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The High School Changeling

“High school was my personal Vietnam,” I said in many of my articles over the years, some dating back to my days working for the Stony Brook Statesman in 1994. A year later, I wrote a screenplay about it, called The Whitefish Boy, that was optioned at one point, by the casting director of Breaking Bad. I had been so down on my high school years, that for a very long time, I didn’t try to reach out to my high school friends. It was a time I wanted to bury.

I went to Midwood High School, which to this day, is a high school that recruits the brightest kids of Brooklyn who don’t make it to the highly specialized city high schools such as Stuyvesant. Midwood’s recruiting of the best and brightest meant the best kids were no longer going to the local high school, so high schools such as Canarsie and South Shore were eventually closed to create smaller schools on their campus.

Ages 14 through 17 were an awkward time. Transitioning from a private day school to a high school wasn’t easy. My immaturity didn’t help. I didn’t work at all. I had an 82.5 average and maybe with a little work, would have had something higher than 90. What I did realize over the time, is that my dislike of high school was just to hide the disappointment from my years. More importantly, it disguised the poor treatment of parents, who felt their value as parents was measured by my school average. When my father found out that a classmate of mine who we carpooled with, had an 85 average ad got some recognition for it, he stormed out of graduation and threatened to pull me out of college and have me work as an electrician if I couldn’t hack it at college at SUNY Stony Brook. I was looking forward to college, lost 40 pounds that senior year, and saw graduation as some sort of liberation and vindication. The joy that day was ruined when my mother relayed my father’s disgust.

Thanks to Facebook, I have been able to locate some of my best friends in high school. I have invited them to baseball games, had dinner with them, and their stories indicate that my views of high school were a little overblown, to hide the pain I had over my underachievement.

I’m 51 years old, done a few amazing things including starting my own practice and visiting 24 of the current 30 MLB Stadiums. I have succeeded, not in spite of my high school years, but because of it. High school was my first personal struggle, law school was next, and working at that semi-prestigious law firm was my hopefully last personal struggle. They were all struggles, but I overcame them all. The failures are part of the story and are the foundations of my success. The rule that I followed, led me to all this, as did that “failure” over 35 years ago.

The best friends I ever made were from my school days. Unlike many adult friends I have met where I live, my school friends never turned on me for dumb friends, they were always there, all supportive ad understanding. Whatever time I have left, I will have to make amends for the friendships I tossed aside because of the expectations of people who never supported me, but saw me as a prop.

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