TOWSON HIGH- My Lunch Period and Overcoming Stage Fright- Face the DEMON.
I am reminded recently of the really awkward period of my life. Well there is more than one, but in high school I was old enough to really start understanding human interaction. I have seen a few episodes of the show “The Yard” on hulu.com and well it is brilliant. If kids watch it, they will learn some interesting and helpful mediation and social skills. It also demonstrates the social structures that exist even on the level of a school yard. I did not like that structure. I never liked that there were clicks or groups that one belonged in and were labeled as a part of. Cheerleaders, geeks, jocks, preppies, and on and on. It seems that no matter the generation, at least here in the US, kids gravitate into these groups in the cafeteria or playground. I spent my last year of high school eating a bag lunch consisting of a P&J sandwich with celery or carrots and a piece of juice and juice box I brought from home- I refused to eat meat. I ate my lunch in my 4th period class room.
Why? I did not have to pick a table. My best female friend was on the paper and spent her lunch break writing and I just did not like hearing people being mean to each other or for that matter I did not like the loud crowded cafeteria at all. I also had a problem. If I had to speak in front of a group, I shook from head to toe. It was like someone had plugged my entire body into an electric circuit. My father used to say he had the same problem as a kid and grew out of it. My pediatrician told me he could find nothing wrong with me and it was just part of my energetic nervous personality. I was terrified all the time and scared of being yelled at to tell you the truth. Looking back I realized it took years of what I would call self- therapy to help the issue reside. I took speech class in high school to make me get in front of a class, granted my speech class consisted of about 10 students maybe, but my teacher had us prepare speeches and get up and do them. As I recall I think I was the only girl in the group. I kid you not. Not only did I have to get up and give speeches, but I had to get up and give them to an entire male audience. I may be wrong, but I don’t remember another female being there.
Speech was 4th period, so I spent my lunch break in my 4th period class room with one of the guys from the class who also happened to be on the track team with me. We would talk about our speeches and practice them. We would also talk about school, track, and I’d get a guys opinion on life. My friend was something else. He was the type of guy who probably did play hooky. He had a girlfriend,but I think she went to another school. He probably went to parties and drank. He looked a bit like John Cusack, and after high school I think I heard he went into the military. His father once told me that he said I was the smartest girl he had ever met. He also once stood up for my brother, and never told me, though my brother told my parents so I found out. We were kind of playing hooky in 4th period. Technically we were supposed to be in the cafeteria. Our 4th period teacher, Mr. Noble, eventually discovered what we were doing, but he was actually cool about it. I am actually grateful for that. (I never had a date in high school. Not only was a socially awkward, but I think guys were scared of my father and his gun collection. I went to ever dance stag. I also used to sun-in my hair really blond. I also hated having my picture taken.)
Skipping the cafeteria was one of the best things I think I ever did for myself in high school. I needed to practice speaking in front of others. Eventually at the end of the year I competed for the class senior speech to be given at graduation. I don’t think my parents even knew. My Speech teacher and my English teacher were both there. I will never forget their expressions of JOY when I got up, did my speech, and for the first time was able to communicate without completely freezing or shaking so hard I could not finish my sentences.
I did and did not win. The most popular boy who was also in my speech class (and I should add used to tease me ruthlessly about my shaking hands) won. At the same time, I managed to take the first step to overcoming my fear of being in front of a crowd of people. I worked so hard for that. Though I at one point had been on the debate team for the high school, I mark that speech competition as the beginning of the end of my inability to perform or be on a stage. That speech class began my love of acting, for when I started taking acting classes in college I learned how to take even more steps to alleviating my stage anxiety and really being present and comfortable with myself and with a room full of other people watching me.
I over came so much my last year of high school. My family was not there for me, but I was. I fought my own internal battle. I fought it and I won. I had help. I could not count on anyone in my family to protect me from the bullies of the cafeteria, but my friend did. And if my parents I think really knew my friend, they would not approve. To give you an idea, the lead actor from Vampire Diaries, the blond, personality wise reminds me a bit of my friend, and this other guy from my Track Team who used to have parties at his house. Let’s play hooky would not be far from their kind of advice. To this day I know there are people from that time of my life who don’t know me. They don’t know who my real friends were. I am not ashamed of that. I did what I needed to do to protect my self esteem and to get through that period of my life. I was one of the smart kids, but I chose not to hang out as much with the other kids in my gifted classes. I had track and people, well on the guys team, looked out for me. I think that is why in College I chose not to live with the honor students my first year. I wanted to be in a co-ed dorm because I wanted a normal college experience. Well as normal as a girl can get who can’t talk to her parents about anything or they start judging and screaming, and one on a full scholarship so I had to work hard to keep a good GPA. But that is another chapter of my existence.
By the way, my entire high school life, I played hooky ONCE. I think I went to the mall and got ice cream.