High school, for the most part, is not at all like what the movies would have you believe. For this, I am eternally grateful.
The differences between the real and the reel are not hard to pick out. Not once in my high school career did I participate in a spontaneous musical number that involved, quite rebelliously, both the closet cellists and the basketball stars. What a choreographic nightmare that would have been. Not once was I ever harassed, or even aware, of the bible club. Not once, thankfully, did any of my friends or my enemies (even more thankfully) turn into a werewolf. All jokes and musical numbers aside, there is one characteristic of those harrowing high schools to which I, thankfully, could never relate. From High School Musical to The Breakfast Club, all television and cinema depictions of life in high school are built around assumptions and, consequently, social cliques. It would appear that the interactions within and between cliques is an integral part of any high school experience – but for mine it was not.
People got along fairly well in my high school. Social boundaries that may have defined the lines in other schools were, although not invisible, easy to circumvent. In the midst of all the other ridiculous things that occur during those times, it seemed as if no one had time for cliques – they were often pushed aside.
For a while, I took pride in this. When I met people from other towns, I would discover how lucky I was to be able to sit comfortably at lunch with whomever I desired. I learned through a girl from North Carolina that the unwritten rules of other schools were consistent with those of the movies, and that in her school, as in many others, fissures formed. They separated students who could have gotten along: dividing athletes from musicians from academics, and appallingly creating a cleavage between students of differing social class. After hearing of a few other high school horror stories to the same, cliquey extent, I felt far from all of it. I told myself, with an introverted confidence, that I would never be one who was sensitive to social boundaries and the assumptions about others which create them. It simply wasn’t me.
It is all too easy to tell ourselves things – to brush our insecurities aside – in order to ease our fear of what the truth may be.
That truth came into the light of my inward vision within my first few days in college. My roommate, with whom I had conversed sparsely for a week or two, seemed like a good guy. I get along with most people, so there was little doubt in my mind that he and I would be perfectly alright for nine measly months. Sure enough, after a few hours, we discovered some uncanny similarities. Our senses of humor, along with our feelings toward dirty laundry, the finest microwavable cuisine, and a plethora of other college-kid topics, were increasingly more the same than they were different. I liked my roommate – he could have fit right in with my friend group back home. But, for reasons that I at first did not understand, I felt a sensation of surprise that he and I had connected past a head nod in the hallway at all.
As I went to bed that night, I began to understand why my roommate’s friendliness caught me off guard. Remembering a conversation of ours prior to actually meeting him, I had an embarrassing epiphany – one that I could not believe I was having. Weeks ago, my roommate told me that he was preparing for football camp. Subconscious as they were, assumptions had clearly been made by me about my roommate before I had known him in the slightest. In an awkward moment, I realized that I was not above the clique culture: my assumptions were perpetuating the very thing that had disgusted me throughout high school.
I was channeling my inner Ashley Tisdale. It had to stop. The fact that there was, apparently, an Ashley Tisdale within me at all was an urgent and uneasy warning.
So here we are with this story of mine. The setting, the conflict, the rising action, the climax – all significant, all in their places. As time goes on, and my roommate and I connect more and more over characteristics which I assumed could never be found in someone like him, I am starting to discover the final piece of the story. I am starting to find a resolution.
In a world where assumptions are so often inaccurate, there should never have been a “someone like him” at all. Not when, in my unknowing eyes, “he” was nothing more than a collection of small talk snippets and Facebook fragments. I had assumed that a football player and I would have little on which we could connect, but I had also assumed that I was above assumptions. My mind had acted in ways that were wrong and could have been hurtful, and as someone who has seen others hurting, I knew that a better person within me had to emerge. Sorry Ashley. When our assumptions are wrong as often as mine are, it is best not to assume you know others – or especially that you know yourself – before you really and truly do.