I disliked high school. Disliked it very much. The thing is, I had friends--good ones, close ones. I played football. I had fun times. I had good teachers and even enjoyed learning (despite myself)--was even, somewhat, close to a handful of teachers (Mrs. Lien for sure, Mr. York, Mr. Cedarquist, others). I also skipped a lot of days all through high school. I also hated it at times. I never quite felt that I belonged. certainly I was not among any particular group or clique--not a jock or a smacker or a nerd or, I don't know, not even an outcast--just one of the nameless numbers of people who filled up the roster of Urbandale High in the 1970s. It really wasn't that bad. Maybe I just hated myself, really, more than I hated high school. maybe not.
All I know was that by my senior year, I was ready for a change.
I quit football that year. Instead I went to work after school--Yonkers department store at the Merle Hay Mall, the stockroom. I quit my friends for the most part as well. Oh, I still saw them around, my regular group of pals, but I did less and less with them and shut myself off as time went on. I'm not sure they really noticed--they had their own lives and senior years to contend with after all . . . I was on the outs with Bob Mauk, who lived a few houses down from me and had been my first friend when we moved into the house on 65th Street (moving up from Tennessee). My best friend at the time was Kevin O'Malia, but he was in the class above ours and had graduated. I think I still hung out with him at times. I made new friends at work (Jim, Cisco, Mark, Lobsinger and more) and started to hang around with them a bit and also hung out with some new people from school--Dennis, Stokes, others--but only rather half heartedly.
A lot of the time I just hung out with myself.
I sold off my little TV that I'd had in my room. I began reading more--novels, politics. I began to take my writing more seriously and worked on it, refined it, explored it. I was sad a lot. depressed. Self-pitying, no doubt. I just wanted to get away from Iowa, from Urbandale in particular. I yearned for something more, for somewhere exotic or visually intoxicating: tropical islands, Greece, Africa, the mountain states of the West. I was frustrated. Ironically, I was doing much better at school--my grades vastly improved junior and senior years--mainly just because I found that I liked to learn.
So, senior year was one of change, of self-assesment, of desire for more. And I tried to bring that change about, even if I didn't quite know how. I was lonely yet relished that solitude. Felt sorry for myself, yet was also determined not to be like my fellow Urbandalites. Urbandalians? Urbandaleese? And really, I forged a life outside of and separate from high school my senior year. Tried new things. Came to understand myself better and, really, found a pathway that allowed me to continue, to find some value in myself.
But, eventually, before graduation, I came back to my main set of friends. I'd known them for most of my years in school. They were good guys (and they were guys all--their were few girls involved in my school days (and no doubt that had something to do with my misery)). But I reconnected with my group of friends--Larry, Dave, Bill, Randy, Jim, Bob and some others who came and went within that core circle. And later--in the years to come--I achieved some of my desires. Found, to a certain degree, what I was looking for.
But by the spring of 1976, I was back in the fold. I was with my pals . . . Like I said, I don't think they even knew I was gone.