Lessons From High School

One of my very best friends moved to Texas last week (lucky, lucky Texas) and it got me to thinking about when I was a kid and we moved every few years. My dad worked for IBM, affectionately known as I’ve Been Moved.  When my dad announced we were moving again—right before I started high school—I made the brilliant decision not to make friends as a form of protest and self-protection. Why make friends when I was just going to have to leave them in a few years? Guess what. My parents still live in the same house where I went to high school, so my ingenious plan wasn’t quite so ingenious after all.

What my plan did, however, was instill a sense of invisibility into me that’s never left. Let me explain. You know how people always say that the high school years are the best years of your life? Well, I think that sentiment comes from the fact that the high school years are capable of making a huge impression on your life, the kind of impression that sticks and that you carry with you forever.

Just last night my husband and I attended his high school reunion and I know those years hold a very special place in his heart. He was a happy, confident, popular guy in high school and those words describe his life today. If someone from high school had to describe me back then, they probably wouldn’t know what to say other than shy and quiet. I don’t think my friends today would describe me using those terms.

My decision to make myself invisible during high school had huge consequences in my life and still shapes the things I do today. I didn’t sleep through high school; I just didn’t participate. While I wasn’t participating, I learned a whole lot about human behavior because I was observing. To this day, I’ll often choose to sit back and let life go on around me while I observe and take note.

Do these observations on everyday life make it into my books? Absolutely. Does this mean if I could go back and change my high school behavior, I would choose not to because my observation skills greatly enhance my writing? What a silly question! I can’t go back and change anything!

What about you? What behaviors from high school do you carry around with you today? I’d love to know.

About Christy Hayes

A wife, a mother and a writer of romantic women's fiction. I love dogs, exercise and cable news.

Posted on August 22, 2011, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I can relate to the constant moving, growing up a military brat. Surprisingly, we stayed in the DC suburbs for my entire high school career. I’m not sure I consciously tried not to establish relationships with my classmates, but I always thought it funny that I didn’t maintain contact with those kids–even though, like you, my parents retired in the same house. I haven’t attended any of my high school reunions, but have reconnected with a few friends via facebook.

    Guess you and I are more alike than we thought! Great post.

  2. Thanks, Tracy. Funny, we’ve never talked about this before!

  3. Great post! Another of my writer friends also talks about being invisible. Her dad was in the military before they moved to Baton Rouge where she attended high school. She is incredibly observant and it shows up as sly humor in her stories.

    I think the fact that I NEVER moved or had many new experiences until I went to college is one of the reasons I have a preference for the action/adventure genre. I was sure that everyone else was out having a better time than I was. Turns out it wasn’t true!

  4. So not true, Laura! Count yourself as lucky that you stayed put through school.

  5. I attended the same small country school with Laura from second grade until graduation. While I enjoyed a certain comfort level with close friends, I was innately a very shy child. I still hold back and assess a situation before entering a room.

    I know this might sound crazy to those who know me now, but the shyness and introversion came from within. Even when I was surrounded with the same people day in and day out my entire life, my hesitation to put myself out there was innate.

    My writing voice can be down-right boisterous at times. Perhaps the characters in my head have brought the loud me out in a way nothing else could. Can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Sorry girls!!!

  6. Great post, Christy! High school revisited is one of those interesting conversations because there were so many dynamics going on. I actually went to high school with the same group of kids I started elementary school with. There were changes, of course, because kids moved in and kids moved out. Through the years, my friendships evolved and changed and I learned I could be friends with anyone and fit in anywhere. I do tend to stay on the outside of circles — belonging but not quite belonging — and perhaps it’s those writerly observational tendencies that make me hang out on the edge.

    But like Laura said, staying in one place makes a person think it has to be more exciting elsewhere. :o)

    • Sheila,
      You hit the nail right on the head! When I was in high school I felt like I fit into the various circles of friends, but not completely. Maybe it’s a writer thing. Hmm…

  7. Susan,
    Don’t put the boisterous you back in the bottle! We like your spunky self!

    Isn’t it funny how the grass always seems greener on the other side? Staying on the outside of circles is a very good description of how I am today. I once had a woman in my neighborhood ask me who my friends were and all I could think to say back was, “What is this, high school?”

  8. I think the core of who we are in high school becomes defined and re-defined as we grow and mature. Back then I was athletic and ready to conquer the world — two things I still feel!

    As to the rest of my high school persona, all I can say is “Thank God, I’ve matured.” Makes living this life a whole lot easier… 🙂

  9. Thank God we’ve all matured, Diane!

  10. Out of lurk mode to read your post, Christy. It’s funny but I’ve not thought about the “me” in high school in forever. Yet, looking back, I had a big group of friends that I hung out with but always felt I was the dork of the group. When I went to my first class reunion EVER last year (my 40th class reunion, mind you!) several people told me what they thought of me back then. It was completely different than I believed myself to be. Some of the people talked about me being part of the “in” crowd and one guy I’d been in love with and thought he never liked me, told me he had a crush on me! I think this all points to self-esteem. I still think that after someone meets me they probably won’t like me much. Haven’t figured this all out yet!
    Thanks, Christy, for a thought-provoking post.

  11. My self-esteem in high school was rock bottom. How nice for you to return to your reunion and discover who people thought you were.

  12. I can relate. First the whole of my extended family lived in Poughkeepsie where Big Blue began! So the cousins who worked for them had your experiences.

    Second, being the invisible kid for most of my life has also given me that great skill of watching. Everywhere in school or work … at a luncheon counter and wherever I went even today.

    I loved this so much, so I have to deliberately pull back or I’ll do one of those l o n g … who needs to read all of this … comments.

    Yes, it is that part of us that is at the core of our writing and gives us the ability to create characters that come alive.

    I am becoming very curious about your work, Christi. Thanks for this post 🙂

  13. Gees, I did it again. Sorry to be long in the tooth!

  14. Florence,
    We like long in the tooth!

    Glad to know I’m not alone in feeling invisible and that we can appreciate our own special qualities!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  15. Too funny, I love this post. Sheila, I’m with you. I was always a little on the outside of various circles…sometimes absorbed but always the one to discard when the “real” circle members were around. And I still live on those borders, and what’s sad sometimes is I see my daughter now living there too. She’s sixteen, and has a handful of “good” friends that are great when no one better is available but tend to ditch her when something else comes along. And she’s too non-confrontational to do anything about it. She’s so me made over, it’s scary. And she’s a writer too…go figure. LOL!

  16. Sharla,
    How painful to watch your daughter go through what you went through! But at least you understand what she’s facing and how she’s handling it. Sounds like she is following in her mama’s footprints.

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