50th Post: What School Felt Like

In writing my memoir pieces, it hit me just how little I’ve conveyed the specific experience that high school was for my Aspie (1) mind. That happens when you’re trying to convey a history. The small details get lost even though they’re really what I suspect others want to hear about. Let’s face it, autobiography is more than a little self serving. But as a bridge between the entries and as I hit post 50, why not convey the small details that didn’t fit?

School is a mix of things we love and things we hate. There’s nice lovely structure. When you’re on a 7 period, 5 day a week schedule it’s hard to be confused. Every day is much the same. At a certain time you have to be a certain place. There might be a test but that’s expected.

There’s also a certain logic to most of it. Factual classes like math (2), history, or science rule. There’s no room for interpretation. Either a fact is right or wrong in these classes.  When English classes focus on the facts of the text, again, can’t argue. Right or wrong. We’re black and white minded.

We also do well with the variance. One hour you’re on one subject. Another hour something different. We are a bit flighty. ADHD is often one of our diagnoses. Our minds sharpen by the routine shift in schedule.

However school is incredibly frustrating too. The most frustrating thing would have to be the onslaught of data. I was good about doing my homework. I was awful at getting it to school. You have seven different obligations in one day. It’s hell to keep organized. You have to remember to bring all of this to all of these places. Gah!

It also sometimes doesn’t make sense. Literary analysis was hell for me at first because it wasn’t literal. Grammar was very confusing and nonsensical to my mind, logically so as the aspie brain struggles with communication. I did very poorly showing my work since that laborious task physically hurt my hand.

The worst part though? The stimuli. Oh having my disorder in school could be hell. I was excused from at least one pep rally because I started to have a panic attack. School was a loud, crowded, smelly place. I hated eating lunch there especially. You could not breathe there.

I think a lot of how I managed this rested on how much help I got. In middle school I rarely if ever got much help for my disorder. I even had one teacher tell me to stop leaning on it, which she might not have been wrong on but she was still pretty awful to me. Once I got to HS, my disability plan was in effect and teachers worked hard with me because what I was had a definition. Some really fought for me like my journalism teacher.

Ultimately strategies were needed. I got good at shorthand on my notes. A provision giving me a textbook for home and one in the classroom saved me. I was allowed to write most of my in class essays on a computer. If they were highly graded, well I earned that.

I also found my sanctuaries. A quiet place in the courtyard or inevitably the library gave me a place to relax and think. It’s incredible how important a novel was to letting me block out the stimuli. The world got chaotic? Jump to the Star Wars universe.

I’ve been away far too long to say anything meaningful about how it is today, but I really would be shocked if things were much different. I think that’s why high school stories work in fiction. It’s a universal crisis we all face. I loved school. I hated it. It was.

I’ll have the final entry up along with another side entry by Sunday. 50 posts in. Let’s go for more!

(1) No other term works as well for shorthand. Aspie it is.

(2) I hated math. That is all.

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