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Things You Notice About High School When You Return as an Adult

Did you read Catcher in the Rye or The Perks of Being a Wallflower in high school? Did you like those books? Did you feel as though the narrator spoke the truth, the truth that you'd been trying to tell all your parents and teachers and elders, while they'd been too busy complaining about the music you listened to and accusing you of having bloodshot eyes? Yeah?

Go back and read those books again. Assuming you are no longer a teenager, you'll realize that Holden Caulfield and the narrator kid from Wallflower (screw you, I'm not looking his name up) are either completely pretentious hypocrites, socially inept losers, or both. And in high school, odds are, you were too.

That is why there is nothing more hysterical than going back to a high school as an adult and seeing people just like that, realizing that you were once one of them. I've been substitute teaching lately, because it pays better than robbing lemonade stands, and I've noticed some things that make me ashamed to admit I was once a high school student.

The Awkwardness

It's one thing to understand that you were probably awkward in high school. It's another thing entirely to be confronted by an endless wave of children who all suffer from acne, self-esteem that is either astronomically high or pathetically low, and the misperception that their clothing makes them look cool. And when they open their mouths to speak, it's even worse. Some, plagued by anxiety (like I was), can barely manage to get a sentence out before looking like they are going to faint from humiliation at having people actually pay attention to them. Others, trying to show how cool they are (the only people dumb enough to care about being cool are teenagers and hipsters), never say anything unless it can be said in a condescending tone of voice. Either way, it's all a mask to cover up how painfully awkward they all are.

The Relationships

Walk down the hallways of a high school, you're bound to see a few couples making out before class. It's understandable; those hormones are powerful, and teenagers have about as much self-restraint as, well...a teenager. That's the only thing I can compare a teenager to. Another teenager.

But, what might have seemed "hot and sexy" to you when you were in high school becomes "gross and upsetting" when you're an adult. The only thing worse than encountering these awkward people is seeing them mate. It's creepy.

The Vague Protests

When I was in high school, a kid showed up wearing a shirt he made which read "Fuck America." When questioned as to why he did it, he less-than-articulately tried to explain how America was actually a fascist nation because...because...because if you didn't know that already, your mind so too closed for him to bother trying to open it. So he totally could explain why he did it, but you like, wouldn't get it, man.

No, that kid was not me. I was the kid who (description of the kind of person I was in high school has been deleted in order to not embarass myself). But he didn't pull that stunt because he cared about politics. He pulled that stunt because he was dumb and wanted attention.

The thing is, in high school, we're all dumb in some way, and we all want attention. You might have a perfect GPA, but that doesn't mean you know how social relationships work. On the other hand, you might be charming as hell, but you are failing in nearly every class. You're dumb about something, so you're insecure, so you try to make up for it by being an asshole with a cause. And that's fine. Back in the day, I'm sure some people thought Gandhi was an asshole with a cause. The thing is, he knew what he was talking about, and wasn't doing it for attention.

They Actually Think This Stuff Matters

The mark of a true teenager is the inability to realize that almost none of what happens in high school matters. While grades are reasonably important, since they can determine what college you get into, relationships, fights, all that drama that keeps you awake at night listening to bad songs with shitty lyrics, none of it matters.

But damn, high-schoolers love to think that it does.

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