000 I think I’ve begun to come back around to myself.  I don’t yet fully grasp were I went.  I got lost.  I was numb, but I feel like I’m awake now.  I have this tingling sensation like (I can’t believe I’m about to use this analogy) a hunting dog who’s about to be released into a field.  That’s really the best way to describe my interior right now; I’m shivering with anticipation.
It’s weird to look back on myself over the past few months.  I can remember coming home to the Haymarsh the first time and only wanting to get back to “civilization” as soon as possible.  Maybe that’s the whole “you can’t go home again” thing.  I don’t know.  Now, as I lay on my bed in the dark like I always used to do, I realize what a little shit I was.
Now, I’m trying to listen to that little voice that, when I said, “I hate my life,” told me, “well, change it then.”

1-13-2001 I’ve heard it said that we all should get rid of perfectionism because you miss out in a lot of life.  Messes are supposedly signs of life.  I think it is because of this theory that I am sitting in the perfect spot on my bed.  (You know how you are supposed to not always lay in the same spot in your bed so one area doesn’t get worn out?  Well, I’m being defiant and laying there.  Pretty gutsy, huh?)
One thing I don’t understand about myself is why I don’t let myself have fun.  I avoid social gatherings of any kind.  I don’t go to friends’ parties, even when they actually do think to invite me.  I don’t even allow myself to enjoy any one person’s company because I constantly tell myself that they will turn on me at the nearest opportunity.
I think part of the whole self-pity phase (God, let it be a phase) involves analyzing yourself to death.  Analyzing is one of my strong suits.  I can easily identify why my life sucks.  I’m analytical, so I read into everything.  I’m a perfectionist (which I already covered) and organized.  I’m self-conscious, so I never draw attention to myself on purpose.  I have no self-esteem, but I also manage to be incredibly arrogant and vain at the same time.  I have an “inferiority complex about my superiority complex.”  I’m defensive to the teeth.  I’m terrified to enjoy myself because I think I will get hurt by someone sometime.  All in all, I’ve decided that I’m a snotty, defensive screw-up.  I have this mix of apathetic aggression and downright mourning that I can’t explain.

So, yeah.  All that was going on.

Of course, my main focus was on learning in college – weird, I know.  The freshmen class that sticks most in my memory is “Foundations of Scientific Inquiry,” which I’m sure seemed like a great idea to some administrative head at the time but which came to be known as “Foundations of Scientific Purgatory.”  Basically the semester was divided into 3 sections with 3 different professors of 3 different science classes.  I’m not really sure I learned anything, but I definitely remember the assignment when we were put in groups and had to compete by finding the fastest way to melt an ice cube.  As soon as the prof started the timer, Jeff D. acted  decisively for our group by popping the ice in his mouth, crunching away, and then opening his mouth and proclaiming, “Done!”  We won, even if this wasn’t exactly with the prof had intended.  (Years later, my brother, knowing this story, did the same for his group when he was in this class.)

But there were good classes too.  “Intro to Literature” was probably my favorite, and Ms. Eckman was probably my favorite prof that year.  I did, however, nearly get sucked back into being a golden child because my class was full of Business majors  (the horror!) and I was one of the few actually interested in literature.  Or there was “World Civilizations 1” where Prof Cole delighted in singing some song with my name in it practically every morning – loving history as I did, I forgave him.  There was also “Intro to Biology,” where Prof “Gator” would regularly talk about scat. I again was something of a golden child in this class, especially in the section about wetlands – living on the Haymarsh back home had its advantages.  When asked on a field trip, “What do you call dead meat?” I happily answered, “Carrion!” and got a gold star for the day.

5-17-2001    Just when I think life can’t possibly become any funnier, God finds a way to slip something slimy under the covers.  We went on a field trip for Bio Lab to the sand dunes, and I was walking with a guy whom I’ve spoken with many times.  He remembered that I am an outdoor freak, and he asked me if I had learned anything in the class.  I said not really, because we were studying wetlands and I live on a wetland.  He asked where.  I said Morley.  He was surprised and said he was from Lakeview.  I said really.  He asked if I knew where the Haymarsh Hunt Club was.  I said that was me.  He asked if I knew Lee Clemence.  I said he was my uncle.  He said really.  I asked how he knew my uncle.  He said he used to work for Gummer Peat Company.  Very strange; you never know who you’re going to run into.

And there was “Religious Communities and Cultures” with Prof Burghart.  This class probably meant the most to me, although I might not have been aware of its effects at the time.  Randy (Burghart) clearly wasn’t any more thrilled with the assigned, massive text than we were. And since there were only about 10 of us in the class, he moved us from the stifling classroom above the library into the student union, where we could sit on couches.  Basically, all I remember is Randy showing us slide after slide of different art pieces on his laptop.  I did take notes, so we must have been tested on something.  But mostly I remember feeling incredibly relieved to just sit back on the couch, let go of some of my neuroses, and listen to Randy tell us about art for an hour.  Although I didn’t know it at the time, Randy would be a influence on my later choice of a friend circle as well.  Not that Steve, who was in this class with me and wrote “Poophead” and “Steve G. is my hero” on my notes, stuck around for long.

All in all, my freshmen year of college was an interesting start.  I started dipping my toes in various interests, learning about new options.  I healed just enough to enjoy the change.  And while my friendships from Freshmen year didn’t end up really sticking much, they prepared me for the ones to come.

The Era of Mother Superior

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.  It will forever be – knock on wood – as close to hell as I’ll ever come.  But it was really only the white, middle-class, angst-y poetry, Fiona Apple kind of hell, which I guess proves it wasn’t that bad.

Senior Year at Algoma Christian School started with promise.  There is an indescribable, largely unjustified feeling of pride and elation that comes with being a high school senior.  You will never be more on top of the world, and my tiny class of 11 came as close to abusing the moment as we could.  For instance:

  • On the annual camping retreat for the entire high school, we hid coolers full of water balloons until we ambushed absolutely everyone during free time.
  • We threw a tantrum because a particularly uppity middle-school teacher had taken our radio from the kitchen where we served lunch, and we were rewarded with a field trip to Chicago.
  • There was a little unsupervised experiment that resulted in an explosion which probably would have gotten someone expelled if we’d pointed fingers. No one ever repeated the experiment, especially Tim.
  • We locked people in the kitchen cooler.
  • We spent an entire night in the dark gym building a full-length castle for Homecoming.
  • We filled a kiddy pool with water and fish and put it in the math teacher’s classroom.
  • The Night of the Spoon will forever live in infamy.

I played basketball that year, though I’d never been on a team before and wasn’t a particularly competitive person when it came to anything organized.  I did try to get out of it before practices started, but everyone had been bugging me to play for so long that I finally consented and gave in to what everyone expected of me – a pattern, I’d realize later.  I can’t say I ever really tried that hard, though I was proud of being the fastest person on the team – not the quickest, that honor went to Felix, but I was fastest.  I did enjoy fouling.  At our last game, I finally decided to ignore everything my coach had ever told me and played hard because I was so frustrated.  I was left in for three straight quarters, and I remember mouthing, “Take me out!” to our coach, who just smiled and continued watching the game.  I didn’t even notice the score as I took a charge and shot my free throws – it was only after I’d tied the game that I realized what was going on.  We lost in overtime.  I remember going into the bathroom and nearly collapsing – I SHOULD have been pulled, and self-diagnosing now I know I was dehydrated and probable hyperventilating.  But, it was over, and I was relieved.  I have never since been that physically exhausted since.  It felt terrible, and good. I think I was starting a spiral into depression at that point, actually, and my body was trying to tell me something.

Why? The biggest aspect of my senior year that makes it so memorable was the fact that I had to change my role.  I was always involved in student government through high school, but mostly I managed to sit in the background and contribute while staying out of the lead.  Then came senior year.  Unfortunately, the president of my class moved away and so I had to step in by default.  (I must stress that this was in no way a grand accomplishment – class of 11, remember.) Teachers, staff, parents, etc. expected me to be excellent – pressure, pressure, pressure! – because I was responsible, I had a good head on my shoulders, I was smart, blah, blah, blah.  So, I took charge, again largely to please everyone and because it was expected of me. Honestly, I did have natural leader-ish tendencies, so I took up the reins and enjoyed being organized, scheduled, etc.  I learned to thrive on a job well done…and on stress, on having demands and deadlines.

But, being a leader is hard on the social life.  I really didn’t want my classmates to hate me as their pseudo-authority figure, so I tried to be softer and let them get away with more.  And more.  And more.  This, I think, led them to treating me like a mom, or a doormat.  They didn’t do their work because they knew I would pick up the slack.  (I shouldn’t really blame them – I mean, you’re supposed to be somewhat irresponsible in high school, so I hear. And I have to give credit to about four other people from my class who actually did give a hoot.) Unfortunately, I didn’t have a choice – the job had to get done or it would reflect poorly on me. No! I had expectations to meet! I couldn’t fail! I couldn’t make a mistake! …Anyway… Because I shouldered all the labor, I became more resentful and took it out on my classmates.  Self-righteousness is a bitch.  Josh #1 even went so far as to dub me with the nickname “Mother Superior.” And I completely deserved it the time Tim actually handed me a broom and said, “Go home.”

It was around this time that I seriously considered tossing away the idea that my classmates were my friends, and I began to feel very grateful that I lived fifty miles away.

Here’s where the angst-y poetry comes in:

acs“What am I to you
What are we
I wish to thank you for this misery
and these raspberry seeds
I once feared our circle’s break
Now I fear its stay
So I thank you for this misery
And these raspberry seeds
I will remember your sweetness
But hope to pick you from my teeth”
– My Raspberry Friends

During this time, there were several situations where it was clear God was trying to get my attention.  Many times, I worked myself into such a ball of stress that I ended up getting sick.  I mean sick.  I’d had a crappy immune system since I could remember (Ethiopian poster child, remember), and I didn’t even get over colds for two weeks.  I often saw being sick as a blessing because it meant that I got a break.  Also, being sick has always been a time when I hear God more clearly.  While I lay in bed miserable, God usually checked in and reminded me of the whole little “be still and know that I am God” promise – I say promise because it was comforting to know that I could refrain from holding the universe together.  Once I would realize this, I would then snap out of my control-freak tendencies so that – a week or so later – I would be healthy again.  Sadly, the lesson usually didn’t last long.

Things got worse when one of my guy friends showed signs of liking me.  (Here lies the reason I hate getting flowers, btw.) I could have been flattered and left it at that as friends, but unfortunately he decided that I now was just the same as every other vagina girl he had ever chased after.  It was as if our friendship of eighteen years meant nothing.  I cannot begin to explain how much this hurt and how it would affect so many friendships to come.  At the end of a very long drama, let’s just say that we stopped being friends because it was the only thing I could do. But, unfortunately, rumors spread like wildfire in a small Christian school, and I had to deal with a lot of crap from people who didn’t understand what was really going on.  There were a few who really did know, and it was really here that I learned who my true friends were – even if I was barely capable of trusting anyone anymore.

I think that, by the end of senior year, I was broken.  I felt as if every last one of my emotional straws had been snapped.  I was beyond ready to leave it all behind, and yet I was scared of the New at the same time.  I had had so much externally going on that I honestly hadn’t done the usual high school “finding myself” stuff.  I didn’t know who I really was when not performing for everyone else’s benefit.  I didn’t know what I wanted from the life to come.  Most certainly I knew I was a mess, but it was all so jumbled that I didn’t yet know how I was a mess.  I was numb, disconnected, and broken while trying to put on a show of being perfectly happy, hopeful of the future, and loving.  All I had left was my relationship with God, which had grown immensely during this time because I’d been forced to lean on solely him – maybe this was the good that came out of all of the bad.

High School Graduation – So, at last.  My valedictorian speech was prepared, my ridiculous hat was pinned to my hair, and I had my tall boots on so that I felt I had something different about me – I don’t know why this was necessary, but it helped.

We had to stand in the side wing while the gathered mob of family and friends assembled and seated themselves in the gymnasium.  I remember inspecting my classmates with something like love and something like loathing – but, somehow, mostly like love.  Hope was the first in line.  She was oddly the nearest to tears, although she was only a member of our class by force.  Adam was nearly as alien – although he fit in, he had only joined our class that year from a lower grade.  I was next.  Appearing completely calm, Tim stood quietly.  Cat was jittery, but she talked to everyone.  Tiffany was giggling.  Easily the most distractible, Rusty was joking around and had to be shoved back into the line.  Good Josh was grinning from ear to ear.  Holding the folds of her gown so as not to reveal her mini-skort, the Hawaiian goddess Felix fumed inwardly because she should have been salutatorian.  Bad Josh stood laughing.  Alicia was in the rear, trying to appear calm, but she was worried about the slide show she had spent all year putting together for this event.

“Let me take a few pictures quick,” my mom said as she entered the narrow hall.

I admit I rolled my eyes as she fumbled to work the camera.

“Smile, Sunny,” I heard Bad Josh say as the flash went off.

I silently scowled at him and reached up to adjust my sliding cap. I exchanged an annoyed glance with my jittery friend as the Hawaiian goddess’s soon-to-be ex-boyfriend (and much, much later husband) brought us the flowers we had to carry down the aisle.  We took them and nervously argued over the best way to carry them.  Deciding that I no longer cared about the whole event, I realized that my four Tylenol had just kicked in for my headache.

Soon enough, we walked down the aisle to the traditional music, which Alicia’s sister played on a piano.  The girls carried calla lilies; the guys focused a little too hard on walking at the right speed.  We sat in our seats, slightly stiff and sleepy.  After Cat had given her salutatorian speech, I remember thinking, “I can beat that.” Mr. C, as our administrator, basketball coach, Family Living teacher, and group therapist then introduced me by saying, “And now, speaking of our leader…” This made me cringe. I remember walking up to the podium, taking a firm grip, and looking out at the crowd.  It occurred to me that half of the people had never heard me talk before, so I felt a smirk of satisfaction in knowing that they had to listen to me now. But I stuck to my script.

The rest of the ceremony was traditionally long and somewhat interesting.  When we were finally released from the blinding cameras, a few of us enjoyed ourselves.  We each had our own table of baby pictures and plaques.  We got really good at smiling and saying, “thank you,” not to mention hugging people we didn’t know.  I spent most of my time watching everyone else.  Mike V. hugged me but then pushed me aside when he saw my table had candy.  Bad Josh stood by my table with his glaring girlfriend, and I was stuck there awkwardly. I’m pretty sure Good Josh saw this, because he came over and hugged me, which I needed badly.

For the next couple of weeks, I went through the necessary pleasantries of open houses and greeting my friends’ families.

Then something happened.  The board of ACS got their panties in a bunch because Felix had worn a short skirt and Cat and I had gone sleeveless UNDER our graduation gowns.  (If that sounds ridiculous, it should.  While I loved most of what that school stood for, we were there during a “growth period” and the leadership was infuriating. It made mountains out of molehills and focused on the trivial while ignoring issues that really mattered like prejudice, sexism, hypocrisy, etc.  I am glad to report that ACS has grown in leaps and bounds since this time, and now boys are even allowed to have facial hair!) …Anyway, it was at this point that I felt like every good aspect of graduating from high school had been sucked out of me.  I remember crying and crying and crying, not because I felt guilty or angry but because I had been so close to escaping and now was thrust back in.  What ended up happening was that our class and our parents were called to a meeting to discuss whether or not we deserved to go on the senior trip we had spent all year earning.  We were basically told that we were the scum of the earth and not capable of making good choices, even though ACS was supposed to have taught us now to make good choices. We weren’t trusted.  We were not adults after all.  We were failures.  Even now, I think that meeting was the low point in my life.  I have never seen my dad so livid, and I have never loved him so much as when he argued for us.  Fortunately, somehow, we won our case and they decided to let us go ahead with our senior trip.

Then something else happened.  It is not really my story to tell, but basically Cat and Tim confessed that they were pregnant.  The thing that hurt the most was not that I was disappointed in them – it was that Cat had been afraid to tell me.  I cried and cried then too.  Cat and I had become very close that year, and I think we both bonded to each other because we had so little else.  We’ve been over my drama, but Cat’s dad had had cancer and she’d had a host of other, real problems.  Plus, we were both trying frantically to find God in our lives during this tumultuous time, and we strengthened each other’s hopes that we were not left to flounder on our own.  I still think to this day that I could have done more for her or been there for her more that year, but I’d had to take care of myself at some point too.


Senior Trip – Despite the sucky situations leading into the trip, the time in West Virginia was awesome and wonderful.  For some reason, I decided to be a vegetarian for the week and eat Felix’s diet. Rusty developed a strange relationship with the campsite moths.  And, the whole group randomly went for a hike one day and followed a bubbling stream, not at all knowing where it would lead. We fell on the slimy rocks, Felix and I hid in an overlooking cave on the bank, we found a crashed car in the middle of the mossy stream, and then finally we arrived at a waterfall. Pounding water from forty feet overhead slammed into jagged rocks below, and sunlight fought its way through the trees on the cliffs all around, illuminating the murky pool between a gigantic boulder and the waterfall.  The whole scene is definitely in my Top 10 Most Memorable Things I’ve Ever Seen.  It was like a gift.

However.  When we were leaving, Mr. C pulled over the van and asked us if we wanted to go north to home or south to the next destination.  We were confused.  He then said that the camp owner had seen us sneaking away in pairs, apparently making out when some of us had significant others at home. We vigorously denied this, and finally he pulled his head out of his…seat and kept driving.  Later at our next stop, he pulled me aside and asked what I thought, and I came very close to telling him that what he had done was unacceptable and insulting, especially after everything that had happened with the ACS board meeting. Fortunately, I remembered just in time that he did not respect my opinions as my father would have, so I kept quiet.  But this was the last thing I needed at the time, and much of the recouped joy I’d felt drained away again.

Then came Myrtle Beach.  Up until Wednesday was great.  The condo was gorgeous, as were the beach and ocean. It was worth all the year’s financial work to see them laughing in the surf – for many of them, it was their first experience with an ocean, and maybe I did feel a bit like their happy mother as they enjoyed themselves. I still think it’s funny that we girls played on the beach while the guys went shopping at the mall.

Our 3:00 am beach walk was another Top 10 thing.  Good Josh, Adam, Felix and I picked our way across the street in our bare feet, and we arrived on the sand to join the few other vacationers who were out so late.  The wind was so strong that I remember jumping up and being blown backward in my “Shrimp Happens” T-shirt.  The lapping of the waves was soothing, even though you could only see the very edge of the water in the dim light from the condos.  We found a beached puffer fish.  The storm out at sea was cool, too – and rather symbolic now that I think of it.  I honestly don’t remember much of our conversations, but it wasn’t important.  Just walking was good.

Then, Wednesday night.  Ever had a dream three months in advance where you see the scene of when a friend is going to hurt you?  Ever forget about that dream until its reality is suddenly upon you?  I did.  In both my dream and reality, I was sitting on the balcony of our condo, my feet on the railing.  I was looking at a bright light across the street and slightly to my right.  Then, a friend (this turned out to be Good Josh) came onto the balcony.  I remember recognizing the scene then and thinking, “No, it’s okay.  He’s on my right.  In my dream, he was on my left.  There’s a table in the way so that he can’t get to my left, so maybe the dream was wrong.” Sure enough, however, Good Josh stepped over the table to lean against the wall on my left.  He did this for no explainable reason.  That was when I knew something was coming.  I’m not even really sure what happened.  All I know is that he lied to me.  We didn’t have a fight or anything, but I just knew something changed right then.  The next morning, we didn’t speak to each other.  We only made eye contact once for the entire rest of the trip. (I did figure out why, but it involves petty teen girl crap and doesn’t really matter.) But, because of that weird dream/premonition, I in some way felt okay with it, like I’d been prepared for this final, awful thing. And I wasn’t ever mad at Good Josh – which is saying something, if you know me. Maybe I was just numb, but I really didn’t hold anything against him, and I think it’s because he had been such a support up until then.

Riding back to Michigan in the van, I found myself in a strange state of peace.  I was still hurt, I was still scarred, but it was time to leave ACS behind.  I resigned myself to just let go, make a clean break, and move on.  This was maybe not the healthiest approach, but it was the best I could come up with at the time.  I needed time away.  (I got that time away in college, but more on that later.)

Five Years Later – One post-college night as I lay in bed thinking, it dawned on me that I was all right.  Adjusted.  I felt closure from my worst ACS issues, and nothing but time had triggered this feeling.

It was only then that I remembered something. Back during the ACS dark times, while I was praying one night, God told me, “Five years.”  I’d had no idea what this meant at the time, but I’d felt immediate peace that it involved something good.  Skip back to me lying in bed five years later and I suddenly got it – God had been telling me that, in five years, I would finally be okay and would recover from everything that had happened at ACS.  I know five years seems like a long time to get over traumas from high school, and it was.  But God knows how I work and how much it all hurt me, and I think he was meeting me on my ground.  He brought me through five years of healing, like an extended version of the scene in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” where Aslan peels the dragon skin off Eustace.

So now, 10+ years later, what does ACS and The Era of Mother Superior mean to me? I’ve rekindled some old friendships that have changed with time; other friendships I’ve let go.  But I try at least to check in.  Maybe it’s masochistic, but I don’t want to forget perhaps the most shaping era of my life.  Whatever its faults, I did spend over a decade of my life at ACS, and that means the school is an important part of my past.  A home.  ACS will forever be my own private “Winesburg, Ohio” where I grew up and where I had to grow out of.  And I think it’s good to remind myself that even when I was at my worst, I wasn’t alone.


Why I Hate Hugs and Anne Of Green Gables

My life really hasn’t been interesting enough to fill a whole novel.  Or even a novella.  Maybe a sonnet.  Probably a limerick.  The most interesting time period was spent in Algoma Christian School, for a variety of reasons.  I’ve explained earlier how small the school was – I ended up graduating in a class of 11.  There’s an oddness about growing up this way that is hard to explain to anyone who went to a large public school.  It’s kind of like being from a family with lots of kids, only you have to love family and you don’t necessarily have to love classmates.

My overactive memory has been both a blessing and a curse, but here are some tidbits from my schoolgirl memories:

2nd Grade – My mom had home-schooled me through first grade so that I could get a jump start and learn to read while other kids were learning to take naps in kindergarten.  I think she also did it so that I could have a healthy superiority complex by the age of 7…I may be wrong on that. Anyway, for second grade, my parents wanted to send me to a private school so that I could have a Christian education.  ACS welcomed us to come for a tour, and I remember my first time entering the old building, which was constructed of double-wide trailers and smelled of old carpet. I remember peeking through the windows to see students whose names I would later learn – Andy, Mark, Sara.  I remember it seemed huge.  Official.  While my parents went to talk with the administrator, I was taken to an empty classroom where a girl was playing with her My Little Ponies.  Her hair was crimped.  Her pants were tucked into her socks.  She asked me to play, and I said I would rather color.  This girl – Cat, or Kathy as she was known then – would become one of my best friends for the rest of our lives.

Memories from that first year are mostly of sound and color.  My first teacher’s name was Mrs. Brown, and I remember I was afraid of her at first because she hardly ever smiled – ironic, considering I was often accused of this myself.  But we got along splendidly because, back then, I was eager to please and share my wealth of knowledge.  I remember class pictures and recess.  I looked something like the Ethiopian poster child – sickly, gaunt – because I had strep throat at least 3 times that year.

3rd Grade – This was when I really hit my stride.  Mrs. Tasma is still my all-time favorite teacher, though I can’t put my finger on exactly what made her so cool.  For this year, I have a vivid and horrific memory of being chased around the desks by a classmate who was trying to hug me.  I haven’t liked hugs since.  I gave a ten-page paper presentation on Corrie ten Boom and lost my voice by the end.  I also remember that we each took turns having a display table about ourselves; I brought in horse figurines. (Seeing Mrs. Tasma years later, she told me she’d found a stack of old papers, and one had been of a story I’d written about a horse. She laughed and said I’d written nearly everything about horses that year.)

4th Grade – Miss Steed never got the memo that you can only show Anne of Green Gables to kids so many times.  Every time we did something good, we would get a star on the blackboard.  At four stars, we would get a movie, which meant we would watch A of GG and get popcorn.  Let’s just say that we got so sick of the movie that we started being purposefully bad so that we could get stars erased off the board.  Not that I was trouble.  In fact, if anything I grew quieter this year.  I chose to become introverted and instead observe others. I wanted to see if my classmates could answer the questions I normally would have – I remember consciously making this decision one day as I lowered my hand to refrain from answering a class question.

It was also during this year that I developed my first crush on Matt, who borrowed two dollars from me and did not repay me for several months.  However, Randy thought I was cute, and all my friends thought Randy was cute.  So, shrugging my shoulders and not really caring one way or the other, Randy and I ended up being boyfriend/girlfriend, whatever that can mean at the age of nine.

Also during this year, I got my tonsils out and stopped looking like the Ethiopian poster child.  My whole class made Get Well cards for me, and I still have the poorly drawn horses and dogs with greetings of “Hope Yuo Get Beter Soon” stenciled across the tops.  It was really nice that Miss Steed actually came to my house to deliver these to me.  (Several other people from school and our church came as well.  I remember receiving strawberry-flavored Nestle Quick from our pastor and nearly throwing up because the smell reminded me of the anesthetic they had used to put me under. To this day, my gag reflex kicks in when exposed to artificial strawberry flavoring.)

5th Grade – Thinking of this year makes me laugh.  We thought we were so cool.  Swearing.  Talking about sex even though we barely understood the mechanics.  Playing sports.  Playing sports is what ended up being the most traumatic event that year – I was hit in the chin with a baseball bat by my friend Chad.  My chin swelled immediately, but I didn’t know what I looked like or why my friend Carissa was so freaked out.  I went inside from recess, and my teacher upon seeing me swept me up in an enormous hug.  I’ve already explained that I don’t like hugs, but having my swollen face buried in her bosom terrified me and I started crying.  She thought I was crying because of my actual injury.  I was sent to the bathroom with A FROZEN SPONGE IN A PLASTIC BAG, which was the school’s equivalent of a First Aid Kit.  I then saw my chin, which was by this time the size of my fist.  I went to sit in the school office while the ladies called my mom, and they all told me how brave I was and then went back to work while I pressed the frozen sponge/bag to my face.  My mom showed up at last, and I remember how calm she was as the ladies fluttered around and she made sure my jaw wasn’t broken, which no one else had bothered to check.

Well, time mends all wounds, but I did have a blue-and-purple goatee for about five weeks.  And, I’m convinced that this is where I developed my inability to get over bitterness towards people who’ve wronged me, because Chad never apologized.  (Years later, we reconnected on Facebook and I might have mentioned this… Okay, I know I did.)

6th Grade – It was during this year that we moved into the new school building.  It was big and didn’t smell like old carpet, just mortar and drywall.  I had a bowl haircut.  We had Miss Steed again as our teacher, still on her Anne of Green Gables kick.  This time around, we were a little cleverer about getting out of seeing it.  Because Miss Steed favored girls, we would act like we were having a fight amongst our little clique, and she would send Pam, Kathy, Tara, Cat, and myself out into the hall to talk things out.  Miraculously, by the end of the movie, everything was always resolved.  She would come out and give us candy, telling us not to let the boys see it.  So what did we do?  We would go back inside the classroom and chew on our candy as loudly as possible, causing the not-as-clever boys to glare at us and wish they had thought of something so brilliant.  (Over a decade later, when talking about this with my then-classmate Ben, he still remembered these days with a bit of a grudge. Totally fair.)

One day at recess while playing soccer, Matt B. and I went for the ball at the same time and he kicked my ankle, breaking it.  That was my first broken ankle.  Matt, like Chad, never apologized. (Again via Facebook, my reconnecting tool of choice, I reminded Matt of this, and he had absolutely no memory of the event. Why must men hurt me so? Am I just that forgettable?)

7th and 8th Grades – We were finally out of elementary school and starting to change classes every period.  Typical middle school stuff went on.  Some girls started being cooler than others; I don’t remember where I fit.  Miss Lovell was my favorite teacher because she taught us how to color-code our folders and I thought that was the most ingenious thing I’d ever heard of.  She also had a pet snake in the classroom, although it was really only a glorified worm.  We went on the best field trip ever to a simulated space program where we had to land on the moon – I was the communications officer.

During this time, sadly several of our classmates moved on to public schools and we lost all contact.  New people came in, and the shuffle added some spice to the monotony that had settled into our small, confining school.

And for the record, I did not have a crush in Kevin.

9th through 11th Grades – The majority of my early high school years are a blur.  There was an occasional field trip that was exciting, or a particular teacher I really liked, or some tidbit of knowledge I actually found worth knowing.  I do remember a drug scandal that rocked and nearly toppled the perfect-bubble-world illusion our parents had fought for and believed in so desperately.  It’s safe to say that I broke my ankles at least three more times during high school, though these were my own fault and I take full responsibility.  I remember Sam W. wrote me a note with one of those “Will you be my girlfriend? Check yes or no” boxes, and I wadded it up and threw it back at him while our history teacher, Mr. T., watched this whole thing and laughed.  Sam then un-crinkled the note and gave it to my friend Tara, who was also repulsed.

Then came 12th Grade, but that’s a whole other story that will take a post all its own.  For now, I’ll just say that the 2nd through 11th grades are what I remember fondly from my schoolgirl days.

The important thing to remember about childhood, I think, is that the people who shared it with you are not to be cast aside or forgotten.  We help create each other, for better or worse, and it’s good to just accept the odd, goofy, and even hurtful things these people did to you.  Personally, I’ve found it a surprising pleasure to reconnect with these people 10+ years later, and I’m always delighted when someone has turned out well.   These people are all a part of what shaped me, and it’s quite freeing to love them for it. I’ve even managed to forgive the bone-breakers, and I don’t cringe anymore when people hug me.

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