I've decided its time to confess. Its time you know the truth about me. Behind all this sensible, 'life-as-I-see-it' writing there lies a deep, dark secret. I have skeletons in my closet, secrets that have been long disguised but never forgotten and its time to let them out; its time to confront my wild day of underage drinking. Its time.
I say 'day of drinking' because it only happened once. At school. And I got suspended.
I went to a private Christian school for most of elementary and all of junior high. I hung out mostly with church kids and I was very naive about The Things of The World. I also desperately wanted to fit in but I just didn't.
One day, while sitting on the floor and taking notes during Bible class, one of the grade seven girls offered me a sip of her drink. I accepted. She started to laugh and asked if I liked it. I said it was okay and asked what it was. She told me it was Swamp Water.
At the end of class her friend showed me a little bottle, confessing that that's what was put into the soda. I laughed along with the girls, pretending to 'get it' but really having no clue. One of the Church Girls saw us laughing and looked into the bag. She was immediately appalled and headed straight for the Principal's office.
Long story short, I was suspended for drinking alcohol on school property. It turns out the little bottle held Creme de Menthe and the Swamp Water soda was spiked. Before I was sent home the principal sat me down in her office and had a little chat with me.
I expected her to be furious but she wasn't. If anything she was sad. She said that she knew that I didn't realise what was in that bottle but that I was being suspended along with the other girls who knowingly brought and consumed alcohol at school.
When I began to protest about how unfair the punishment was, especially because she knew I didn't know what was in the drink to begin with she stopped me cold with these five words, "But you did know ... enough." I immediately got her point.
I knew the girls to be mischievous at best, manipulative and deceptive at worst. I knew that I was following blindly in an effort to fit in and I knew that I was not One of Those Girls, I was Me; independent, intelligent, thoughtful me. I knew that I was more than that moment ... and so did my principal.
When I came back from my suspension I sat down for another chat with my principal. We talked about the person I wanted to be, the things that interested me and the talents that I had and how I was going to use them to be the best Me possible. She helped a 13 year old me discover the truth of who I was and who I was becoming.
Now, more than 20 years later, I think about that conversation and all the ones that followed often. I think about how this busy, no-nonsense, by-the-book teacher took the time to notice and know me. I remember her words of encouragement and guidance whenever I feel like I am losing my way and every time I try something, achieve something I wonder if she knows. And I hope that I am making her proud, that she knows her time and effort wasn't wasted. I hope she knows that she made a difference, that she is still making a difference.
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~e.e. cummings, 1955