Who We Were

I live in a small town. And small towns, like anywhere, have their drawbacks. Chief among them? The fucking gossip.

It was recently brought to my attention that a former acquaintance, that admittedly, I overtrusted (obviously) has been saying some…less than kind things about me.

Mind you, this woman is in her 40s, and I taught two of her kids so far, and have three to go. Mind you, her second child was one of my favorites ever and comes to see me when he comes home.

She told one of my current students that she shouldn’t trust me or come to me for advice because, I was a mean girl in high school, and according to her, I still am.

Well…no shame, and not going to pretend I wasn’t. I went to a high school with less than 100 students. I wasn’t just a mean girl. I did hang out with girls that weren’t nice, and we weren’t always nice to each other. But…here’s a secret, all high schoolers have “mean girl” moments. I’ve seen boy groups and girl groups tear each other down, tear down friends, classmates, and even teachers.

Teenagers are mean breed. There’s so much going on with them physically, emotionally, stress-related, whatever. It’s not an excuse, but they’re discovering who they are and sometimes have mean moments.

So, yeah, I was mean. And insecure, and fucking blunt. I didn’t sugar coat; I don’t have a poker face. Did I hurt people? Yes. Do I feel terrible about it now? Yes.

But I was more than a mean girl. I was smart. I was a voracious reader. I was, for the most part, respectful. I was on good terms with almost all of my teachers. I was a volleyball player, briefly a cheerleader, was in play, did stats, sang in the choir, was active in my church’s youth group, worked multiple jobs starting at 14.

What kills me about all of this, though, above all else is that I graduated 10 years ago from a different small town. With the exception of my daycare provider (who hated me and I hated in high school, but now we’re grownups and have a great relationship! Man, the world really is small, and South Dakota is smaller.) I didn’t know anyone here while I was in high school.

AND, I keep my nose down. I have a small friend group, many acquaintances, but few people I actually spend time with and speak freely in front of. With the exception of parents, I haven’t butted heads with anyone here. I’m not a mean girl. Fuck, I’m not even a girl anymore.

I’m a teacher. I’m a mother of nearly two. I’m a wife. I’m a fucking good friend. And, for the most part, a pretty decent person. I’m a good sister and daughter. I’m responsible. I’m an old soul.

Who I was in high school really is irrelevant to who I am today.

But…telling one of my students who I was in high school should affect how they view me is fucked up.

I’m good at my job because I’m empathetic. I’m good at my job because I call them on the bullshit. It’s a running joke that I’m more of a counselor than our counselor is, which really when you think about it, is in large part because of my high school experiences.

I was a mean girl. But, like almost everyone I know, I’m not who I was in high school.

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