WARNING: strong language used.
It was so easy to give away thousands of dollars worth of computers, televisions, radios, clothing, books, CDs and DVDs, and furniture to Worth A Second Look, but when it comes to something like a school yearbook (see picture), I haven’t one clue what to do with it.
I mean, it’s not worth anything, and if I remember correctly, I never wanted to get the damn thing in the first place. Why would I want something to remind me of my teenage years that were absolute HELL?
From the day I started junior high school to the day I graduated Grade 12 and made what must have been the fastest departure out of a high-school in teenager history, I hated my teenage years. My last name Gay, in a time where homosexual behaviour was considered a sexual deviancy, meant “faggot”. Add on top of that the fact I entered puberty a little later than other teenagers and had a mindset that violence never solved anything (an opinion that I smugly proclaim was proven right in light of the recent gun violence in schools and cyberbullying) made me the second most unpopular person in the history of both schools. The person who was the most unpopular person in both schools was a girl who over-ate to the point of being bell-shaped and morbidly obese, and dressed like something out of a medieval play.
I was beaten up nearly every day, my locker was kicked in at least once a week (I was on first name terms with the custodians because of that), my books were constantly tossed down the stairs, students would drive by my home screaming, “DAAAAVID IZZZZ GAAAAAY” while my mother was outside, my gym teachers were assholes, my junior high school math teacher implied I had a sexual liking towards another male student in front of the class who had a thunderous laugh at my expense, my high school guidance counselor was an idiot who did not understand what I was going through, I was nearly stripped naked by two female students and beaten up by another because her boyfriend would have beaten me to a pulp if I defended myself and, oh! I learned about 40 different ways to get home (escape) from school. most of which did not require a sidewalk.
As I said, ABSOLUTE HELL. I never even went to my high-school graduation party. Fuck that, I was off to a much better post-secondary life where people did not have such a hang-up about non-violence and having a gay last name (pun intended)
So why get a school-year book? It was because of the very few friends I had, and I will mention them by first name only: Peter, Ruth, Frank. The only three people who, despite my unpopularity, would sit with me at lunch and be my friend. They absolutely would not hear of me not getting a school year book. They nagged and badgered and pestered me to get it so they could write something in it. It was that important to them. At first I said no, but I later relented and wrote in it they did.
After I escaped from Hell — permanently — for the last time using the end of school celebrations and well wishes as a cover, I got home, stored my yearbook away and never really looked at it in detail (aside from the odd browse of pictures during a spring-clean) until my storage locker was closed. After getting rid of most of my things to Worth A Second Look, what was left was the life mementos and sentimental belongings. The yearbook was one of them. After over 30 years, it has seen better days. The bottom part of the spine was damaged, many marks and chips pock-marked the cover, and even some of the page corners were folded.
I read the entire yearbook from start to finish for the first time since getting this book. I looked at the pictures of those people — quite many of them — who delighted in making my life Hell. I looked at pictures of the high school social elite and certain teachers who thought of me as dirt just because for the things I believed in and for my last name. The memories were painful, but I forgave these people. I did not forget what they did. I will never forget, but I did forgive. I had to. Holding a grudge until the day I die serves no purpose except to make the memories of what I experienced fester like a infected wound.
I came across the comments left by my friends I mentioned before, and also those who knew me but I did not consider friends yet were never hostile towards me. While the comments varied from a simple “Best Of Luck” to a long paragraphs about what a wonderful person I was and how their lives were enriched by knowing me, all reminded me of the few moments where Hell was not so hellish and I got a breather to live the life of a normal teenager.
When I got to the section of the graduating class of 1982 – my graduation year – I saw my picture. It was of a young man with shining eyes, a full head of hair, and a line free face. That was a face of a man with dreams, career aspirations, and goals for the rest of his life summed up in the following quote, “Thank you for (helping me) finding out just who I am after all these years trying to find out”. I was stating that I knew what I wanted in life and who I was – an ambitious man who was peaceful, who wanted to aim high with his goals. It was in that section why I found out why it was difficult to figure out what to do with this book: buried deep in the tons of photos of people who were hell were the memories of a person I once was.
I’m not that person any more. Sure, I am still a kind person, and do strongly believe in peace over conflict, but the wonderment and drive and ambition and hope that I had that led to the career I gained and later lost are gone, taken away from me by the Age of Austerity and the jobless recovery.
I can’t throw away that person. I need to find him again and this book is a link to a point in the past where he still lives.
Thanks for reading.