What was your worst experience in middle school or high school? Did it have a lasting effect on you? Do you think you learned anything positive from it?
"School Daze?" I've been in one of those before. Let me tell ya 'bout it.
I woulda/coulda/shoulda played football for my school in Eighth Grade. But my best bud from my elementary and middle school days signed up for park ball. And I couldn't pass up my one and only shot at getting to play side-by-side with someone I considered more like a brother than my own flesh and blood. In my first season I actually played up two entire weight divisions so we could be at the same team. My fellow teammates dwarfed me, sometimes by almost twice my total body weight. Despite this, not only did I start but I did so on Defensive Line. If memory serves, I believe I even led the team in sacks for a while. And for the first time in years, possibly ever, our sorry team made it all the way to the Championship game. (We ended up losing, but it was still impressive.)
The very next day, at school, the guys were all out playing football because it was still fall and thus the season for football. Next year we would no longer be in P.E. but Varsity Athletics instead, lifting weights and actually practicing for our individual sports. But in this, our last year of Phys.Ed., the guys played sports and some of the girls lined up by the field working on various cheers. And with us guys being actual football players for the most part, the concept of "flag football" was quickly cast aside. Especially with pretty girls watching nearby whom we were eager to impress.
Myself and Austin, one of the better players on the school's J.V. team, lined up across from one another in the most epic of battles. None of the non-athletes could match us, and the two of us locked up like titans among men. Neither could really best the other, and there were some brutal blocks on either side of the line. I vividly recall one play where I was knocked out of bounds so savagely that momentum forced me through a pyramid of private schoolgirls standing too close to the sidelines. Dusting myself off, once I realized no one else was hurt I came back for more.
And then, it happened. I zigged. He zagged. I think I was lunging for one of the flags at his waist, but the sudden shift in direction left me diving at nothing but air. And as he tried to run past...or over...me, I caught his knee directly between my eyes. My head viciously rocked back. BLAM!
My teammates were all in shock after such a hit, but I didn't black out. In fact, despite their concern I leapt up immediately hungry for more. We finished out the game as impressively as two young bucks could for their age. But then, when the adrenaline died down and things were quiet and still, it became obvious to those around me that something wasn't quite right. I had become quiet and still as well.
From everyone else's perspective I never lost consciousness. I know this because they were frightened that might happen and kept close watch over me. From my unique point of view, I startled myself awake just as someone accidentally dozing off during an important meeting might do. With a gasp and a jerk I opened my eyes, not remembering blackness or a dream or anything that preceded. Not remembering anything at all. The woman to my left was my mother. I knew that. We were driving in a car that I vaguely recognized. But other than my own name, I remembered nothing more.
I was actually out of school for several weeks. Months, even. People could ask me the same question twice consecutively but my memory was so far fragmented that I could not give them an answer they had provided mere moments ago. In time, however, I began to remember these given answers, and tired of the same. damn. questions. Asked over and over and over again. I finally parroted them back like they apparently wanted. Little did I know that repetition was important for my recovery - I was just sick and tired of always hearing the same thing from the same folks. I had no clue, for example, about my school. I merely understood that "Faith" was the answer to that question and carried on as if nothing else was wrong.
I came back too early. How could anyone be ready for something like this, their mind completely empty, not understanding any of the things that went on around you? Middle school is the time when people learn who they truly are. Never more so than in my special case. I was barely able to remember where my locker was, or where my next class might be...the subtle, invisible things such as social circles and popularity, gossip and rumors were well beyond my comprehension.
It was in this, my most vulnerable state, that the cruelest of jokes was played.
I was still learning about myself, in the most literal of senses. I would often talk with my classmates, trying to find out stories about my past. Trying to find out what kind of person I was. And with no common sense, all that having been wiped away, everything I heard was taken at face value. I simply had nothing to compare this against. Each piece of the puzzle that was my life was desperately held on to, forced into whatever kind of position to help complete the picture still forming.
For the most part, this was merely awkward. I'd suddenly stop speaking to some friends, or start chatting up total strangers, unaware of the difference. Guessing that someone liked, say, football, I'd ask them how the season was going only to find out that was over weeks ago. But on one occasion, the class clown had a bit of fun at my expense.
In trying to discover the mystery of my past, he offered the stories I was most eager to hear. He told me some stories, at any rate. According to him I liked this one girl in our class, and according to him she was rather sweet on me as well. Confused and unaware I looked to his friends, who all gladly corroborated his story, each filling in some additional details of their own. Naive and innocent, unaccustomed to deceit and deception I looked at these unfamiliar faces and took their words as what passed for "proof" at the time. And I looked back on the pieces of my shattered conscious that I had managed to recover. She's a Southern girl...I'm a Redneck boy. At least, I lived on a farm and had tons of horseshoes, cowboy hats, and Rebel flag stuff decorating my room? We both liked country music...well, apparently I did if my CD collection was any indication. Our personalities seemed to match as best I could tell. And looking at her...well, she was rather cute. I didn't need any help discovering this much out for myself. There was a reason she was by far the most popular girl in our class, after all.
The pieces all fit as best I could piece them together, though in reality nothing could be farther from the truth. I had no idea about the subtleties of attraction, just as the concepts of popularity in general and girls being "out of my league" in specific were foreign to me. However it was too late - I was convinced that I liked this girl, and having been convinced that either we had a past or she liked me as well or whatever the story was, I pursued her in true Pepé Le Pew fashion. Endless entertainment was had at my expense as I longed for this girl, as she tried her best to pretend I didn't exist, and later how with each inexplicable rejection I still followed her around like a lost and helpless puppy.
I got over her pretty quickly that following summer. I had three months uninterrupted to really rebuild my new identity, and though so different than the previous "me" that I despise who I once was I belive I've recovered a whole, healthy human being from the ordeal. She was still cute and as a red-blooded American male I still appreciated that, but no longer was my mind led astray by what was intended as a silly joke. Not that my dating life went much better afterwards, but that is a story for another day.
My concussion and subsequent amnesia did leave quite the impression, however. It was absurd to have survived such a brutal season, only to be injured the next day during "flag" football. Even sillier was how, a mere two weeks after the Youth Bowl, I "met" those teammates I had worked so hard alongside for the very first time during our trophy presentation. And while I realize now that it was intended as a joke, one where they likely expected me to "know better", that one gag haunted me well into my days as an upperclassman. Even today I'm no longer the same man. While I have relearned the important bits much of my childhood has been lost prematurely to the mists of time. And I can hardly imagine how my life would have turned out had the old "me" carried onward rather than the new and improved identity that I gradually built for myself.
I'm not, however, certain if this story has any sort of life lesson or if it's more of my senseless rambling. If there were a moral to this story, though, it would simply be "Don't Trust Nobody." Words that I live by to this very day.