Senior year sucked.
I wasn’t speaking to my best friend. I pissed off one of the popular girls in my graduating class and couldn’t walk down the hallway without getting the evil eye. The school’s administration cracked down on the senior class. One of the bans: headphones. I couldn’t even hole myself up in the library and clear my head to the tune of my study playlist. Instead, I sat in the big armchair in the library while I waited for my bus and watched everyone else laugh with their friends. It felt like everyone else had the formula for being happy and fuctioning and I was empty-handed.
There was no doubt that I was drifting away from my high school days. I just didn’t know where I was drifting to.
Freaks and Geeks arrived from Netflix one afternoon and I watched the pilot episode in one sitting. The first scene encapsulated my feelings at the time perfectly: the happy couple sitting on the bleachers cuddling, the stoners underneath the stands talking about Zeppelin, the geeks doing Bill Murray impressions in too-short jeans… and Lindsay Weir, the show's protagonist, wandering around alone in her olive green army jacket, wishing she belonged somewhere.
I felt a lot like Lindsay in high school. I was the good girl who desperately wanted to be bad; the straight-edge, rule-abiding teacher’s pet who hung a collage with REBEL prominently pasted front-and-center over her headboard. I found myself questioning everything – myself, my future, the existence of God. My old friends seemed less and less like me. I had my own Kim Kelly-like relationships: friendships that were based on both revulsion and a desperate need to be liked. I got crushes on boys who didn’t know I was alive. I tried to stand up for other people and had it backfire big time. I was way too cowardly to stick up for myself even though I was probably justified in doing so. I was mad for the attention of people whose affection I had to work for. I felt annoyed by and put off by those whose affection was easy to keep. I hungered for someone to take me seriously. I felt frustrated with other people most of the time. I felt frustrated with myself even more.
I finished the pilot episode and then promptly sealed the red envelope up and mailed it back. I didn’t want episode two. Time passed, and graduation arrived. I got the white dress and held the boquet and took the college sweatshirt photo. I booked it out of the reception and promised myself that I wouldn’t look back. The summer went by. I went to college and suddenly things were different. My friends at Emerson were a lot more like me: they were ambitious, but they didn’t necessarily know for what. We were young and hungry and relieved that we’d finally found other people who made us feel less like losers and more like we actually stood a chance. I found a group of female friends who felt like family. And then I woke up one day and realized that this was what it was like to be one of those kids who seemed to know how to be happy.
Things from high school fell back into place too – or as well as they could, at least. I restored my friendship with a friend who had moved away after our sophomore year. I reached out to another friend who’d always seemed cool and who I now finally felt comfortable saying “hey, you’re pretty cool” to. And one day I called my best friend and realized that a stupid fight wasn’t worth throwing away a great relationship. We laughed a lot about everything that happened and suddenly it all felt like something I could handle. It felt small and smooth, like something I could slip in my pocket and carry around without feeling like I was being weighed down. It felt good. It felt like moving forward and leaving behind.
One day I was bored while at home on break and I decided to browse YouTube. I stumbled upon a pirated version of Freaks and Geeks and ended up watching the majority of the series that weekend.
It seemed different to me then, because I was on the other side. I watched as Lindsay lay on her bed and stared at the ceiling and realized that soon she would be off to college. I thought a lot about how things seem so big and final and immense when you are in high school and how your world explodes when you leave your hometown and go off to college. The same things that didn’t worry me anymore weren’t going to worry her either. Soon things with Nick wouldn’t mean too much; Kim Kelly wouldn’t be a cautionary tale nor a best friend but a grainy black-and-white picture in a yearbook. Millie would go to another school and maybe they’d see each other at Christmas, but one day Millie would give up and make new friends. Or maybe they’d reunite.
I didn’t know it then, but the reason that I couldn’t watch any more of the series while i was still in high school was that I was too close to the situation at the time. But now it was like looking back at old Facebook photos of prom or getting a text from someone who I once had a crush on: it was revising the past and knowing that emotion was once there, but it was just a fact. No longer a feeling. And I knew how things ended up. Soon Lindsay would graduate and so would the freaks. The geeks would graduate after them. They’d all go off to college where “freak” and “geek” no longer mattered, where high school itself no longer mattered.
I’m still working on finishing Freaks and Geeks. Sometimes I wonder if part of me is unable to finish watching it because it still hits a little close to home or that it might even make me a little sad to watch my inner freak slide further and further away. But what I do know is that the last time I called my mom, I asked her to ship my olive green army jacket to school.
Helen has contributed to sites such as Broadway.com and Her Campus and is currently pursuing a degree in Writing, Literature & Publishing at Emerson College. She enjoys long walks on the beach, eating her feelings, and pretending that she's Beyoncé's best friend.