High School Daze

High School Daze

High School Daze

By Karen Harmon

“What I remember most about high school are the memories I created with my friends.”

When I think back to my high school days, instead of remembering that academic aspect of getting an education, my thoughts unravel to such things as…crushes I had on boys, my loathing of P.E. class, and the math homework I never did; the dreaded and worrisome pimples that came out of nowhere, and the removal of my wisdom teeth; the times I forgot my locker combination and my gym strip. Not to mention all the latest fashion trends I did not own, and the whole while, longing to be cooler. 

On the outside, I was carefree and fun. I proudly held the nicknames smiley and motor mouth. However, sometimes I was curled up inside myself, living in my own personal turmoil. I thought everyone was prettier, smarter, thinner, and funnier, and the students who smoked on the street corner outside my school were the coolest. Those who partied and slept around were out of my league. I was far too shy and insecure to join the ranks of those cool people.

If it could be any worse, some of these memories are wrapped up and tightly coiled with feelings of mortification and embarrassment. However, much acceptance and unraveling has taken place. Most of the hard bits have been smoothed out.

Besides, what IS cool anyway?

The proper definition of cool is moderately cold; neither warm nor cold; a relatively cool evening. Of course, the slang meaning is what I am talking about here—Cool: Okay, cool! I’ll be there at 10:00, OR He got the job? So cool! And my favourite, Fonzie from Happy Days, was so cool! 

Meanwhile, we know our perception of what WAS or IS cool changes with age. Especially when we become parents or health nuts and more conscious about our minds, bodies, and the world around us. In other words, our older and wiser self has common sense and acquired life lessons.

Sometimes…

 Living with past regrets mixed in with that nostalgia might cause us to wish for a do-over. Or maybe we have closed that door and have no desire to turn back the hands of time whatsoever.

So…

What would you do differently if you could go back to school as the person you are now?

As for me, if I could go back in time to high school as the person I am now, I would join the drama class, debate team, and student council. I’d raise my hand to answer questions instead of averting my eyes from the teacher’s gaze. I would take more interest in learning. And I would speak to the boys I used to be intimidated by. In addition, instead of staying home to watch episodes of The Waltons, I would go to all the dances and parties and be the belle of the ball!

I love those movies where the character travels back in time or has an assignment where they go back to high school…kind of like a do-over. 

Hopefully, we have learned from our mistakes and forgiven those who have wronged us. But, just as importantly, we treasure the good memories, walking the halls with our friends and the shared laughter, hopes, and dreams of the day we would be released from the institution that kept us hostage. 

And yet, something about our teenage years, high school and everything that went with it, had a significant impact on our lives. We still talk about those five years of secondary school, even thirty and forty years later. Like they were the good ole days.

But were they really?

And then, like the flick of a switch, we became who we are now. 

Currently, during the day and early evening, I wear many hats. Aside from being a writer, course facilitator, and fitness instructor, I also work in a high school as an Education Assistant.

I thoroughly enjoy the jobs and skills I have acquired. I like what I do and do what I like.

However, retiring sounds incredibly appealing, and when the time comes, I look forward to a less structured routine day in and day out. 

With that being said, I know I will continue to do things. I would like, God willing, to continue teaching fitness until my last breath. It may look different but still completely doable. In addition, I will want to write more, and I am looking forward to having more time for cooking.

But before my future happens, there is still the present. 

Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., I work with a Grade 9 student at a high school. I can honestly say the best part of my job is helping others and reliving my high school days.

You know that old saying, “Beauty is wasted on the youth.” I would like to add that sometimes high school is wasted on the youth too. 

Let me explain…

When I walk down the hallways at my school, I see so many students that might have been my friends many years ago. Except they are different—they seem more inclusive, friendlier and wiser. I do love my job. I participate in chemistry experiments, English writing assignments, and history lessons I have long since forgotten. Yet, I feel privileged to experience a new curriculum. Now the students study the environment, are taught critical thinking, and there is a big emphasis on human rights, work experience, life skills, and managing a cheque book. In addition to sports in P.E., there are other options, including dance, yoga, aerobics, hiking, and weightlifting. 

Please keep in mind that no matter how insightful or intuitive I think I am, I cannot read people’s minds or know what is going on in their hearts. When working with youth, my goal is to be a beacon of hope, making myself as approachable as possible, regardless of what I hear in the news or see on social media. Or maybe it’s because of?

I promise you there is a lot of positivity too!

Being a part of a high school environment, I have learned much about myself. As an adult, I now know I WAS cool but in a completely different way from the peers I wanted to emulate. I also know I was loved and raised to do the same. Unfortunately, many did not have this element growing up. It’s a known fact that parents struggle too.

My teenage years were spent living on a hobby farm in Stave Falls. I had a horse named Cricket and sold farm fresh eggs to the neighbours. We went to horse auctions on the weekends, participated in mini rodeos, and attended many movies. My friends and I cruised the strip in Maple Ridge, Mission, and Abbotsford. Gas was cheaper back then! I had a best friend whose family owned a trailer at Birch Bay, so she and I cruised the strip there too.

The fifty acres my parents owned were complete with three man-made ponds stocked with rainbow trout, rope swings, a diving board, and rafts. The natural springs filled the watering holes in the fall and winter and warmed them in the spring and summer. Therefore, we swam for a significant portion of the year and ice skated for a smaller portion.

Don’t get me wrong, I was not always a goody two shoes! I was a late bloomer and participated in the drinking scene when I was older. I will save that for another blog! Or please read my book Where is My Happy Ending? – A Journey of No Regrets for heartwarming stories, heart-wrenching moments, and relatable memories of the 1970s and 1980s.

Forgive me. I digress!

Today at the high school where I work, my student and I were in her Grade 9 cooking class. The lab was pizza dough and Naan bread. As you know, both products are made with yeast.

As I scurried about helping the teacher, my student, and various others; with measuring, mixing, kneading, and cleaning up afterwards, I was reminded of this…

In the 1960s, my mother went through a bread-making phase. I call it a phase because she was bipolar, so her plans, schemes, and ideas were sometimes seasonal, if not a little up and down.

Side note: aside from her mental health issues, she was a wonderful mother, and I loved her dearly and still do. Healing from past hurts helped me to figure this out. I have also learned that her mood swings have made me an empathetic, open-minded person who tries to see past people’s struggles and sometimes unhealthy behaviour.

ANYWAY…

Be that as it may, from when I was in Grade 2 until about Grade 6, my mother went through a bread-making phase.

Today while watching the teacher demonstrate the process of making bread to the Grade 9 students,  I realized I had never made bread before.

I allowed myself a brief time away mentally from the task at hand to remember my mother and her bread-making. I was filled with wonderful memories of coming home after school to the smell of freshly baked bread being pulled from the oven. I swear I could smell it a block away. She was pretty adamant about giving it time to cool or rest or whatever needed to happen…and then, when the time was right, we were allowed to have a warm thick slice with butter and homemade strawberry freezer jam. With it was a cold glass of milk. Its thick creamy goodness went well with the fluffy white dough. 

Sometimes I would sit at the kitchen table, savouring the chewy delicacy. Other times, I would go outside and sit on our rope swing that hung down between two enormous cedar trees. My fingers would be sticky from the jam or dripping butter—usually both.

It was the sixties, and that’s how we rolled!

Remembering this moment lost in time, I am so happy I recalled it today. And then I allowed myself to think further…

Did my mother plan to have the bread come out of the oven precisely when I walked in the door from school? Or was it a haphazard accident? Did she think that morning, Oh, I better make a fresh batch of freezer jam to go with the bread I am making for Karen. Perhaps she made homemade bread to save money. Or maybe she was thinking of HER mother and how things were done in the 1930s. And what did she think when she decided not to make bread anymore?

Summing up

I go to my school job daily as an adult, and I often compare the year 2022 to my teen years in the 1970s. I can honestly say that even though there are still many struggles for teenagers, ALL the young people I meet during my day are so COOL! So many of them have a better awareness of health and fitness, the environment and the world around us. The teachers are inclusive and kind, encouraging and open to how all minds work. There is safety and respect from teachers, counsellors, and education assistants like me.

All in all, my experiences are good. My memories are fun and humorous and sometimes a little sad. I relish them all.

Now, what about you? I would love to hear your thoughts and some of your memories. Maybe they are very different from mine? Perhaps my blog calmed your fears, made you smile, or gave you a moment to go back in time. Please share if you feel inclined to do so.

P.S. As of this date, I am currently working on my fourth book and halfway through a fiction manuscript called CLASS of ’78. I am sure you can imagine what it will be about. I will keep you posted!


14 Replies to “High School Daze”

  1. Thank-you for this wonderful look back on high school days. It brought back a lot of memories of high school friends, the laughter, the tears. Those special times and hard times molded us into who we have become today.
    The memories of our Mom’s having fresh baking ready after school. My Mom always had fresh baked cookies or Rice Krispie squares. The special moments we will carry on in our memories of days gone by.
    The special memories made at the Beach every summer, the freedom to roam was different back then too. Crazy, fun times, summer Loves and Heart Breaks.
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  2. Thank you, Lee-Ann, for your response! And you brought back a few memories for me! RICE KRISPIE SQUARES! I loved them and still do! We shared a lot of fun times and a few not-so-fun. I would not change a thing. I am so glad you enjoyed my Blog. 🙂

  3. Hi Karen, I LOVED your blog – its perfect and its wonderful to know that you and probably others had the same kinds of feelings as I did in high school. I shared a similar up bringing, on a 30 acre hobby farm – horses, a couple of cows (that had a knack of endlessly escaping the fence right before we left for school!) lol We also had dogs that ran wild but always came home – We were only 2 miles from down town, and I spent many Saturdays with my cousin, riding horses all over town…. only rule…. be home before dark! 🙂 Altho my high school years had some difficulties, I took many friendships with me throughout my life. And wouldn’t give them up for anything… (Facebook has made those friendships so much stronger). As I read your blog I think we could have possibly been much better friends as we had much in common. I do always remember your beautiful smile tho!! And I also shared the nick name of motor-mouth although that was mostly at home! 😉 Most memories are good…. thanks for reminding me… I look forward to reading more from you in the future!!

    1. Oh my goodness, Jodi! I love your response, and I can’t help but feel a little sad we were not closer friends. But, at least we knew of each other, and I know we were pleasant if the opportunity arose. Thank you so much for sharing your memories! Your childhood home sounds incredible! 🙂 xo

  4. Just reading your blog today seems ironic that I just made cinnamon buns today !! My mom also made bread which was ready when we got home from school and she made strawberry jam. I didn’t know you much in school but sounds like we had some things in common ,, like living on a farm and having horses,, I would show my pony at the mission horse club which is now the skating rink and skateboard park. I still live in Mission and so do my two sons and two grandsons. I had fun the first two years in high school and I was one of the girls smoking on the corner and partying on the weekends but most of my friends moved or dropped out and I felt alone thru grade 10-12,, and I wish also I could be more of what I am today back then,, I failed English 11 with mrs Pearce and hated to retake it but managed to graduate,, was never good at English so don’t judge my writing to you lol I love your writing and hoping to read your books soon,, I do remember your beautiful smile 😊

    1. Hi Kelly! I love all these responses and yours especially! Thank you so much for sharing. Isn’t it interesting who we have all become? And how much in common we had back then. Thinking back, I knew your name and knew of you, and if we had ended up in the same room, we would have totally meshed and enjoyed each other’s company. I am sure I would have had you on a pedestal as one of the cool kids. And now I know we all had struggles, highs, lows and fun. Congratulations on your two grandchildren! How wonderful! I do not have any YET, LOL, but I hope to someday. If at any time you would like to read any of my books, I think you might enjoy my second book the most. Where is My Happy Ending?

  5. Loved reading this. You ask what would we do differently in high school as the person we are now? I don’t think I’d change very much (except my name LOL). The positive memories of my youth from ’73-’78 have stayed with me to this day. I loved my friends and always seemed to be able to engage with a variety of different clicks. As someone with a visible disability, I did have my moments of self-doubt, sadness, bullying, and a feeling of ugliness, (remember the song “At 17?” Some days I really had to force myself to get up and go to school. Based on the negative experiences, I decided not to get married or have children. I realize now that these decisions should not have been made at such an early age.

    If I was in high school as the person I am today, I would take more of an interest in some of the subjects that I now find fascinating – English lit, history, and so on. I would hug more. I would look at people in the eyes more, especially the quiet or ‘different’ ones. I would not be a class clown as much albeit its hard to supress my funny bone. I would stand up for myself more when my personal boundaries are infringed by students OR teachers with temperament problems. I would worry less about “me” and “my look” and be so much more relaxed. I would be open to romance versus just being everyone’s friend; I really didn’t like being a third-wheel most weekends. I would flirt more, wink more, and go after the boy that got away.

    I am so very grateful for my time in Mission and my high school days. I am connected with many to this day. I am sentimental and nostalgic; I cannot WAIT to read “Class of ’78.” Sending love and light to you, Karen. <3

    1. THANK YOU SO MUCH, Lauren! Ironically I am at my high school job as I read your response. I remember you so well, and yes, you were a friend to all. The picture in my mind is crystal clear. I love your recollections, openness and honesty. I am honoured to know you; even though we were not close, I know we could have been xoxoxo

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog this morning Karen, thanks for that. I think your Mom did plan to have her homemade bread ready when you came home from school!
    I loved my high school years and have many fond memories from those days and many of my best friendships to this day started back then. ❤️
    I’m very much looking forward to your 4th book, I couldn’t put the 1st 3 down, such great stories and your writing style just keeps me wanting to read”just one more chapter” lol

  7. You write such beautiful reflections! I especially love what you wrote about your mom – and about how healing from past hurts made you understand how much you love her ! I like too that you seem to be ok not to know the answer about why the fresh bread came out at 3pm – although probably subconsciously from your mom’s end it may have had something to do with you – including perhaps her bread making phase coinciding with when kids appreciate it most (she must have been trying on some level). Reading made me travel back to my own memories and compare my experiences to yours (as a teen and now through the eyes of an adult) and my own daughters in high school right now. What comes up for me are the mixed emotions during high school moments and thinking back to it now both with longing and also awareness of the struggles. I wonder if any of us considered themselves the “cool kids” ?- it’s almost as if teen years are synonymous with feeling somewhat inadequate! 😀 What comes to my mind also when looking back at my high school years was my innocence – I saw life so simply and thought anything could be accomplished with love. I was full of ideals and hopes. I guess it makes me sad to remember my innocent happiness as I did not know yet all the suffering life had in store for me – and the big learning curve ahead of me (but don’t worry, I didn’t lose my value of love!)I think high school kids nowadays are more “psychologically prepared/advanced”. You are right, their curriculum is so much more vast with very applicable and inclusive knowledge and they are encouraged to explore issues, talk about feelings (both at school and at home) and I feel (from what I see with my girls and their friends) that they are better prepared for the complexity of life. They seem very wise for their ages. I love how you appreciate our youth and the places of reflection working with them takes you to. How lucky they are to have you help them navigate the delicate teen years!

    1. Thank you Sabina, my favourite part about the comments is that people appreciate so many different aspects of my Blog. I am so glad you shared yours with me! 🥰

  8. I love this! Thank you for sharing and for stirring up some memories in my brain. One of my faves is coming home from school to freshly baked bread as well. High school memories are a real mixed bag. Fun in some ways, hard in other ways. Like you, if I could go back, I’d join clubs and get more involved. I’d definitely apply myself more to learning, and connecting with other students. I stayed in my small group and didn’t venture very far. I went to a lot of movies too. Back then (I was in high school in the 80’s) we had a movie theatre in Maple Ridge. I loved going to the movies with my friends. I saw all the best movies there, like Back to the Future, ET, Pretty In Pink, and the list goes on and on. I also dated a boy who worked at the theatre. He rode a motorcycle. I was 16 (too young to be on the back of a 19 year old’s motorcycle). I actually wrote a blog post about it haha. Anyway, obviously your post did what you set out to do – spur memories in the minds of your readers. Bravo! You did it. Thanks for sharing! I love your writing! I absolutely loved your 3 books and will wait as patiently as I can for your next one. xo

    1. Thank you Nadine, I love knowing that every comment here we all say how much more inclusive we would be or involved. How we all have fond memories and regrets. I have read your Blog about your movie theatre motorcycle riding boyfriend and I love it! Especially since nostalgia is one of my favourite things. Thank you so much for sharing! 🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰

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