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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Eighteen - The Running of the Red Rams

18 til I die - gonna be 18 til I die
Ya it sure feels good to be alive
Someday I'll be 18 goin' on 55!

      - Bryan Adams

I can't believe that my teen years are almost over!

Well, okay, they aren't really.  I haven't been a teenager in quite a number of years now.  Though sometimes I feel as though I have the energy of a teenager.  And the sarcastic and acerbic wit that teenagers seem to possess 24/7.

But in this month long retrospective of tales from the crypt (a.k.a. my 10,000,000 GB memory that I call my brain), the teen years are almost a wrap.

Today is the day that I tell you the story from when I legally became an adult.  Age eighteen.  And despite the fact that I contracted pneumonia that year - in the summer, no less! - eighteen ended up being a great year. 

Oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself here.  Let's back up this train for a bit before we derail somewhere around the Y2K portion of the year.

So, would you like to see a picture of me back then?  It's quite...hideous.

Okay, yearbook committee.  What the hell did I do to you for you to choose this monstrosity as my final yearbook picture?  This was my worst shot!  Oh, and keep an eye on my little blurb there.  Yes, my nickname was "Turkey" (which I hated), yes, I did mention the locker fires (which I did on purpose to leave a blemish on my "perfect" high school - bwahahahaha!!!), and one of the pop culture references will make more sense as you take a look at the hottest music, movies, and television shows for 1999!

(And, no, it's not RollerJam.  I am ashamed to admit that I actually watched it back in the day...)

#1 SONG THE WEEK OF 5/18/1999
"Livin' La Vida Loca" - RICKY MARTIN

Certainly 1999 was a year in which Latino music thrived.  Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias, and Carlos Santana all had hits during this year.  But I would say that the true leader of the Latino wave was Ricky Martin, whose self-titled English debut topped the charts that year.  Talk about shaking your bon bon to success!

"The Mummy"

Which fell off the top pretty quickly once "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace hit the box office!

"Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?"

This one shocked me!  I have to tell you.  The show only aired a handful of episodes during the whole year, and it still was the most watched program of the year!  Then again, I did mention the show in my graduation blurb.  And I did try to become a contestant on the Canadian version.  Alas, no luck.  I do find it ironic that our Canadian version was hosted by Pamela Wallin, who allegedly stole millions from Canadian taxpayers!

So, I have entitled this piece "The Running of The Red Rams".  And it's symbolic.  You know how in Spain, they have the Running of the Bulls?  Where you have a bunch of wild bulls running through city streets and you had to try everything to escape from them or face serious injury?  Well, our school mascot was the Red Ram...and as far as I was concerned, I felt like I was participating in a "Running of the Bulls" event my whole high school career...only with high school students.

But by the time I turned eighteen, I came to a conclusion.  I knew that I was never going to be friends with most of the people in my high school, so I simply stopped trying.  I stopped stressing out over trying to dress the right way, act the right way, pretending to be somebody that I wasn't.  Really, who needs that aggravation?  Ultimately, all that it did was cause me a lot of depression.  Depression that peaked...or is it ebbed...anyway, it came to a head right smack dab in the middle of my 16th year.  And I swore to myself that I would never allow myself to let people make me feel that way again.

My eighteenth year coincided with my OAC year of high school - which I suppose you could consider Grade 13.  Ontario did away with the Grade 13 year in the early 2000s.  But either way, the year signaled the end of high school.  And while I was nineteen when I graduated high school, most of the good stuff happened when I was still eighteen.

And what do I classify good stuff?

Well, right around my eighteenth birthday, I had finally found what I had been looking for my entire high school career.  I had found a group of friends who I felt comfortable to be myself around.  Now, David (who I told you about last entry) was a part of that group, and he had befriended another boy named Clement.  I didn't meet Clement until the beginning of my OAC year, but after David introduced us, we became friends almost instantly.  And at the same time, I met someone in my sociology class named Erik (not the same Eric who was on our Montreal scavenger hunt team), and we worked on quite a few assignments together and became friends.  I introduced Erik to David and Clement, and I think from that moment on, the four of us became extremely close. 

I never really had a group of friends that I had bonded with so closely before that, and you know...I don't know if I ever told any of them this, but they were the main reason why OAC year was so much fun.  They kind of gave me the courage to try new things, to live life, and to not be afraid to be myself.  I don't even know how I can repay those guys for their kindness, so that's why I made a special mention here in this blog so that there will always be a permanent reminder of the sincere friendship they gave me.

Now, that's not to say that David, Clement, and Erik were my only friends in high school (even though in a way, they were).  I also want to take the time to thank a few other people who were there for me during that last year of high school.

I want to start by mentioning a trio of Grade 12 girls who sat with me in sociology class during the first part of the semester.  Even though they only sat down at my table because it was the only one available at the time, they got to know me and I got to know them, and they liked me for me, and I liked them for them.  So, Dana, Melissa, and Wendy, thanks for sitting at my table.  And thanks for signing my yearbook too! 

I also want to throw a thank you to a girl named Laurel, who I met in my American History class.  She was such a sweetheart, and she eventually started hanging around David, Clement, Erik, and I.  She was in Grade 12, so I don't know what happened to her after graduation, but wherever you are, I hope that you're happy.

And, Eileen, you've been my friend since sixth grade, and you were still my friend when we graduated high school.  Believe me, your friendship was very much appreciated.  Remember when we had a little reunion dinner at that restaurant with Clement five or six years ago?  We need to do that again sometime!

While I'm thinking of it, I'll also show some gratitude towards Cary-Lynn, Becky, and Leah, who always seemed to work with me on school projects, and treated me kindly while we worked!

There were also a few people in my class who while we never really hung out together after school, they at least treated me with some respect.  I can't say I can remember all of your names, but I do remember your faces.  Believe me, I know who was kind to me and who wasn't. 

And, let's just say that when it came down to those who weren't, or who ignored me simply because I wasn't good enough...well, I don't really have anything to say to you because...well, I don't know you.  We had five years together at that school, and not once in those five years did any of you make an effort to get to know me even though I tried to get to know you.  But I suppose that life is like that sometimes.  You can't be friends with everybody.  Though, I wish that I could have gone through high school without feeling like such an outcast.

But then again, looking at it through their perspectives, maybe their lives weren't as perfect and carefree as I believed them to be.  Maybe they were going through issues that I never really knew.  Perhaps they were latchkey children who never had parents around to take interest in them.  Maybe they had to deal with a bitter divorce with custody battles and it made them angry.

And, maybe some of them were genuine jerks and got happiness through other people's pain.  But either way, by the time I got to my last year of high school, I was actually quite relieved that I would never have to see any of them ever again.  It was finally over.

I never had to see the four boys who made my life miserable in elementary school and followed me to high school.  Though, I will say that of the four boys, one of them and I patched things up during our last year of high school, and we left school on a good note.  Two of the four boys simply backed off and ignored me when they found their own group of friends.  The fourth one - the ringleader of the group - never really changed.  He was rotten from the inside out.  I hope that I never see him again.  He was trouble.

"Cory" and "Will" also reached out to me and apologized for their part in the bullying of me in eleventh grade, and well...I forgave them.  And at least when it came to "Will", he seemed genuinely sincere about it.  I wanted to say the same for "Cory", but he purposely kept the fact that "Sparks" had torched my stuff a secret for three years, and after that, I decided I couldn't trust him any longer.  I haven't seen those three since graduation, and honestly, I am fine with that.

But the ultimate epitaph of OAC and year eighteen?  I said goodbye to the meek and timid me, and embraced a more confident version.  Believe me, during the first four years of high school, I became less and less open with people to the point that I basically stopped living life and I became a soulless person who just took up space.  But befriending a group of people like David, Clement, Erik, Laurel, Dana, Melissa, Wendy, Eileen, and a couple of others...that gave me the courage to take back my life and cram the four years of fun that I should have had in high school into the final year.

I sang karaoke at the grad dinner.  I crawled through garbage and popped water balloons with my butt at Grad Goodbye Day 2000.  I put on an insanely creative independent study project in my English class (which David, Erik, and Clement helped me with), and I even had the courage to get up on stage and get hypnotized in front of the whole school.  The sixteen year old me would have NEVER done that.

I suppose that the only regret that I had about high school was the fact that I wish that I had the courage to be myself a lot earlier than my final year of high school.  But I wasn't exactly in the right frame of mind to be able to do that.  At my lowest point, Grade 11 (age 16) was the year in which I felt completely alone and isolated from everyone.  I trusted nobody, and I spent most of my time hiding in my bedroom as that was the place where I felt the safest.  How could anyone find the effort to change their lives when everyone in the world seemed to either be against them or chose not to care?

Fortunately, David, Erik, Clement, and all the others who were there for me during my last year of school...they made me see that the world wasn't as bad a place as I believed it to be.  They helped me come out of my shell a little bit more.  And they showed me what true friendship was during my teenage years.

I'll never forget that.  And that's what I will remember most about being eighteen.  I didn't care what they thought of me.  Instead I focused more on the people who I cared about.  That made the difference.  And because of that, I survived the Running of the Red Rams in one piece.

And as we look at the final year of my teen years, I'll tell you why nineteen was one of the greatest years of my whole life - well, so far anyway.

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