[From 1976-1983, I taught English and directed plays at Holland Hall Upper School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was twenty-four and had negligible experience. I didn't know up from down about teaching, but during those years, a handful of students changed me irrevocably. Over three decades, one way or the other, they've found me. I recently invited them to become guest bloggers, reflecting on something about their high school selves.
Jack was a member of The Class of 1982, but I only knew him through hallway encounters as an affable boy with a clever sense of humor. Because he was aligned with other extracurricular activities, I was surprised when he auditioned in his senior year. I sensed something undeniably accurate in his reading and gave him a plum role. Jack worked tirelessly in rehearsals. His portrayal of Howard, a character plagued by uncertainty, was a stand-out performance in Picnic. With no previous experience, he took a huge risk on himself and deserved the rousing applause. Witnessing Jack's courage inspired me to believe in chances. The bigger the better. Throughout my life.]
I stumbled and fell through High School. I failed.
Like a bathroom mirror at the Louvre or an Ipod at La Nozzi di Figaro, I became fascinated with all the wrong things. I was covetous, prurient, self absorbed. By the time I entered Upper School, I had begun a love affair with drugs and alcohol. A tortuous, progressive, rotten relationship that adversely impacted everything and everyone in my path. However, somehow, despite my willful, sloppy belligerence, I was surrounded by such beauty and creativity at Holland Hall that just enough slipped past my defenses to forever change my life for the better.
The story lies within this tiny bit of dogged goodness. Without it, there is nothing.
I came to Holland Hall in Kindergarten and graduated as a Senior. The same was true of many of my classmates. I was blessed to be surrounded by wonderful peers, tremendously gifted in different ways. I am fortunate to maintain many friendships from that time in my life. I loved Holland Hall, but as the years passed, I increasingly took it for granted. I was tenured, you see. I had been there forever. Exceptional surroundings were assumptions. I knew nothing less. By the time I reached Upper School, I was entitled to the point of ruin.
These defects may have been the product of nature or nurture. I am not certain. My parents and family were and are wonderful. My friends, incomparable. How did I get it wrong? I choose to blame it on the deep insecurity and substance abuse that entered my life about this time.
This insecurity may have been born of disequilibrium. To me, my peers appeared to be earnest, but I typified feckless indolence. I was running a hustle most of the time, never applying myself, just skating by. The kids I admired really worked to take advantage of the opportunities that had been lavished upon them. At times I would even ridicule their efforts (the sign of true insecurity). I was a privileged fraud. Even when I saw results from achievement, I would shrink from them, stopping just short of a fulfillment of my potential and slide the rest of the way. What a waste. In any event, insecurity, drugs and alcohol are the leitmotif for my Upper School years. I swung wildly from the verge of success to self-destruction, not able to prosper without sully. I knew I was in rarefied air, felt undeserving and sought solace in self-medication.
This is not to suggest that my entire experience was riddled with angst. I had fantastic times as well, great transitory fun, only depth was sidestepped.
However, little did I know, all that was forsaken during those years was just waiting for me to come back. Remarkably, bridges were not burned.
Some thirty odd years removed, I have reestablished many of my relationships with the faculty and administration from my Upper School years. They have kindly omitted recollections of my foibles and focused on that kernel of good they saw in me all those years ago...they truly remembered! This has brought me far more joy than all my remorse from those years has sadness. They have lifted me up and continue to teach me.
I am now the kind of student in post-graduate life that I wish I had been in school. I have found a comfort and receptivity that has fueled personal growth and acceptance. There are second acts, I thank God, because I needed one.
Jack Meyer is Chairman of Tethys Partners LLC. A graduate of Colorado College, he studied International Economics at the University of Oxford. He lives in Incline Village, Nevada.
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