(If you're just joining us, the beginning of this series starts here. Thanks for reading!)
I had really enjoyed my sophomore year at Mills (MUSH stands for Mills University Studies High, just so you know) so I expected my junior year to be even better.
Class picture from Junior year
Several interesting things happened at the beginning of the year. First I decided to embrace the writer in me and take journalism and write for the school newspaper.
Writing for the paper came with a badge and everything
Our school paper was legit. Mrs. Wilcox knew what she was doing. She taught us how to write news stories well and correctly; and how to format them well and correctly. Our newspaper won many awards. I was working with a crowd of people I hadn't hung out with before, most of whom were older than me. The journalism room was definitely a privileged hang out with couches and great technology and work spaces.
I should add here that I took a creative writing class in tenth grade with Mrs. Daerr and fell in love with writing. I took journalism to learn to write in a different way, but I also was enrolled in Mrs. Daerr's AP English Language class. Because I had done so well in creative writing and she had built me up so much as a writer, I expected the English class to be easy. And it wasn't.
Prior to junior year, I had had two surgeries for endometriosis. My junior year brought two more. The first one showed the doctor that the treatment I had been on (Depo Provera) had made my endometriosis so bad that he could not even laser any of it off. So then came Depo Lupron which shuts down your ovaries and puts you into menopause. So I was 16 and having no periods, hot flashes, mood swings, etc. I did gain some weight that year from the medicine, so that's why the "thunder thigh" comments only made me feel worse.
We totally danced to this song. And we had fake pagers that we threw. Ha!
We crowned homecoming queens for the first time in 10 years that year. Our school was part of the desegration lawsuit and there were many race issues over time (that truly continued while I was there). We elected one black and one white homecoming queen so as not to upset the balance. I still think it's sad that we have so many race issues in Arkansas, even today.
That night at the homecoming dance, Jared danced with me and got my number. I also danced with Mason that night and he tried to dip me and I briefly dislocated my knee. Graceful I am not. It was hilarious.
So Jared and I began dating. He was really nice and I couldn't get much information about him from others, but what little I did get led me to believe we weren't really cut from the same cloth. He was super smart and he challenged everything from an intellectual standpoint. He wasn't a classic "bad boy" but because we didn't really approach life from the same lens, he was a risky move for me. In so many ways this was good because he made me answer why I believed certain things. He made me question what I had been taught to believe. He made me stand up with my own voice about things, and truthfully I needed that. He drove me batty with the depth of his philosophical viewpoints, but he also made me think, and I appreciated that about him. He also introduced me to music I had never listened to before, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
This whole album takes me right back to that year
But honestly Jared was a rebound relationship for me. I wasn't over D and I don't think he was over his previous girlfriend either. So we did what two teenagers who aren't over their exes and don't have much else to do with their time do. We parked. The "good girl"image I had began to slip away as I gave parts of myself away that I had no business giving. And truthfully I didn't know what in the world I was doing. I was hurting and I was trying to make the pain go away. The center of my world was gone and I needed a new center, so I tried to make that Jared. And it didn't work. He wasn't supposed to fill that place for me. And immature me put myself in precarious situations that put me as the center of many other people's conversations. Gossip about Jared and I began to swirl, most of it untrue. Friends were talking badly about me. It was my fault in so many ways, but the hurt that I was experiencing didn't decrease, it only increased. One night Jared and I got caught in the backseat of the car in a parking lot by some faceless people. I still have no idea who those people were, but I know that when I got to school Monday morning, I was literally being pointed to and whispered about and laughed at. Not only that, but I found out that the school I would have gone to (where D and my old friends were) also had heard those same rumors.The majority of what was being said was completely fabricated and exaggerated but I could not handle that. I felt like a pariah. So I did what any good girl who wants to try to stop the lies does...I emailed all my friends and told them exactly what I did and did not do. So stupid. So, so stupid. In trying to defend myself I only made my situation worse. I later found out that Jared had told the baseball team what had happened between us.
I was done at that point. He was wrong for me and I was only going to dig myself in deeper by staying with him. He betrayed me and I made a fool of myself.
Depression came again. And the pain of endometriosis was so bad. And the boys who were originally just making fun of me, now did everything in their power to make my life a living hell. Every day was horrible for me. Because I had taken "regular" biology the year before, I decided to make up for it by taking both Pre-AP Chemisty and Pre-AP Physics that year. Some part of me thought I might go to med school and become an OB/GYN one day and I was trying to ready myself. Except math and science were not my strong suits. I also had AP English and AP American History, Spanish II, and pre-AP Calculus that year. So of course my grades began to slip. I had no capacity for it all. The subject that I had always been strong in, English, I was making a C in. Every paper I submitted had red all over it and I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong. I had taken the ACT several times and made no higher than a 23, when the rest of my class was making 27s or higher. I began to feel like I was truly stupid and had no idea what I was good at anymore. I began to hide and cry in the journalism room. I had a couple of girls sort of take me under their wing: April and Katie, and befriend me. There were also two guys: Chad and Graeme,who went out of their way to be my friend and take up for me. Those guys were my best friends that year.
Scrapbook page from that year
My parents decided to take us on our first cruise that year over Christmas break. It was much needed for me and I loved every second of that trip. If I ever get to live in the Caribbean, I choose the Virgin Islands.
St. Thomas. It was so idyllic. Please take me back right now.
Another pic with that awesome little Polaroid camera. This pic is the size of my thumb ya'll.
I devoted a scrapbook page to her because she was graduating that year. Kelsea and I used to have dates at Outback and we would just order cheese fries and bread and split it. Also Kelsea, Melissa, and Kelsea's exchange student, and I all went to the Brittany Spears, Nync, Sisco concert that year. It was so fun. I still think it was one of the best concerts I've been to, but now that makes me old. Ha!
In the spring I got to go on a trip with our journalism students to a conference in South Carolina. I had never been to SC and I had never gone on a out of state trip with my school before, so it was a pretty unique experience. I became closer friends with the people who went on the trip with us. I also dated several guys toward the end of the year. I was still in a place of dating for the sake of dating, though. I kept trying to fill a void.
Not only was I trying to fill a "boy" void, but I was so trying to cover up all the pain I was in that I literally was trying to find a drinking party to go to. Most of my friends were involved in these parties in some capacity and I was waiting for the moment to arise, to be invited, and to know it would be "safe" so that I could escape. I know now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God absolutely protected me that year because that opportunity never presented itself. I have been forever thankful for that because I don't know what would have happened to me because I was in a reckless mindset at the time.
I feel like Daddy and I began to mend toward the end of that year. He really began coaching me a lot about boys and I knew he was looking out for my best interests. I wish I would have listened to him at the beginning of the year, but I tried really hard after that to involve him in what was going on with me and boys. This picture was taken at a Father/Daughter dinner my church did that year.
I don't remember much about my relationship with Mom this year except I know she continued to have migraines and she missed a lot. I remember there being basketball games where Kelsea or Melissa's parents were there while we were cheering, but my Mom wasn't. I do remember Mom packing me really good lunches though and all my friends were often jealous at the cool stuff I had in my lunch.
And then came prom season. I was part of the Junior Class and we were responsible for hosting prom for the Juniors and Seniors. I had no date again and after ninth grade prom, I was determined not to go dateless again. I decided to take the bull by the horns and begged and cajoled and nearly paid my friend Graeme to go with me. I assured him repeatedly we were going as friends.
We looked pretty sharp, if I do say so myself.
Graeme picked me up and I told him we would go deuces at dinner at a really expensive restaurant, but he wouldn't let me. That boy was a great friend to me that year and a true gentleman and I will be forever thankful. I haven't heard from him in years and I hope he is well.
I danced the night away that night. I was determined to have fun and I did. My most memorable moment was dancing with my friend Chris to "The Thong Song" by Sisco. We laughed and I remember everyone saying: "I didn't know you could dance like that!" Well and I was always a white girl disguised because I could rap pretty well. My kids are still impressed with that ability. Ha!
Er. Mah. Gawd. Yes I did.
These were the cheerleaders and our sponsor: Mrs. Cochran. She was also my Chemistry teacher that year and the one class that I really enjoyed, besides journalism.
I also was asked by a friend from church to go to his senior prom with him at a different school. I was honored that he asked me and made sure he knew it was just "as friends" but I had such a great night and was so glad I went.
Dusty (as I knew him back then) and me at his senior prom
Scrapbook page from both proms
At the end of the school year I recruited new members and tried out for dance team again. I made co-captain with another girl who had danced with me my junior year and our squad grew considerably. I also ran for student council president, but did not win, but I was still elected to the council. We began to prepare for dance team camp.
But something wasn't right in me and I knew it. My GPA was at it's lowest point ever, like a 3.25, and I was counting on college scholarships because I did not want to go into debt for school. I also was determined to go to college because that had been my goal from the beginning. I wanted to be the first person in my family to graduate from college. I really began to pray and ask the Lord what to do. I was not excited at all about going back to Mills for my senior year. The boys that had made my life miserable, I realized that they were bullying me. I absolutely could have and should have turned them in to the school administrators, but I didn't really realize in the moment what was going on.
I continued my summer as planned:
Second year of MFuge Camp
Youth Trip to Six Flags
As dance team camp approached though, I really knew in my heart that I wasn't going back to Mills. I knew that I couldn't subject myself to more bullying, that I needed to work hard my senior year and try to get my GPA up without the intense pressure that Mills was putting on me, and that the idea of going back to friends I had, even with drama, sounded more appealing than going back to Mills. So I went to the school and told our sponsor and our dance team girls that I wasn't going with them.
And I enrolled at North Pulaski.
My friend Jared passed away just a couple of weeks ago. My heart has ached from a very real place for his family, his friends, and even my past. He was a good guy. He was a friend. He taught me so much. I am so thankful I knew him and that he was in my life, even for a short time. I have and am praying that God would bring peace and would glorify Himself even in the midst of this tragic loss. If you are reading this and hurt with me over the loss of Jared, know that my heart is for you.