I was reminded today, listening to some of my students talk, about how brutal high school can be. In a country that works hard at maintaining the illusion of being a classless society, high school teaches us the exact opposite.
When you’re at school you learn pretty quickly where you sit in the hierarchy. You learn that there are certain people who you don’t approach to talk to because their status at school puts them in a category far superior to yours. You speak only if spoken to, and even though you may be nice to each other, you’ll never be friends.
We like to think that once we get into the big wide world, everything changes. Teenage popularity is no longer a symbol of success, but what bothers me is how much those growing up years can impact who we are and how we see the world.
I wouldn’t be one who’s quick to say I struggle with inferiority, but the other day I realized that more than ten years after leaving high school, there are still people who I wouldn’t approach with friendliness, because of my ingrained sense of hierarchy.
I realized that far from making me humble and unassuming, it was simply making me rude.
As adults, I think there are many of us who need to erase the pedestals, and learn that inferiority is no excuse for rudeness. If anything, it only turns us into the very people who intimidated us in the first place.