High School Never Ends

They say your high school years are the best years of your life, but I couldn’t wait to leave that phase behind me and move on to college.

I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I was smart, but not smart enough for the “smart kids” to like me. I wasn’t rich so that crowd was out. I didn’t drink or smoke. My hair was the prerequisite 80’s height, but I wasn’t pretty enough for the popular girls and the cool girls thought I was weird. I didn’t date anyone from my high school. Lunch was a nightmare until my senior year, but even that had drama involved in it.

I didn’t fit in, well, anywhere. Lord knows I tried, but I didn’t really have my own identity until college where I learned to embrace my perma-nerdiness. I found a crew who liked me for me, which gave me the confidence to continue to grow in the directions of my dreams. Their acceptance of me gave me the strength to accept myself. Warts and all.

Forward 25 years. I have a great job, excellent kids, a home and a family who loves and supports me. I have a tribe of friends I would hide the bodies with. Guess what? My past comes back to pester me every day I walk into work.

Think about the cliques at your job. They are the same categories of people who you may have yearned to join or tried to avoid in school. What’s extra special (or meta, or ironic…you pick) is working in a school where they are just as bad. In every teacher’s room, there are groups. The jocks. The popular girls. The smelly guy. The ones who you know work there but you’ve never met them before. The loners. The rest of us.

Thank Joe I’ve found myself a tribe where I can just be myself. They embrace my listmaking, my impromptu concerts and my soft spot for baking. They listen to my stories about the bears and the cats. I listen to them moan about their lovelies and the copier. We’re comfortable with each other. We lift each other up. We make each other stronger. We joke that we have to look out for each other because sure as hell no one else will!

So what’s changed other than age? My self-awareness. My self-acceptance.I’m not trying to fit in where I don’t belong. Forget the stereotypical square peg trying to fit into a round hole. I’m a great shape, like a triangle. I’m a great big, wide triangle. I contain multitudes. (Thanks, Walt Whitman). Oh, and I can usually fix the copier when someone else breaks it and just walks away.

I’ve come a long way and I still have growing to do. My anxiety is off the charts when I have to talk to parents and the principal is scarier when he is your boss. My rough edges are just that and they are all mine. Now, instead of being ashamed of them, I acknowledge them and work on them when I can. Time, acceptance, and self-love have been friends to me.

Most importantly – I bring my own lunch. School lunch still sucks.

Karen Padden

Karen, Queen of the Paddens and first of her name. Teacher, Baker, Petter of Cats, Multiple Sneezer and Crocheter of Wubbies. Believes in kindness, always.

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