I have been wracking my brains and for the life of me, I can’t remember my first day of high school. I don’t even remember what outfit I wore, just that everything was newly purchased and I felt like I looked really good. It was 1997 – no one looked good, let alone really good. Still, there’s just something special about the sort of confidence I got on days when I felt good about a well-composed outfit in those days. There was an invincibility about it, as if the right top and bottom pairing was a magical armor against haters.
It being the first day of school, I must have had a crisp, clean new bag filled with crisp, clean new notebooks, three ring binders, fresh paper, dividers, pens, pencils and a flimsy little calculator that I had yet to find out would have to be upgraded to a TI-83. A few weeks into the year my backpack would become a war zone, the first casualty of which was inevitably a three ring binder. I honestly don’t know what I did or how I did it, but no matter how hard I tried, things would wrinkle or tear or leak or break. I’m pretty sure the inside of my backpack was an evil genius on a mission to keep me constantly on the verge of an aneurism.
As the day wore on I accumulated textbooks. Each new class brought with it a new hardcover chunk of lead. And by “new” I mean “decade old outdated textbook filled with the notes and doodles of everyone who’s ever owned it.” Thanks, California public school system! Still, there was a novelty to new textbooks. For about a day. Then it got old and I wanted to go back to reading fiction. Even reading ahead in class lost its luster.
The only part of my first day of high school that I remember clearly is lunch. That sweet stretch of precious free time, filled with sandwiches and de-stressing with friends. When I found my small pack of pals I was impressed to find that everyone except me had picked up a few people, and suddenly there were twenty of us eating lunch together. It felt so legit! For about a week, then I realized that most of the new girls were kind of annoying.
In fact, most of my old friends were annoying too. It took about six months for my then best friend and I to officially part ways, but the groundwork was laid in that first week. Somewhere there’s common ground between independence from parents and from friends when you’re 14. The freedom that rebellion gives and the empowerment that big decisions bring are irreplaceable. Also it’s a relief to eject someone who’s become irritating from your life. There are so many changes in high school, and everyone goes in different directions. I’m not saying be mean to your friends, just do what you need to do.
I went home that day feeling mostly relieved. There were a lot of familiar faces from middle school in my classes, and the older students couldn’t be bothered with freshmen so I could be invisible at whim. Since the class schedule was daily, the basic structure of my days had been laid out so the only task was to try not to get bored with it too quickly. I had chosen seats with friends in each class so I could do everything in my power to avoid getting an education and focus on important things, like note-passing and that game where you draw a grid of dots and connect them one at a time between players. Finally, I got home and slung myself across the couch with a snack the same way I had done all through middle school. It’s the small things.