I did NOT take this photo. This is from Rock n Roll Revival last year, but it captures the spirit of the show better than any other image I could create myself. It was taken by Connor Smith.
Last night, I attended Rock n Roll Revival XXV at my old high school. RnR is the glistening jewel of Severna Park, outshining all other local events. Forty songs are performed over the course of two acts, and the singers, dancers, and band members are all students – except for the one faculty number. The talent is incredible. Each year I’ve been overwhelmed by seeing what my musically-minded classmates are capable of.
Yesterday something else overwhelmed me, too. As I walked across the parking lot to our car, my ears still slightly ringing, I felt sadness. There was a lump in my throat. What can I say of my high school experience? I never auditioned for RnR – the closest I got was signing up for an audition slot and crossing my name off the day of because I was too afraid. I never tried out for any sports. I have very few friends from that time in my life. There were no crowning achievements, no ribbons or trophies, no scrapbooks full of happy memories.
When I was alone with my dad, I told him about my feelings. “You were sick,” he explained. “It would be more unfortunate if high school was the high point of your life.”
He has a point. It’s hard to make friends, join clubs, or audition for roles when you can’t even convince yourself of your own worth. How do you make yourself appealing to a potential friend when you are disgusted by yourself? I didn’t go to prom or graduation because I didn’t feel any sort of attachment to my peers. I had enclosed myself in a box. I had withdrawn from everyone. Some nights I would get very upset that no one wanted to be my friend, but when anyone tried to get close to me, I pushed them away. Depression has a way of isolating you when you most need friendship.
I cannot let myself think how different high school would have been for me if I had had my bipolar disorder under control. To me, those years are lost. There are a few glimmering moments of happiness, most of them involving academics or discussions with my teachers. Despite my efforts to limit my closeness with others, I have a couple of very good friends. Overall, however, those years are marred by depression and mania.
Even though seeing RnR saddened me, I’m thankful I had to the opportunity to attend. I felt rare pride for my community, a place that I normally see as obsessed with athletic competitions and standardized test scores. My hometown is full of very, very talented young men and women. The best part is, I don’t think RnR will be the high point of their lives. There is so much more in store for people with that kind of pure talent coupled with motivation.
So whether you shined at high school or just survived, I firmly believe there is more. I am finding happiness at college, where stability has finally allowed me to pursue the activities I enjoy. Soon I’ll be playing softball again with a team from my dorm. I get to write all of the time. I’m making a difference through Active Minds, a club I’m involved in that helps fight the stigmatizing of mental illness.
Things are getting better. High school is not the end.