I am an introvert, always have been. But when I was younger I was also painfully shy, unsure of myself and completely lacking in confidence. So imagine how much fun it was for me when my family moved from one town to another when I was going into 9th grade.

High school was the worst four years of my life.

Now I get that there are a lot of people who would say that high school sucked. I get that. But I can only speak of myself. I had very few friends, and they became my friends almost by accident.  I had nothing in common with them- they didn’t do anything I enjoyed.

So why didn’t I make friends that I shared interests with? Why didn’t I expand my friend group?

I’d like to blame it all on high school.  Don’t get me wrong: my new high school may have been the cliquiest place on earth. We moved from a solid, blue collar neighborhood with post war cookie cutter houses.  People parked their Chevies and Buicks in front of their houses where they did their own lawns. We moved to an upscale town, where people had gardens lovingly tended by matrons in knee pads and wide brimmed sun hats, and teams of paid lawn support. Mercedes and Lincoln were the names pulled into well lit garages. I was thrown into a world where I didn’t understand the language- where the old world had the Brooklynese dropped r’s, and my new neighbors had the Thurston and Lovie Howell Locust Valley lockjaw…

It would be easy to blame the whole thing on my surroundings.  But while that was definitely part of the problem, it was not the whole picture. See, when you don’t really like yourself, it’s hard to find friends. When you have no interests other than reading, it’s hard to find friends. I spent my lunch periods in the library, my nose buried in a book. I left school right after the final bell- there were no extracurriculars that I partook in. I did get a job when I was sixteen, and that was a lifeline of sorts. It’s at that job folding shirts and stacking jeans that I began to figure out who I was.

But back to the move. My Mom was not always the happiest person on earth. She had ideas- she had always wanted to live in a posh house in a zip code that was Long Island version of 90210 lite. She wanted the pretty house, but my Mom didn’t want the lifestyle that came with living in one of these communities. She wanted the beautiful décor, a house that made people say Wow. But she never had anyone over the house so that they could say Wow. She made exactly one friend in the twenty five years she lived in that house. My Father made zero- but honestly- he was working seven days a week to pay for that house in that nice suburb.

Let’s focus on my Mom for a second: A Mom is supposed to be their to support their child when their child is hurting. (remember the other day- a parent can’t be selfish) My parents bought a house that needed some reno. I’m pretty sure my Mother had a nervous breakdown during the renovation process. She had trouble with the contractor and the architect that she hired- I guess their vision was different from my Mother’s. But it doesn’t matter because my Mother was emotionally unavailable during that first year when I was in a new school.  I needed support, and no one was available to give it to me. I was floundering, and no one noticed. My father lost to his job, my Mother to herself.

Admittedly, floundering for me was being a sullen kid who didn’t study and didn’t do their homework. These were the days when if you had a little bit of natural intelligence you could get a B in school. I didn’t drink. I didn’t do drugs. I was not promiscuous. I did not break curfew because I barely went out. The police never escorted me home. I didn’t do anything self destructive. I was just unhappy. My Mother knew I was unhappy, but instead of helping me, she just told me it was my own fault. She would give me sound bites as to what to do, but as we all know, sound bites are style over substance. These little mottos and tough love were not what I needed. My Mom had been popular in High School- she had absolutely no idea how I wasn’t, nor did she know what my problem was. She armed me with expensive clothes because when she was younger that was all she wanted- a big walk in closet filled with clothes. So I had monogrammed crew neck sweaters in every color. I had ten Bermuda bag covers. But I had nothing else.

So how did these four torturous year known as High School affect me? Well, it made me decide that once I got to college I would make a concerted effort to make friends, real friends who I shared commonality with and that were good people and would like me. And we know, as I’m telling this story sort of backwards,  I did. When I sat in the French placement test my first week of college, and the pretty, perky brunette girl turned to me and said “Trois? What happened to deux?” I smiled and shrugged my shoulders and said “At least you know you missed one…” And that was the day I met A. Who would later introduce me to G and M…And we know that story hasn’t ended yet…

My other take aways: I didn’t know if I wanted to be a parent because I didn’t think I could handle having a child who was unhappy and not know how to help them. I made a conscious effort to make sure I did as much as possible to help my child navigate every stage of their life- a little tough love, a little understanding, a little communication.

This started my love of function over form. I live in a small apartment. I have furniture that meets our needs as a family: a desk to work at, a table to eat at, a sofa to sit on. I really don’t care much for décor or things like that. To me it’s not worth the brain space to create a perfect physical environment. I am never going to pillow chop. I am never going to arrange knick knacks on a coffee table. I saw what that did to my Mother. I will not let it happen to me. Sometimes you just do a 180.

I also made a promise that my daughter would not change schools in the middle of her tenure. of course, the way NYC public schools system is set up, my daughter has entered an entirely new school environment every time she moves up. When she went to middle school she only knew about twenty of the 480 kids who would make up her grade. But it was Ok, because she is a different person than I am. She might be an introvert, but she exudes confidence and authority and leadership. She walked into that building of strange faces and took control of her destiny.  Just like she did when she went to high school.  And exactly what she will do when she heads off to college.

I know that things happen, that you must adapt to a changing environment. As I’ve stated before, adapt or die. But adapting, change…not so easy. Arm your kids with what they need to be resilient. Arm yourself with tools that make you resilient. Because in the end, resilience is what matters most.

 

53 thoughts on “When You Don’t Have a Choice

  1. So true, being resilient is important. Teaching our children this is critical, because as you mentioned, life is not easy or fun, we go through challenges and when we do, we need to have the fortitude and strength to soldier on. In the end, if we are “focused” on being positive and want happiness, I believe we can have it, but it is not easy. It seems there are constant obstacles… 2019 – onward and upward!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad you made friends and found your way. It’s not easy. I hated high school even though I did not move after middle school. It was just too big and bureaucratic and prison-like compared to middle school. The cliques were all powerful. I am a Libra. I do not do cliques or prison. I quit school twice but graduated on time. Anyway, thanks for the interesting post into your past and present.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This whole post resonates with me because our stories are so similar. I hated high school and my grades suffered until I finally got my head straight. I did have friends, but they weren’t really true friends. I lacked confidence. Being raised by my grandparents (because my mom was too busy living her life) made many things harder, especially outside of academics. I feel like making friends in college was so much easier too. I don’t know if it’s because of the multiple age groups or that everyone is more mature, but college was just so much better. When I had children, I vowed to be the best mom I could. I feel like they’re so much better off than I ever was. The older children are confident and know who they are. At least I feel like I did something right by teaching them everything I wish I would’ve known, or maybe just got lucky. 😂

    Thanks for sharing such an honest post about yourself. It’s always hard to read, but in a way it’s comforting knowing that we got through our struggles and that we’re not alone. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 💗💗💗thank you! That’s the saving grace of stories like yours and mine…we survived to tell the tale. We are strong, and have raised strong children. And it shows that your story doesn’t have to stay the same. It’s about finding your inner power to get through to the next hurdle. Good for you!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your story is a poignant one. But it seems as if you have emerged on the other side of that difficult beginning with your sense of self intact, and your daughter has the benefit of your resilience. I think there are many of us for whom high school was torturous. In my instance – I am much older than you – I thought everyone else had “Leave it to Beaver” or “Ozzie and Harriet” households (see, I am dating myself by citing those TV shows) and that I was the only one living in a ransacked alcoholic family. Back in those days, alcoholism or drug addiction were dark, shameful secrets. People were not open about those problems. I am thankful every day for my boring, calm existence. By the way, I don’t care about possessions or decor either. I have to ask you: what is pillow chop?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Everyone has obstacles to overcome, and I think we forget that and group it into mine was worse than yours, etc. I think we need to realize that we all have demons that we overcame, and learn to treat one another with compassion. Everyone has stuff hidden away. And the pillow chop. I don’t like decorating, but I do like watching renovation shows. When someone stages a room, they take the sofa throw pillows and karate”chop”them in the center so they appear less stuffy. Yeah….I know….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Who knew? I am going to go straight into my living room and chop my pillow now. What does it say about me that I have only one throw pillow? But it won’t be about decorating. I may pretend to chop someone who is annoying me at the moment. 😉 Really enjoy your blog.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Such good advice. My family moved from a small town to a much larger one right before my senior year of high school. I had to fight for recognition as a good scholar every day because my small town A’s were looked down on in the new school. I had to convince counselors that I could handle their version of honors classes because the designations between school districts were different. It was a constant battle. And notice I said, “I” had to do all that. My parents weren’t too concerned about academics. As long as we were passing that was all that mattered. It still rankles that while my gpa was in the top 5 at my new school they wouldn’t acknowledge the achievement because I’d attended the school for less than 2 years. College gave me an opportunity to kick ass, though, and I was 4th in my graduating class, summa cum laude. Take that, Dumas High School! (You’d think I could forget all that 40 years down the line.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See, that’s the thing! We all have our incidents, the things that both propel us forward or hold us back. And sometimes they’re big, and sometimes they appear to be small, but at the end of the day you don’t know which details will be the ones that matter. And good for you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. High school doesn’t make us– but it can break us. I’m glad you found your bounce once you got out on your own. No doubt your lonely experiences, tempered by time, have made you a better mother. Not that it means you didn’t suffer, just that something good came from it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It is interesting to read. We take ourselves with us wherever we go. I can imagine based on my experience living in Manhattan for 4 years that it can be a lonely experience and that you rely on your contacts whoever they may be. I found moving to a city challenging and a place where no one knew my name both exciting and scary. I imagine it has become even more difficult to make good friends. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I was also an introvert. I had a core group of friends to do stuff with but still often felt very lonely. During my school years if I made friends they had to be friends that were from the “right side of the tracks” per however my parents defined that on a given day. I managed to befriend a girl whose parents were divorced, of course, so they never liked her very much.
    I still keep in touch with one of my friends from my growing up years.
    Teaching your kids to be resilient is important.
    My family moved when I was in second grade because of my dad’s job. The move exposed a lot of cracks in our family and was sort of a stumbling block for me, though I’m not really sure why.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Our youth is filled with obstacles because that’s just how life is. Sometimes adults think that kids are naturally resilient….and they’re not. They need to be taught how to be resilient….it’s all hard

      Liked by 1 person

  9. When I hear stories like yours I am so grateful for the stable upbringing I had. We moved from the city to the suburbs when I was almost 2 so I don’t remember that move and we lived in one place until I moved out at almost 22. I am introverted and only have one really close friend from high school but I do believe that my parents fostered self-confidence.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Isn’t it funny how these things shape us? I grew up in post war tracts as well until my parents were able to (felt pressured to) “give” us more and we moved to wealthy suburb of Maryland. Where we, consequently, had no idea how to handle ourselves and where anyone who didn’t represent diversity was blond. It took a long time to understand that we were not interchangeable with our surroundings. Adaptable to a point but…you can take the son of a blue-collar out of the hood, but…And that was what it took a while to realize. That my younger years had shaped me more than the new environment ever would. Nor did I want it to. It was very hard finding a place to “fit in”. College for me was so freeing, identity anarchy and I loved every minute of it. Sometimes I want to tell my students, just hang on a *few* more years…and you will know social freedom like never before. It’s a whole new world of finding and being whatever the hell you want and *no one* will give a damn because they’re all doing the exact same thing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s the thing…sometimes we’re forced into an environment that just doesn’t fit, and it’s hard to figure out what to do, or how to act. Often, as in my case, you end up miserable, even though your parents think they are doing the right thing. And yes!! College was the beginning of my path to freedom to confidence and everything I lacked!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I think it’s so great that you found a way to make your life better and your daughter’s, too! My highschool was rough because, like you, I was a shy book worm. (Imagine writers being shy bookworms? Weird! 🙂 ) Anyway, something I have tried super hard to do is to see my part in everything. If I was hurt in high school, it’s because I wasn’t a joiner or came in with my own insecurities. If someone didn’t pay attention to me or ignored me as a kid, I didn’t really have a part in that. But as an adult I have a part in not letting it go and living in my victim story. I am better than I used to be at that (it’s so much easier for me to blame and then get self-righteous.) But… when I start to look at hurt people who hurt me because they, too, were hurt, I can bring the God of my understanding in, have compassion, and let go. (Not always easy, but it’s helped me so much.) And, like you, I have uber confident kids who I know is because I did the hard work of not blaming and shaming. (Love your writing.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Getting over our childhood insecurities and hurts is incredibly different, but every day we try. No part of life is easy, and there is no clear path. We just tr6 to grow as best we can!

      Like

  12. Manhattan is a tough market to crack. I went there on my own in my 20’s and learned some things the hard way. Sometimes I got lucky but I think your daughter will appreciate one day the contacts she has from growing up in the City and her exposure to so many things.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a thoughtful and well written post, and if my site was not going through maintenance, theme swap, I’d respond there at some length. Briefly. Most adults are neither extroverts or introverts, but ambiverts. And resilience is inherently human. Not something taught, but it can be groomed and shaped. At least that was the general consensus in the orphanage and the many foster homes during my high school years. And fifty years later, I still speak with a few of those bookish, shy, and “introverted” young women that I was fortunate enough to have met during that long, long march.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the kind words. You’re right…resilience is probably somewhere deep inside us, but sometimes we don’t know how, or have the will to find it. We have to make a conscious decision to pull it out and make the most of what we have. Good luck with the maintenance….it’s a travail…..

      Like

  14. It’s so good that you can analyze how the experience affected you and how to get past it to make a better experience for yourself in college and later for your daughter. I loved the Thurstin and Lovie Howell line!

    I went to three high schools, all thousands of miles apart, so being an introvert was no help. Fortunately I had drama and band, which helped. My parents were not a help. My mother, too, was a very unhappy person.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It took a lot of taking a long hard look at my life and wanting to change. It’s only as Years have gone past that I’ve been able to connect the dots a little. But we’ve both persevered, so cheers to us

      Liked by 1 person

  15. My heart aches for you that you were lonely in high school. I never thought about loneliness, because I had a small group of friends that had been together since about third grade. What a lovely cushion that was for all of us!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thanks for your honesty. A lot of people try to rewrite history, particularly from high school. I don’t think those years are easy for anyone – my so-called best friend invited a guy I was seeing to our high school prom. It was horrendous. Anyway, we all learn and endure in spite of it. I was adamant that I wanted my kids to attend public school because I attended private high school and felt cut off from my neighborhood friends. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I think we need to look at ourselves as honestly as possible because that’s the only way we grow. It’s tough though, taking a long hard look in the mirror and doing what it takes to change

      Liked by 1 person

  17. That was a well-written post! Those descriptions are priceless and book worthy! The first year of high school was horrible for me. I knew no one in my home room (I got put with a bunch of business/secretarial students as I had signed up for typing for my one elective, thinking it might be useful when I became a journalist, but the rest of my courses were arts and science. They were silly giggling airheads I had nothing in common with, but I can now type very fast). And try being the only kid from the country in a preppy Catholic school. We wore uniforms but monthly dress up day was like a Seventeen magazine competition. I could never stay for after school extra-curriculars as I had to catch the bus home – an hour and a half bus ride, where I diligently did my homework, so I developed excellent study habits which proved useful in university. I finally found a small group of friends, but I really wish I had gone to the country non-catholic high school in the nearest town. I loved university however – small town girl set loose in downtown Toronto. I lived with the same four friends I met in residence first year and still keep in touch with two of them. It’s funny how our formative years shape us. I still remember how lonely I felt going from class to class knowing no-one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think many have developed false expectations that life is always rosy. They forget that it’s the pursuit of happiness. No one ever said the pursuit was a smooth road

      Liked by 1 person

  18. My family moved when I was in 9th grade . . . all the way across town. The way I carried on, you would have thought we’d moved to another country! It was a similar situation to yours, moving from a typical neighborhood of ranch houses in the 60’s to a golf course community where my grandparents lived. When I started at my new high school, I knew exactly one person, he was a dishwasher at the bakery where I worked on Saturdays. The worst thing was that I had to attend the rival high school in town, unaffectionately known as “red-neck tech”. My saving grace was that I was in band so I did have a group of friends, even though I was an introvert. I think it is interesting that the people I became friends with in High School were the ones, who because of zoning, ended up at a school different from most of their friends. The kids who had been in school together since kindergarten kind of stuck together.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s