When I was in high school, I had my very own “trademark” look: light-colored slacks (jeans weren’t very dignified), button-up shirts with some type of pattern (the perfect accent to the plain pants) and Hush Puppies loafers (always the same style and color).
My pockets were full of mechanical pencils, and though I longed to line them up neatly in a plastic pocket protector, I drew the line there because, after all, who wanted to look like a nerd?
I had a car, and although it was dependable, it wasn’t cool. My dad was partial to American Motors vehicles — they were kind of the Kia of the day — and this one was a red Javelin. It sat low-to-the-ground, didn’t have much acceleration, and even though it was a two-door, the back seat wasn’t really made for hauling lots of friends.
Which was OK, really, because I wasn’t hauling lots of friends, what with my involvement in the debate team, my participation in the band, and my after-school job bagging groceries and stocking shelves at Wallin’s Red Owl.
Even back then, all you had to do was look at me to know I was a young man who was going places.
My mom was always there at breakfast, annoyingly pushing us to eat something healthy and constantly asking whether our homework was completed.
My dad was always there for dinner, and we sat in a TV-less kitchen wolfing down meal after meal of boiled potatoes, bunless hamburgers and Van Camp’s pork and beans. I still recall with a certain amount of satisfaction the vile looks my sisters and I threw back and forth across the dinner table when my parents weren’t looking.
As it turns out, we were fortunate: We had little drama in our lives, and we had the disgusting regularity of two perfectly boring parents day in and day out. We didn’t really have much, but if we needed anything — really needed it — my parents somehow found an odd-colored, slightly used and probably off-brand version of it for us.
My high school years weren’t perfect, but they were routine, something I’m sure most of the high school seniors we’re profiling in our cover story this month would have been happy to have. These seniors weren’t selected for our story because they have the highest GPAs or the best-looking résumés; we picked them because they have clawed their way out of difficult situations and are making plans for their futures.
They would probably be just fine with a little less drama in their lives, a little more regularity, a little more stability.
Speaking as someone who had all of that and didn’t appreciate its value back then, I hope they find it someday.
It turns out being a nerdy kid in a boring family isn’t so bad after all.
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