Column: My High School Tragedy


Illustration by Audrey Sharek

American media reinforces unrealistic expectations about the high school experience.

Saturday, March 24. It was a humid day. I walked outside and was met with a slight touch of warmth. Standing in front of my school, I took a deep breath. I was nervous. Walking into the library, I noticed I wasn’t alone. At one table, a varsity wrestler, stubborn with pride. Another, a brainiac blond kid, whom I’ve never seen before. A rebel bad boy with great hair, and an introverted brunette sat behind me. Then there was me; popular, rich, and beautiful. An unlikely group, I suppose.

The vice-principal came into the library. He started talking about how we cannot leave or talk or breathe; useless whining. I wanted to be left alone. He exited, and I was left to fend for myself. But after spending these moments with this intriguing group, I realized our situation wasn’t all that bad. I felt good. These people weren’t fake. I liked it. For once, high school didn’t feel intolerable.

This is the story of my high school experience. Or was it? No, it can’t be.

This is the story of John Hughes’s classic, “The Breakfast Club.”

As a child, I watched a lot of movies. I loved submerging myself into different media filled with fun adventures, relatable characters, the whole works. When you’re young, anything seems interesting and curious. These television shows and movies slowly converted, however, from thrilling plots to overused tropes of 22-year-olds playing high schoolers in some fantasy reality. But for child-me, this set up some heavy expectations coming into my freshman year.

I wish I could say I was prepared. I was ready for anything. Possibly a mysterious vampire with a past will take a liking to me and an indigenous werewolf will befriend me. Maybe the most popular girls in my school will adopt me into their posse since I’m the new girl hailing from Africa. I believed this is what happened in real life and I was looking forward to it. 

High school was not at all like how I thought. Flooding moments of iconic scenes from my childhood movies snuck their way into my mind. I felt betrayed. Where is my climax and the resolved ending? Where is my antagonist and a treacherous adventure? When is my story going to start?

Rather than a perilous journey, I instead was faced with the reality of real-life high school. Eight-hour days and sleepless nights filled with pages and pages of homework. Despite the fact of what is real and what was fiction, my high school experience was a tragedy. And not the good kind of tragedy. I grappled at the thought of having my own JD and being a part of the Heathers- but instead, I at times experienced petty individuals, crowded hallways and many midnight breakdowns. 

Although my high school experience was not always the greatest as I had imagined, some moments helped it seem like a dream. I’d be in Astronomy and pretend I was an ancient astronomer reading the stars. Or in Aquatic Science when I imagined being a deep-sea explorer looking for a new species of fish or fighting off an aggressive goblin shark. But nothing could replace those moments of thrill or uncertainty in the pinnacle moment of a tale. 

I don’t want to say my expectations of high school were way higher than I would like to admit, but recollecting my past memories helps me create my own myth. 

The little moments are the ones I’d like to focus on. I wake up every morning running a little too late. I drive to school with the windows down, blasting early 2000s pop-rock, screaming my heart out. I walk through school with confidence and a slight hint of arrogance. Sure, it may not have Heath Ledger singing to me on the football field, but it’s my experience, and I find it thrilling in it’s own special way.