My high school is in the news this week for tragic reasons. More on that later, but I've been wanting to write about my high school memories for a while. A few days ago, I shared about how exhilarating graduation was for me. High school was honestly just as awesome.
Our school split into a 9th grade center and an upper school a few miles away. I had the luxury of living right across the street from the 9th grade center. Like, literally. I crossed the street and was at school. This was a super cool luxury, but something that probably caused me to miss 25% of my freshmen year. I had a massive crush on a lacrosse player and used to sit on my front porch drooling over him and giggling when he would wave at me from practice. Hilarious. Often I'd walk off school and go home for lunch, for breaks, or mosey my way into class later in the morning because I felt like it. Looking back, obviously this was so bad but my poor mom was newly divorced and probably didn't know what the heck to do. My dad, was in his own selfish world. But, I was honestly a good kid. I never partied, never did drugs, never snuck out, and didn't sleep around. I may have not gotten the best of grades, but I did okay. During 9th grade, I joined the basketball cheerleading team. I was too cool to actually show off my skills on the basketball team, and yes I was good back then. Being a girl and playing sports wasn't a cool thing to do at the time. I remember always getting called into the principals office for my shorts being too short. My mom would get frustrated with the school, trying to explain to them how hard it was for a long legged, tall, skinny girl to find shorts of proper length. Could anyone else relate? This was one of the most frustrating things for me at the time. I literally couldn't find anything to fit right.
My sophomore year, was the start of it all. I'd consider myself to be in the group of the semi-popular ones. You had your ultra crazy popular kids whose moms and dads drove brand new BMW's and Mercedes, your semi-popular kids who came from good middle class families and were somewhat known in the community, and your unpopular and loner kids. The different ones. Sad that it's how we looked on it back then. Popularity had so much worth. I think that's clearly what's wrong with bullying today. Anyway, I digress. This was the year I met J and eventually had my first boyfriend in A. I got on the deans good side thanks to a drivers ed class I took over the summer that he taught. This meant excuses to skip class, getting detention and having it ripped up, and a place to hide out for lunch. Oh yeah and when it came time to drive, that meant leaving campus super early or even leaving for lunch. My friends and I became besties with the gate guard and loved when he'd just wave us on through while others behind us got in trouble for trying to leave. I was so lucky. I had it so good in high school. I think this is why I enjoyed it so much. I was hardly ever there! LOL.
Then, tragedy struck.
On September 27th, 2000 (I'll never forget the date) a friend committed suicide. Admittedly, I wasn't as close to him as most but his death affected me in such a profound way. You can read more about Christopher Joseph Gangwisch here. Please do. It rocked our school. His brother Brad was an upperclassmen, a senior at the time. Chris was on the football team, dating a cheerleader, and a popular guy with a big smile and even bigger heart. I didn't want to be alone. I was so sad. My mom drove me to school that morning with a friend. We walked into school and everyone was just silent. We gathered around the flag pole in shock and prayed. We walked by his locker and wept. We wrote messages on it, slipped notes inside, and left flowers. I remember walking through the halls, catching someones eyes, and just being overcome with emotion. It was awful. I had class with him that year and seeing that empty seat just about did me in. They called in counselors for days. The first day, a group of us just had to leave. We couldn't take it. His funeral was something hard to put into words. Probably the most *awesome* I have been to, if there is such a thing. Standing room only. Everyone stood up and shared incredible memories. The procession to the burial was miles and miles long. He was so loved. I visited his grave often for several years after he died. Even into college. Then things kinda got weird between the family and I, and I stopped. Nothing really bad, it was just obvious they hadn't processed their grief in even a minuscule way. It just became kinda awkward. Eventually, I'd patch things up with his bro and spent a few good times with him, before he got married and kinda fell off the planet. None the less, his death impacted me like none other. Sadly, just a few months later I'd lose someone else close to me to suicide. Jay. The reason I named M&I's baby Jayden and why the letter J continues to be something I'm stuck on. Oh, and I forgot to mention...Chris was one of my ex husbands very best friends since childhood. It was nice being married to someone who remembered him for all the good times.
The rest of high school was kinda a blur. Good times. Still with the same boyfriend, breaking up and getting back together at least twice a month. Lots of trips to the beach. LOTS of trips to the beach. I barely passed, which is why graduation is an event I am so thankful for. I can't believe I thought that little of my educational foundation. One thing I wish I could do over again. Regardless, I look back on my time in high school and I smile. I wouldn't be the person I am today without going there. I'm so thankful God worked in a way that took me from private school and put me into public. Something my parents vowed would NEVER happen. I adored private school don't get me wrong and would have loved to have graduated from there, but it wasn't part of my plan. I would have never met J. I would have never met his sisters. I wouldn't have as much appreciation for things as I do today. I might not know the extreme value of life.
I mentioned earlier that my high school was in the news. Two WPHS students bodies were found on fire and charred on a popular jogging and biking trail near the school. WP is a city/town of goody two shoes, rainbows and sunshine. Nothing bad ever happens here, or so they like to portray. It does and drugs were a HUGE player back then and I can only imagine they are still bad now. Too many rich kids with mommy and daddies money and parents who are too busy with their big bank accounts to care. Anyway, tonight there are two families in pain. One of them, I knew. One of the guys dads worked with my mom and I met him on many, many occasions growing up. A good man with immense respect and care. I can't imagine the pain he is going through knowing what happened to his son. Please keep them in your prayers. If you want to read about the story, click here.