So May 24th marked 6 years that I graduated from high school. I know that it seems like 6 years is not that much time and a lot of memories from high school seem like a blur. Sometimes it feels like it happened a billion years ago. I've paid more attention to how much can happen in 6 years. 6 years ago, my first child was born shortly before I graduated. Along the way, I experienced so much heartache, I was a stay at home mom for 6 months, I attempted to do online college courses, I worked at a grocery store, I lost one of the greatest women in my life. I sat and took my entrance exam for nursing school and passed. I lost my best friend. I met someone and fell in love, I went through the Hell that was nursing school, I graduated, got engaged, and moved to Huntington. I passed my LPN boards, I've had 3 jobs in long term care where I made it my goal to take care of the people that I was responsible for like they were my own grandparents, I was married and gave birth to my second child. And now, I'm in the specialty that I've always wanted to be in. That alone makes it feel like 6 years is an extremely large amount of time. I always have a moment when I go to put a patient on the NST monitor. I love trying to find those little heart beats and moving them around and feeling a kick or two. I always think back to when it was me sitting there, practically still a baby myself while a nurse was trying to get Draven to cooperate.
Welch Junior High shut down when my class had 3 years of elementary school left. When I tell you that our parents lost their absolute shit and probably would have protested when the news broke that the middle school would be combined with the high school. I mean they were absolutely terrified. My mom talked shit about that at least the entire time that I was in middle school. People tried to scare us. In the last few months of 5th grade, they tried to beat it into our heads that Mount View High School was one of the most dangerous places in the County. Back in the 90s, according to my mom, they were able to smoke behind the school when their parents gave them permission, there were still wars between Gary, Northfork, Keystone, and Welch kids (the fucking school had been open for 20 years at that point and they wouldn't let that shit go).
We had this field trip called "Move Up Day," where they would load up all of the 5th graders from around the county and take us to the school just so we could get an idea of what the rest of our lives would be like for the next 7 years. The adults that were against us going to school up there tried to make us believe that people carried guns to school (because they had recently gotten rid of the metal detectors that were there from a kid bringing a gun to school before our time). A teacher told us that "someone will try to fight you just because they don't like what you're wearing," that was her direct quote. Move Up Day was the shit. We were all so excited. We'd been stuck in one classroom with the same familiar faces for the last 7 years. We would get lockers and get to change class.
Unfortunately we wouldn't get recess, but looking into the cafeteria for the first time and I saw how much life there was in a sea of new faces was fucking thrilling for me. That beat the hell out of recess. It reminded me of those scenes from Mean Girls where looking at the crowd on my classmates was like being in the jungle.
When the future graduating class of 2014 officially walked through those doors for the very first time, we were all oblivious because of our innocence. And most of our parents were terrified of when and how we would lose that innocence, some were afraid of how it would change us, and some were terrified of the mask being pulled from our eyes and we'd have to face the harsh reality of life and they wouldn't be able to do anything about it.
The week after my 11th birthday marked the beginning of what would be my baby for the rest of my time at Mount View. Bunny Vineyard, my very first cheer coach back when I was swinging my little hips in a little purple and gold uniform next to Chasity Sabo (Now Chasity Pruitt who also saved me from drowning at a pool party when we were 6. Her mom and my mom worked at McDonald's together for as long as I could remember), told Momma that she didn't want me to miss try outs because she saw something in me that was too good to waste. Looking back at the roll that I played during cheer season when I got to high school, I know what she was talking about.
That first day, I just walked into the gym, not looking for any classmate in particular. We had all been close when we were in elementary school because that's what happens when you sit in one class room all day every day for so long. Justin Green was the first person that I saw and he was sitting alone (I always wondered how weird it must have been for him to actually ride the bus now since he lived right next to the elementary school). So, I just climbed the bleachers, almost feeling like I had forgotten how to walk. I was nervous as hell. I was afraid of not being able to open my locker or getting lost somewhere and not being able to get to the correct class room.
We all learned quickly that the adults had been blowing smoke up our asses. We all adapted well and as the movies portray, there were cliques. The kids that went to Welch Elementary together still had sand box love for each other, but we quickly fell in line with more people that had similar likes and interests and that was what helped mold our personalities and experiences.
And then the girls got boy crazy and the boys got girl crazy. Some of our childish habits were still lingering like when we'd pass notes to each other between classes or when us girls would link arms when hopping off to lunch. Most of my friends started their periods and started developing within the first few months (my friends like Amber Allen, Aysha Flowers, and Rebekah Snow filled out while I still looked like a fucking potato). We found out about sex and how our bodies worked.
We had the pleasure of seeing STDs and learning the importance of using condoms or abstinence (I swear to God, we were all shook. Those pictures in health class of diseases genitals was enough to make most of us swear to never have sex for as long as we lived). As I got older, I took it upon myself to always be the responsible one in a situation and use protection. It was bad enough that I was sneaking around to misbehave. I didn't want whatever was done in the dark to come to the light with me getting an antibiotic shot in my ass. All these years later, I'll put my personal business out there (we're all adults. Get over it.) I've never been hit with the news that I had a sexually transmitted disease and even after working in an OB/GYN clinic for almost a year, I'd lose my shit.
At 11 years old, I wasn't too worried about not having a period throughout the year. Fuck yeah I wanted boobs instead of mosquito bites (I regret wanting to have boobs now). All I was told was that I would bleed for 5 to 7 days every month for the rest of my life and that was it. I didn't know if it was natural or if it was going to be painful. At the time, I was glad that I didn't have to walk around bleeding like a stuck pig with a piece of cotton shoved in a hole that I didn't even know existed. As a kid, your instincts tell you that anything associated with blood will be painful. I'd learned more details in Health class, but it still didn't completely register that having a period meant that I could get pregnant.
While menarche (the onset of the very first menstrual cycle) was hitting my friends like a domino effect, I was still freaked out about having periods and the idea of having sex. I swear that when Amber told me what a tampon was and where it was supposed to go, I was bugging the fuck out. The rest of them were beginning to wear make up (Momma could have murdered me for even asking to wear make up) and they were being noticed by boys. I can't deny the fact that I was jealous. I've always been a brat and an attention whore and I can say that now because of how stupid I was because of that.
The most fascinating part of my development was when it was my turn to start bleeding like a stuck pig for the rest of my life. Momma had had a hysterectomy in January of 2008. She had little to no estrogen because her ovaries (which naturally produce estrogen) had to be removed. She was in full blown menopause (and at one point, I thought my name was Fuck. It was a fucking Nightmare on Court Street). May rolled around and that was when Momma's menopause was hitting her full force. She was more moody and was angry and sweaty for the majority of the time. And it was because that was when I got my first period. To sum it up, in the animal kingdom, when a younger female animal reaches her prime with her hormones raging, it makes an older female more aggressive and vicious and the two go at each other in an attempt to fight to the death. That was my life for at least 5 years.
At 12, I picked up on new music and new movies and I took up reading the Twilight series (I'm still your favorite vampire girl). I'd taken an interest in writing to be able to escape in my own little world. I fell in love with Juno when it came out. I wanted to be like her but not in the way that everyone expected with that Juno Effect bullshit that went on back then. I wanted to have a hilarious, no fucks given attitude and just say what I wanted to say whenever I wanted to say it without being afraid. From 12 to 13, I was still stumbling around trying to fit in (and today, I really don't give a shit about fitting in and I find it hard to believe that that was something that I wanted back then).
That transition took me by surprise and it was one of the most troubling times of my life. Trying to figure out who I was and who I was supposed to be was one of the most painful experiences of my life.
It was like a light switch flipped between me being 12 and 13. And that was when my body changed and it happened right under my nose and I was absolutely oblivious. At 12 with only a few days before I turned 13, my hair was still a mess because of a God awful haircut that I had gotten last year, I had a little round moon face with all of my childlike features, my hips were straight and narrow, my boobs were still flat, my ass was nonexistent and my belly was round. I was just fluffy.
Long story short, 8th grade was one hell of a ride. Someone said to me, "Bre'A, you got pretty over the summer!" and that was the biggest what the fuck moments of my life. September rolled in and everyone noticed that I was losing more weight. They'd say that I was slimming down but I didn't pay attention. Some one had to say something before I actually took the time to look at my body in the mirror. I couldn't even stand the thought of looking at my body in the mirror before. There was still a lot of tension between me and my mom and that's probably what hatched the bright idea for me and Jada Smith to pierce our lips over the phone with earring studs (I got away with it for about a week before Momma flipped the fuck out and made me take it out).
Pairing my new body with the release of Jennifer's Body (still one of my all time favorite movies), where I wanted to be a sex symbol like Jennifer Check, I wanted a snarky personality like Juno MacGuff, and a hardcore fuck authority attitude like the Runaways, when 9th grade came rolling in, I felt brand new and I loved every minute of it.
I was definitely a wild little bitch and people like Holiday, Brittany Burks, Froggy, Zelle, NuNu, Jamari, Paco (I'm still pissed off to this day that my paw paw G-BUDDY saw Paco and Jamari fight back in 8th grade during lunch time and I missed it), and probably a few more people that I can't think of right now will be able to tell you. I'd murder my boys for even attempting half the shit I did, but it made me a legend (at least I hope so). If you know who my companion was for the majority of these shenanigans , do me a favor and take it to your grave. Just know that there were plenty of bus rides to plenty of football games (even when we were all in middle school singing nursery rhymes just to bug the shit out of Squeaky Baker), where you could always bet your ass that we were playing "Never Have I Ever," and my ass was always the first one out.
High school was fun. Absolutely fun even when I had days where you'd see me and half the female population of the school rolling into the cafeteria in the mornings with a blanket and we wouldn't completely wake up until lunch time. We partied our asses off in Gary and then Raymond's (cut to the Sunday morning where me, Paco, and NuNu were all forced to sit in church with the sun destroying our eyes because our partying had ended at 4 that morning and we were in church by 11). We enjoyed the Jersey Shore era where Brittany's poof was so solid that we thought she was going to have to shave her head. Rich Wilson, one of the coolest guys you'd ever cross paths with, was stabbed and the rest of the school was on lock down and those of us that knew him were fucking terrified. If you shared a class with Michael Diggs (Debo) then you knew that not a single piece of work would be done because he'd have you laughing your ass off. And of course I can't leave out how many fights we all witnessed (right down to Teddy Hazzard literally slinging a fucking chair in the air).
All of that coming to an end didn't become clear to me until the rest of the school knew that I was pregnant. I'll never forget Joe Crouse coming up to me and asking if I was pregnant and if I was still going to cheer (he was mostly wanting me to tell Ms. Jack and to be careful). I wasn't ashamed. I couldn't hide it and I didn't want to. I simply told him just like I told everyone else, "I'm going to do what I have to do." Going from Cheer Captain to Mom-to-be was a huge leap for me. Everyone expected me to worry about the experiences that I was going to miss out on. And I didn't care. I let everyone know that I made this baby and now I had a greater purpose in life. Cheerleading and high school was going to come to an end eventually.
And then, Graduation Day finally came. We wanted it to come as quickly as possible but just like Mr. Harris always told us, almost all of our lives flew by because we blinked. My memory of Graduation Day will still bring tears to my eyes when 6 more years fly by.
Tia and I stood there in the parking lot with our gold caps and gowns on looking at each other in disbelief. All I could imagine was the picture of our moms standing side by side in their caps and gowns 19 years before it was our turn.
Chasity and I took a picture together and I just remembered how comforting it was when she was the only familiar face from a different school when we started going to Mount View. And there was Chelsea Stone, who quickly became my friend all those years ago because she was close to Chasity and she was kind.
I had Lillian Keys, Austin Johnson, and Brandy Coe to smile with and silently thanking them for being nice and being my friends at a time when I wasn't even sure that I wanted to be alive. Twilight consumed so much of our lives back then and I wouldn't change a single thing about it.
Hearing Breanna Burbett and Dennie Hale laughing at lunch would always stay with me. I'd been hearing those two laugh hysterically since kindergarten.
It seemed like the time we took to stand around taking pictures went on forever because I couldn't help but cherish the memories that I had with most of them no matter how big or how small they were. Right down to Howard Bailey puking on me in the 1st grade and Brittany Copley flying through one of the cafeteria windows.
But the part that really brings tears to my eyes is when it was finally time to line up in alphabetical order just like we'd done for most of our lives. As we marched out of the middle school gym, the same place we marched in when we started our journey on the mountain, reality set in and it felt like I'd had the wind knocked out of me. All I could think of was how little and innocent we were. Mr. Harris marched around with his megaphone scaring the shit out of all of us (God forbid you misbehave. He'd pull out that damn flip phone in a heartbeat to call your parents and they'd rip you a new asshole when you got home).
We sat and laughed and cried while watching the slide show that allowed everyone to take a look at the good and bad times we had and we really got to see how much we'd all grown. I don't know about anyone else, but those last few moments really hit me hard and I definitely wasn't ready. It seemed like only yesterday, I was standing there on the stage in the auditorium with my big hair for the Miss Golden Knight Pageant (where I threw my crown because I was being a brat when I didn't win. You could see why my pageant career didn't last long). My heart raced just like I always imagined it when it was time for me to walk across the stage for my diploma (not because I had just had a baby and I was wearing 10 inch heels).
We blinked and we were officially no longer the Welch Elementary, Fall River Elementary, Kimball Elementary, and Anawalt Elementary kids. We were finally turning our brown and gold tassels and I don't know about anyone else, but oddly for me, it felt like those little barriers were finally broken and we were all sitting there waiting to toss our caps in the air as one. And at that point, when we were presented to everyone else as the GRADUATED class of 2014, whether we loved each other or hated each other, whether we were leaving on good terms or bad terms, for me, all of those memories were worth it because of the people I shared them with.