There and Back Again: High School

by Eena

When I drove away from my alma mater yesterday, I felt something break inside me. I stayed as long as I could, lingering thirty minutes after teaching a yoga class of forty students. For the first time in the eight years since I graduated from high school, I finally admitted to myself: Yes, I miss you. No, I don’t hate you at all:

The school that is now a college.

The college that underwent overdue renovations only after I had left.

The curriculum that undereducated (my class) in Filipino, Spanish, and world history.

The curriculum that perfected our English and manners.

The education that got me into the state university.

The Catholic education that emphasized simplicity and service to others.

The self-serving teenagers.

The kick-outs.

The raging hormones that bit, thrashed, ripped, saved, and/or inflated our adolescent egos.

The rules that enforced sleeved shirts and long skirts or pants in the premises, even outside class hours.

The management that penalized online behavior that smeared the school’s holy name. (E.g. posting skankily attired selfies; sharing ecstatic partying photos taken in the privacy of one’s home)

The 15-peso lunch of barbecue, fried egg, and rice.

The library where my wallflower friends and I spent 90% of our break times (the other 10% owing to the barbecue).

The driveway where we played patintero.

The clinic where we feigned debilitating headaches and stomach cramps.

The basketball coach whom I disappointed.

The teacher whose elementary math club only my friends and I enlisted for. That anyone would join at all made her cry.

The teachers who suspected my underachievement. And reported such to my parents.

Later, the teacher who pitied me for absorbing the lessons too quickly for the class.

Lesbo Day (Thursday).

Thursday (the band).

The love letters I scribbled (for a boy then who is now my fiancé) during class.

My fellow offbeats who sang, played guitars and k-hon, or just an iPod (click-wheel generation) on my tiny amp in the back of our classroom.

The Christian Living teacher who called me out for playing “Stairway to Heaven” on guitar as background music to our assigned prayer. (Totally worth it.)

The immortal security guard and local celebrity who, to this day, remembers each student’s name, including her driver’s and helper’s, and even her respective car plate number.

Walking the grounds and reminiscing, everything felt so familiar to me, that I was still a student, that I was making fun of our cadet officers behind their backs just yesterday. I almost expected every other ponytailed student to turn around and wave at me. When I looked over my shoulder, I could easily picture my Daria-lookalike friend stomping her way towards me. I felt drawn to the library. I felt an urge to bust out a cartwheel in the hall.

Everything felt different. At the same time, nothing had changed.

I knew in my heart it was I who had changed my views and yes, matured emotionally. Driving away amid laughter and tears, I finally accepted all the heartache and joy that second home had given me.  I am who I am.

Tat tvam asi.

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