Almost everyone has an embarrassing story or two from their high school years, or maybe it was embarrassing at the time, but now it just makes for a good laugh. However, if you were to ask me, “What is the most embarrassing thing that you did in high school, Nicole?” my reply would be, “It’s not what I did, it’s what I didn’t do.”
While I was in high school, I thought I was involved in school activities. I felt like I spent a lot of time waiting for my mom to come pick me up from extracurricular activities before I had my driver’s license. I played volleyball in ninth grade and was on the swim team in tenth through twelfth grade. I was in band, National Honor Society, and Academic Decathlon. I participated in all of these activities, yet I still feel like I didn’t get the most out of high school. I know I didn’t.
I didn’t participate in activities that would set me on the path of my passions. I’ve always found the written word to be enchanting. I’ve deeply enjoyed reading and writing since the third grade. I had initially planned to partake in the school’s newspaper in my four-year plan that was created my freshman year. I was so excited about it too. I’d also wanted to take journalism and creative writing. Now, I did take creative writing my junior year. I think when I was creating my schedule, journalism and creative writing were offered at the same time or something like that, so I had to choose one or the other, and I chose creative writing. Ultimately, I don’t regret that choice. I took a journalism class in college, and I’ll be honest, it wasn’t my favorite class, but I may have enjoyed it more if I’d had prior journalism experience. I discovered in college that journalism was a whole new style of writing, and I struggled with it. If I could go back to high school, I would have taken journalism. I also wish I had taken yearbook, because then my photo would be correct in my senior yearbook. If I could go back, I would have pursued as many writing and publication classes as possible, rather than taking the easy “get me out of here as early as freaking possible” route. By senior year, I was tired of high school, and I wanted to be done with my high school classes by lunch hour so I could eat at home instead of in the cafeteria. That way, I didn’t have to eat in the cafeteria alone, like I did for most of ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade. At least I would have my pets to keep me company at home.
In high school, I was a loner. I didn’t have friends, and I pushed people away who tried to be nice to me. When I was younger, I was teased and bullied and laughed at, so I opted to avoid people altogether to avoid getting hurt. I’m morbidly ashamed of that now. I shooed people away who said hi to me, or invited me to eat at their lunch table. I’ve blocked out most of my high school memories, but I’ve recently remembered that I did have a group of friends in ninth grade — well, I thought they were my friends — then one day, an older girl who’d recently befriended my other friends randomly decided to yell at me during lunch, and she told me to go away and never sit with them again. I lost all trust in people who went to my school that day. I didn’t believe it was possible for anyone to be genuinely kind to me. I thought that everyone was secretly talking behind my back, so I tried to remain invisible. I just existed. I went through the motions, attended all of my classes, had almost perfect attendance, and graduated in the top five percent of my class. I thought I was setting myself up for a successful life for when I was able to escape my high school, but I was wrong.
Keeping to myself isn’t what I regret the most. Yes, sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to watch a movie at a friend’s house, or to go to the mall with friends. I wonder that all the time, especially now that my sister is a junior at the same high school I graduated from. I see her and all of her friends, and I wonder, “What could have been?”
But that’s not my biggest shame.
My biggest shame is never submitting to my school’s publication. Every year, my high school published a book of students’ poetry, short stories, and drawings. I had considered submitting many times, but I was scared. I was scared that my writing wouldn’t get selected because it wasn’t good enough, and then I would only feel bad about myself. That same fear carries with me, even now as I write and still dream of publishing. I’ve dreamt about publishing a book since I was in third grade, but I can’t help to wonder if it’s a senseless dream. What if I’m not good enough? What if I’ll never have the courage to fulfill my dream? I just wish I’d been published then, because it would have been a stepping stone. A stepping stone can make all the difference. I now realize that a high school publication is better than never having been published, which is where I stand now.
I’ll never know if my writing was good enough to get published in my high school’s publication, because I never tried.
You miss all the shots you don’t take.
I missed so many shots in high school because I chose not to take them, and that is the most embarrassing thing I did in high school.
What is your most embarrassing high school story?