It takes a lot of effort to get from the first day of kindergarten to high school graduation. Given that I was generally an overachiever who chose advanced courses, it took an above-average mix of genuine hard work and sneaky cheating to get that diploma in my hand on graduation night.
The only memories I have of school before grade 5 are these: lying on a purple and white checked towel during nap time in kindergarten (pre-K?) and getting hit on the knuckles with a ruler in the early grades by a teacher who didn't appreciate me wearing my brother's mesh football jersey to school.
In fifth grade, I was one of the school's few crossing guards and spent a good amount of time sharpening my skills as a geek, loner, and general outsider.
By the middle of junior high school, I spent most of my time by myself and had very few, if any, friends. My grades were amazing as a result of this, and I was on a good track for college-level courses in high school. In high school, I continued my habit of being thoroughly unlikeable and completely unable to fit into any one social group. I was bullied and mocked, shunned and laughed at. I may have had one or two friends at any given time, but, by the end of high school, I spent my lunches alone in the library or smoking off campus with my boyfriend.
These great grades slipped mightily during my junior year of high school, the year I got both a job and a boyfriend and spent less and less time studying. I was working a lot - up to 30 hours a week - as a checkout girl at Publix, something I would never let Elliot do while she's in school. I was also becoming more and more aware that who I was required to be by my parents was not who I actually was and that who I really was was not going to be loved or even acknowledged by them. As I became more and more who I really was, I slowly disappeared.
It seems strange to say that I can't recall even one positive exchange between my parents and me from the ages of 16 and 18. If they weren't getting onto me about how I looked or my chores, they weren't talking to me at all. We didn't eat any meals together. We didn't have any weekly or monthly family events or outings. We barely even ever laid eyes on each other. During this time, I worked more. I smoked more. I spent more time with my boyfriend. I got more and more depressed. I started to realise how I was being treated - how I had always been treated. I cried a lot. I wished I was anywhere else.
My grades sank from the 5 As and 2 Bs I had gotten every grading period my entire life to a mix of Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs, without any comment or apparent notice from teachers or parents. Even though the last two years of high school yanked my 3.8 GPA to a final 3.2 and even though I failed an entire semester of physics (3 Fs on report cards and an F grade on my final exam), I happily and proudly graduated from high school in 1990.
On graduation day and in the weeks beforehand, nothing had been said about the end of my compulsory education, and no conversation had been had about my post-high school plans. Continuing the years of no communication, my parents were mute on graduation day as I got ready to go. I had left an invitation for my parents on the dining room table, and I had given another invitation to my brother, who moved out years before. That night, as whoever it was called my name, noone clapped and noone cheered. Noone in my family showed up that night, and as I reached my favourite teacher in the handshake lineup, I grabbed a hold of her and broke down crying and saying "Noone's here for me. Noone's here."
Years later, I asked my dad why he never showed up to my graduation. In true "my dad" fashion, he said he was probably busy watching something on TV. I'm this close to crying just thinking about it.