My hometown is a vortex. Many people do not intentionally settle down here, but they are tied down by family. It is a place that everyone wants to leave but only a few have the gull permanently part with it. Those who stay are split down the middle between the ones that wish to go but are tied here by circumstance and ones who want to stay to relive their glory days. In true misfit fashion, I had a different reason for coming home from college for my winter break. The speed bump city, home to the gentle breezes mascot called me back with a job, family, and friends that talked about our lives past and present.
Though I graduated with honors from high school, the school never accepted me and I never felt proud of the school. We never belonged to each other. Though heavily involved, I often went unrecognized because I possessed skills that the school didn’t see as valuable. I did not play a sport. However, I did sing in the chorus, was in the cast of the musical, wrote for the newspaper, painted, and volunteered. All the extracurricular activities were recognized by the community, but never by the school. A Freddy Award for best overall musical, first place in a short story contest by the Woman’s Club of the city, and had my artwork hung at the Baum School of Art in Allentown were all high school accomplishments. I volunteered my time through Girl Scouts, working with the Special Olympics, the Key Club, National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, tutoring, and doing an M.S. walk. As for academics, I pushed myself to take difficult classes and always received high honor roll. I genuinely loved learning and seeing my friends every day, but I didn’t love the people who ran the school.
The people who run it include not only the administration, but what I like to call “High School Royalty.” They are the elite group of people whose parents and grandparents have made a name in this town for being “popular.” Their last name is recognizable for reasons unknown. The administration distinguishes the new generation of royalty and knows that they are untouchable. And they treat them as so. The parents of popular kids peaked in high school, so they stuck around. Their kids will likely do the same.
I was not very well liked by “High School Royalty” because I spoke out against their bullying and them getting away with things that normal students couldn’t dream of getting away with. I was booed at my graduation by a bunch of bullies that were insecure about a seemingly quiet girl standing her ground. I did not owe my peers anything. I owe the high school administration absolutely nothing, because they are the ones in power who are allowing these people get away with injustices. I do however owe something to the teachers, club advisors, and guidance counselors who were truly inspiring and supportive.
The administration made their mission clear from the beginning. They were in the business of raising student athletes. If you weren’t a student athlete, you would never earn the complete respect of the administration. A distinctive memory forever engraved in my brain was the time the middle school gathered for a speaker. This man spoke authority though having absolutely no relevance or concrete knowledge to back up his boastfulness. I listened to the ignorance he spewed as he told us that if we did not participate in a sport, we would never have the opportunity to go to college. As an intelligent, but scared middle school girl, I came home that day in tears. I had given organized sports a try, but I was uncoordinated. This allowed me to develop what I see as more useful skills: focusing on schoolwork and participating in the arts. But this middle aged man told me that my dreams would never come true because I didn’t know how to hit a ball with a bat. My dad, a former high school football player himself was enraged that this man was asked to speak to us. He wasn’t happy with his daughter feeling belittled.
Despite being told that I will never succeed without sports, I’m thriving in college. Though I’m arguable doing the same amount of extracurricular activities and still succeeding academically, I’m just now getting recognized for my hard work. This is what can happen when you are not defined by whether or not you play sports.
For now, I’m home for my winter break. I’m in a place that is stagnant and doesn’t allow me to grow. I wake sometimes and I’m explicable sick. This is how I know I can’t return here after graduation.