After asking several males for NaNoEdMo what their lives were like at seventeen and incorporating their advice into the rewrite of my novel, I figured it was only fair to go through the same exercise myself.
If we ignore the first week of January, it’s safe to say that I was seventeen in 2004, the second half of my junior year of high school and the first half of my senior year of high school, or the part of life I wanted to capture with my characters. This is where I kick myself. See, I was never a normal high school senior. I don’t mean that I didn’t fall into any of the typical cliques or anything like that. No, I mean I was not at my high school during my senior year of high school, channeling my boredom with high school classes into further academic challenge at a local college. I enjoyed this experience, but I knew it would bite me later–not in the social sense (I wasn’t very far up in the social hierarchy to begin with), but in my writing.
That aside, let’s look at my own experiences. I still knew a lot of people, and they knew me, but many of my friends from the first few years of high school had already graduated, and I was in a transitional phase. I was making new friends in lower years while beginning to bond with a few people in my own class. Despite this, I still felt like an outsider to the world around me. Everyone else knew something that I didn’t about how to be social and included. The social hierarchy had been established, and I was trying to get back in.
One of the main things that stand out in 2004 is my academic schedule in the spring of my junior year. I graduated second in a class of 285 students, and the valedictorian of my class and I were friends. I was an academic masochist even back then, and I talked her into taking some of the hardest senior-level classes as juniors. This plan partly backfired because many of the honors and AP classes conflicted with each other, thus screwing with what appeared on the surface to be a brilliant plan. This screwup only affected my schedule; because she had taken a class that I hadn’t already taken, my plan gave both of us insane schedules, but her even more so.
2004 was also my second year of NaNoWriYe (yes, it existed then). I did and won NaNoWriMo for the third time. 2004 was even more difficult thanks to my schedule, but I managed to write something on top of my academics and extracurriculars. I often doubted myself and my ability to write during this period, probably because stories didn’t just rain from the skies into my head. After all, published authors just made it look so easy. I definitely started NaNoVangelising during this time, as the only people I knew in my area who were doing NaNoWriMo were the people I told about it. Another notable writing moment was my attempt to convince an English teacher to let me write a novel instead of a research paper. Several of my classmates protested just in case she did say yes. (She didn’t, though she did think I was crazy for suggesting it.)
I was also active in many extracurricular activities: Academic Bowl, French Club, French Honor Society, National Honor Society, Beta Club, FBLA, on and on and on, but those were the main ones. The janitors got to know me very well as I left the school, and these activities kept me around after school most often than not. I met a lot of people through these groups, but I was rarely an officer, possibly thanks to that thing called popularity. I was known. I was not popular. It was definitely better than riding the bus, especially since medical conditions kept me from driving.
Church played a larger role in my life back then. I volunteered in the church library, particularly in the children’s section, and was active in the youth group. We had a close group that was rocked by the departure of a fun youth pastor. The only thing I miss about organized religion is the immediate social group you gain from the church. Church event? Let’s go! And if you were Baptist like I was, there was always food.
I also thought much less about boys than I did during my first two years. I had crushes, yes, but not to the level that I did then. Crushes were distracting, both for schoolwork and writing, the most important things in my life at the time.
I was also thinking about colleges: where to go, what I wanted to do (creative writing/English and French at the time), all those questions. In the end my decisions were based on who had a good English department and what cities had strong NaNoWriMo communities. I think I made a good choice, even if I didn’t end up studying English.
I made my first ever B during my first semester of senior year. At the time I thought it would crush me. Now I see that it liberated me, even if a small part of me hurt every time I saw a B on my grade report.
And for those who wonder, people called me Sushi back then. In fact, people called me Sushi for years before that.