I drove to the mall today. Granted, I did this frequently over the winter break, as I worked there, but today I actually walked around and looked at things. I bought some teacher clothes - including a cardigan - and a little black dress. Driving there, the whole "going to the mall," all felt very high school. Entertainment options in my neck of the woods are few, and the mall was one of them. And driving by myself reminded me a lot of going to and from school, practice, rehearsal, etc.
My "high school experience" was really not terrible. I certainly wouldn't call those four years the best of my life, and I'd definitely make different choices knowing what I know now. But I had some really incredible friends for whom I still care deeply. I was odd, sure. My high school didn't have the well-defined social groups a la Mean Girls or The O.C. I played volleyball, but I wasn't really a jock. I was in the drama club, but I wasn't a theater geek, either. My academics probably defined me to the greatest extent. I was smart, and my mother always told me not to hide it. She failed to mention that a) sometimes you come off like a snoot and b) you will scare boys like nothing else. I was pretty okay with the latter; not so much with the former. I could sit at a bunch of different lunch tables and not cause a ruckus. However, I really, really, really do not want to go back. There was so much crap to deal with, so much petty silliness to go through. The teachers gave as much as my fellow students. We were all so worked up over four years - in the long run, that's an eyeblink.
I was talking to my mother and asked, "Why did I put up with all that bullshit?"
"Because you were sixteen and didn't know any better. Because you weren't twenty-two and you weren't who you are now."
I'm thankful for that. I'm not a tiger by any means, but I'm much more confident than I used to be. As much as the mall today felt like high school, it's a good thing I'm not there now - I'd probably be expelled for speaking my mind.