As I am now of a certain age, 34, I am well past the “high school” years, and can now reflect. I see many “teen” movies these days and they are FAR different than my high school experience ever was. I suppose that’s to be expected in some ways, for dramatic flair and such, but thinking back on those four, formative years of my life, it differs pretty greatly from the portrayal in films.
- I wasn’t cool or fashionable, but I was happy. I think we all WISH during that time to be “cooler” or “trendier” but in reality, I (mostly) felt ok with my “level” of popularity among the hierarchy. I was never consumed with being at the “top” of the pile and I loved my friends, as well as my extracurricular activities. Also – the “cool” scale seemed to be a LOT less intense. I genuinely don’t recall girls being ridiculous or unapproachable. There were some girls I didn’t WANT to be around, but that wasn’t because their inherent coolness just made me a puddle of nerves.
- As much as teen movies like to shit all over people for being in music, art or other activities outside of sports…that’s really far from my experience. I was in choir, show choir, german language course, golf and enjoyed them all. I was never ridiculed for it (perhaps just not to my face?) and some of my best memories came from those. ALSO many of the “cool” kids and “jocks” etc all came together and were in the choir as well. They were in the high school annual musicals and were pretty normal too.
- I don’t recall that many fist fights or cafeteria scenes of chaos. Even though my high school was small, we had “open” lunch where kids could leave campus to go get food, so the cafeteria wasn’t the utilized and I didn’t spend a ton of time there. I remember sitting there reading before class or something from time to time, but it wasn’t the “hub” of all social scenery like it’s portrayed in films.
- I wasn’t and I really don’t recall anyone else just grossly making out everywhere at school. In movies I see a lot of that, but I just think people were slightly more into just hand holding or even hugging, but not full on mouth kissing. I don’t think that was even allowed?
- Lockers. They are always so decorated in movies, but I really barely used mine. I don’t know if people maybe did decorate theirs and I just wasn’t aware, but I couldn’t even tell you where mine was, what it looked like or the combination to the lock.
- Obviously the stunning, older people that are typically cast in films to PLAY high school students are a far cry from what a typical high school student looks like. I appreciate Netflix attempting to make it slightly more reasonable, but still they look unrealistically beautiful. I wasn’t hideous, but I had my awkward periods.
- On that note, I wasn’t bullied or ridiculed – though I’m sure others were. I don’t recall blatant scenes of this happening to anyone around me, but I know there were some people who had moments that they probably carried with them into adulthood, because people don’t forget. Sucky as it is, some things can and will be a traumatic scar that we just have to deal with. Don’t get me wrong, I had my fair share of “moments” but all in sum, I think I had it pretty easy in comparison to others.
- I think one thing movies get right is the portrayal of the intensity of relationships. It’s hard for adults to understand the hormonal raging of teens – but DAMN those slow motion scenes are real. The nerves, the whole shit. Everything is a bit shinier and glossier in a movie, but those relationships can feel like the creation of a new universe or the shattering of the world. Teen angst might be (really) dramatic for people to deal with, but those high school friendships and romances can really tear your soul apart.
- Cliques were there – but in my experience, they were very open to cross over. You could be a skater, but still hang with the smart kids sometimes or party on the weekends with the goths. Maybe it is because of the small town side of my life, but everyone kind of hung out with everyone. Even if you WANTED to try and be SUPER exclusive and clique-ish, you would probably end up at a party in a barn or something, with everyone else from school because there was only one place to go.
- Lastly, I think the movies also try and help teach people that life goes on and high school is NOT the end of the world. I agree. I enjoyed my schooling, but MAN did my world bust open after I left home, went to college, joined the military and left the town I grew up in. I stepped into myself and stopped living in a box of obligation based on other people’s expectations.
I LOVE life! If I HAD to – yes – I would do that four years of my life again, but only if it was the only thing to keep my family from dying or the world from ending. If I had any other choice, I would probably take that option lol. I want to emphasize that it took me a LONG time to feel like I was in a good, stable, happy place, but learning along the way has been such a whirlwind, exciting experience. Don’t let ANY small snapshot in time define you or be the thing that ends you, whether that be 4 years of high school, a wrong relationship, or a boss. Everything ends eventually; YOU have the ability to shape your future and create your own joy.