‘If you really knew me’ is a powerful television series on MTV. It takes concepts and ideas from another favourite show of mine, True Life, and adapt it to teens in high school dealing with the pressures of life compacted into one life changing day. Students from different ages and cliques within the school gather for one day called ‘Challenge day’ where they look to challenge the way they perceive each other and themselves. Through various activities, both fun and personal, they reveal to their peers, many of whom they’ve walked with in school for almost a decade, and confess for the first time who they really are. Some topics that come up are depression, suicide, family issues, racism, bullying, foul language and the overall segregation that high schools face every day. They challenge themselves and each other to be above such hurtful issues and instead, be supportive of one another as they begin to realize, they’re not as different from each other as they might have originally thought.
I question the shows overall ability to support real change but admire it nonetheless. Everything starts somewhere. I suppose I could claim, for what its worth, that I was one of the luckier ones. High school was never some place I hated. I never saw it as overly cliquey and impossible to get through but that was probably just me. I’m sure everyone’s experience was different. I suffered highs and lows like everyone else, sat at the higher end of the social ladder but also knew was it was like to sit basically at the bottom.
I went to two different high schools and experienced two different positions.
Looking back on my first high school, I remember always being surrounded by loving friends. I met so many wonderful and amazing people, some of whom I still manage to call friends today. I was never labelled as anything negative and if something bad was ever said about me…well it never made it to my ears so I didn’t let it phase me. I was far more outgoing that I ever was in elementary and for once I met people that I felt I belonged to. I’d like to think that I wasn’t part of any clique. There were definitely people in school that you knew were of a ‘cooler’ status that others. Band people normally hung out together, arts students down in the basement, hall walkers doing their laps in the halls, frenchies down in the french department, I suppose I belonged to those people at one point or another. I remember being a freshman and seeing the seniors and being fairly intimidated but the way the school ran, you could avoid them. I think if anything, your year as opposed to your personal ‘clique’ is what made you stand out more. You could definitely tell who was a senior and who was a freshman.
I may not remember everyone’s names anymore nor would they really remember mine but whenever I do see a familiar face in the street from my first high school, I’m not afraid to smile. I don’t think I really left there with bad terms.
In my second high school, I was all about getting the right grades. It wasn’t about making friends for me and I think that’s when I began to shut down. I would hope I wasn’t made fun of. At best anyone could really say was that I was too quiet and too focused on school. I was far from popular and normally spent my time alone, a far cry from the numerous friends who surrounded me and my locker during lunch time in my first high school. I made a few good friends but nothing long lasting. I often wonder what it would have been like to have finished in my first high school. Maybe there my name would have resounded more.
I was never really a victim of bullying in high school nor do I think I did so unto anyone else (if I did, I am deeply sorry). I will admit to treating freshmen pretty badly when I was a senior. I would often roll my eyes are their ‘stupid’ remarks, push them if they got in my way, ordered them around, talked behind their backs and in general just made fun of them. It’s just the senior thing to do but I forgot that I was once a freshman too and those things were never pleasant to endure myself. Freshmen have enough crap to deal with trying to transition than to deal with the stupid things that their older peers put them through. Most awful thing is freshman hazing. Now that I don’t support at all. That kind of nonsense needs to stop. Violence is taking it to a whole new level, one that shouldn’t be reached.
High school is tough enough. We often forget that we have real lives outside of the social ones we lead in school. Yes we spend a lot of time together but look now, those 4 years are gone and if I choose never to see a single person from there again, I can do so. Family drama, mental or physical issues…those things don’t just go away with the handing of a diploma. Self esteeem, confidence, happiness, those are effected far longer into our lives and yet are often subjected to the deepest cruelty in high school.
One of my favourite quote is ‘Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.’ It reigns true every day but most especially in high school. Simple words or small gestures can impact the life of someone drastically both in good or in bad without you even giving a second thought to what you just did. Your small action may be forgotten tomorrow but might be imprinted on someone’s memory forever.
Don’t be afraid to be who you are but also be the best version of yourself. High school dynamics may never be fixed. Prom queens and football stars may still reign over the loners and nerds but you don’t need to encourage it further. Be the change you want to see in the world. And when you have those super low days…just remember that high school isn’t forever.
P.S. If you really knew me…
you’d know that my past goes deeper and darker than any of you may have originally guessed.
you’d know that I’ve only entrusted the full story to one other person for fear of lack of understanding from others, changed opinions, and general vulnerability.
you’d know that I hurt…almost all the time