Before I entered high school, the longest I had stayed at any school consecutively was 2 years, but most typically I moved to a new school every year. I knew I had no power in the decision to move and change schools so I learned to quickly release the anxiety and focus on things that were within my control. Each new start was a new opportunity for me to reinvent myself, to be the person I was meant to be. It’s easier to be the person you want to be when you’re not limited to being the person people already think you are.
When I moved to Houston in the middle of my eighth grade year I was ready to reclaim a connection to school, but like many teenagers, I found the culture of school to be artificial and difficult to swallow at times. The structure of the classes I liked, it was the social aspect that I always found most difficult. Here I was, a future bleeding heart liberal plopped down in the middle of conservative big-hair Texas. I recall the first day in Social Studies, the teacher kept ranting about the, “Damn Yankees,” and listed all the reasons why the South was right in their stance during the Civil War. My world was immediately turned upside down. My focused shifted from having to find a meal for the day to assigning value to the established social structure within the school. It all seemed a bit petty but I knew I had to negotiate these waters if I wanted to find friends; an opportunity to be a completely normal teenager stifled by an artificial construct designed by those with power to keep them in power. Ok, then.
The point of this short essay is to demonstrate that parts of my identity, up to this point, had been imposed upon me by extenuating circumstances and had I a bit more control, I would not have chosen such a direction. The idea that I was a drop out, I decided to keep to myself. The idea that I had a great deal of experience with drugs and alcohol, I too would keep to myself, until of course my future friends would need a leader in this area. Any knowledge of a sexuality imposed upon me, I would keep to myself. The fact that I had a choice to keep certain aspects of past to myself and design my own identity was a gift. Staying in one place subjects one to the static ideas of others and usually not in a good way. I recall a sad story of a girl in high school who was forever referred to as the “Conductor” because of a date rape episode that involved a group of boys. How happy she must have been to move beyond the limited and hurtful perceptions of a bunch of assholes. To have one’s life governed by assholes is as bad as having one’s life governed by stupid adults. What a gift to move beyond.
My 5-month stint at my new middle school in Houston allowed me a new direction. I once again excelled in school, particularly my advanced math courses, choir and track. I made my choice and became a nerdy choir geek/athlete. Let me be clear, athlete not jock. I’m fond of saying I “represented” in the Houston district track meet as I was the only white girl in the 100 m finals. Houston Texas is the place to be if you’re a sprinter. Months later when my father once again schlepped me off, he was quick to disparage my growth as to make himself look better about his shitty decision. He told my aunt and uncle, with whom I would move in, that I was a bit out of control. Nonetheless, Houston was a chance for me to get my footing and refocus on a particular direction. I suppose I should be grateful.