Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Confronting High School

"These strange steps take us back, take us back..."
-Yeah Yeah Yeahs

People have been asking me lately why I'm writing so much YA and Middle Grade instead of more adult fiction.  (Especially my mom, who somehow thinks writing YA is easier and that I'm just looking to not work as hard.  Pshaw, I tell her.)

The answer eluded me until recently.  I mean, when I picked up to really start writing a book, I just found it was a teen voice with a teen situation - it wasn't even a conscious decision.  But, last week, I figured out where the real reason lies.  I'm still, in a lot of ways, stuck in high school.

A couple weeks ago, I was at one of my favourite live music venues and a flier for this band caught my eye.  The singer of this band was someone I used to go to school with...over ten years ago.  Now, I went to high school in North Carolina, a far cry from Vancouver, where I am now.  So, of course, I wanted to go!

But then, the day hit.  I woke up before my alarm, having been thrust awake by a nightmare in which I went up to greet the old friend and he was like, "Uh...who are you?"  So, the whole day my anxiety grew about this supposedly exciting encounter.

See, when I was in high school, I was 2 parts weird and 1 part lame.  0 parts cool.  I had a lot of cool friends - one of my best friends was the head cheerleader (blonde, thin, popular), and the other one always managed to hang out with the older alternative crowd that I so longed to break into.  But, I was just a little fringy, in enough that I got invited to some of the parties, but annoying enough that no one wanted to hang out with me once I was there.  This sounds like self deprecation, but really it's not.  Okay, it is.  A bit. :)  See!  I told you I was still in high school!  Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I was SO desperate to be accepted that I tried my best to act like everyone else, and for awhile I lost myself.  (My REAL self, who is 3 parts cool and 0 parts weird and lame, by the way.  Well, maybe 2.5 parts cool and .5 parts weird!)

Anyway, the point is, I was never really Friends-with-a-capital-F with this lead singer guy.  I just kind of knew him...and he may have dated 3 or 4 of my friends over the course of 5 years.  So, as the night drew near, the panic grew.

And then, we went (myself--the real one--and my fiance) to the show.  I approached lead-singer-guy, who TOTALLY remembered who I was and seemed to think it was pretty neat that I was there, and I introduced the fiance.  He introduced his wife.  All things told, it was quite the success.  We've both come a long way from high school, and I realized some insecurities are worth letting go of.  Not to mention that there are different angles to every picture.  Lead-singer-boy didn't seem to remember me as a 2 parts weird 1 part lame, annoying girl at all.  (I mean, I didn't ask, but I think I'd have picked up on that, no? :) )

Another thing I learned, and that I keep on learning all the time, is that NO one feels completely comfortable in their skin in high school and NO one is immune to self consciousness in those teenage years.  What got me through was the fact that I could always disappear into a book, and the characters always knew exactly how I felt...even when it seemed like no one else in the real world did.

So, I write YA because I know that feeling of outsider-ness and through the eventual successes of my originally flawed, lost, and struggling characters, I want to show teens that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.  ...and sometimes I need a little reminder too. :)

So, tell me, dear readers, am I totally off?  Were you completely confident and popular in high school without a care in the world? :)

1 comment:

  1. High school was a complete joke for me. I had moved out of my home when I was 16, and focused all my time and energy on getting an athletic scholarship for school. I actually hardly talk to any of my friends back home. The only people I keep in touch with are the my old coaches or families I temporarily lived with.

    I say high school is overrated. Real life starts afterward. Great post!


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