My senior year in high school was good. Really really good. A lot of my time I spent with the love of my life. My after school job was at a local quaint bookstore owned by my surrogate family and I loved working for them and enjoyed their company nearly as often if not more often than my actual family during that time in my life. I had friends. I was photo editor of the yearbook and darned if there aren’t some shots that we published of which I am truly proud.
Best of all, however, was the opportunity to be the lead in our final theater production before graduation. I was cast as Jenny, the girl desperate to gain the attention of the wrong guy. It was funny. I was funny. And I was the star.
Unfortunately, any positive feelings I was experiencing about landing the role and then nailing the role were brutally ripped from me when I learned that the family of one of my co-stars/classmates was using the play as an excuse to discuss me and my mental health issues.
Let me explain. The father of someone in the show popped into my place of employment and began a conversation with my employer about how the show was good but that he had heard that “Mandy didn’t even have to act” in order to portray the slightly wacky character I had poured my heart and soul into for the previous few months. Keep in mind that my employer was also a dear friend, my other mother. This father proceeded to tell this woman, who I adored and admired, about one of my worst high school moments.
My dad made me sign up for the computer class that our school offered. To say that my teacher was bad would be an understatement. She had one of the students do all of the instructing. Our grade was based solely upon 10 question multiple choice tests coming straight from the text written about these outdated computers we were expected to be using. The computer I had at home was newer and I could use it just fine. I don’t test well. I especially don’t test well when my options are multiple choice and the material makes no sense to me. It was a basic class. I was making Ds. This class would eventually, singlehandedly, keep me out of the top 35 of my class, and I’m still wounded by this (perceived) failure.
This one particular day, the mother of my co-star/classmate was substituting for my computer class. I had gotten my report card and my grade for this class was a C. I knew this meant that my GPA was going to take a beating. If I’d been allowed to take another foreign language or physics or ANYTHING but this dreaded computer class, I’d still have a shot at a spot in the top 35 but, alas, I knew that my fate was sealed by this one. stupid. grade. Clearly, grades mattered to me and clearly I was pretty upset. So upset that I spent the entire class period crying and beating my head on my backpack. I didn’t really notice anyone or anything around me. I was just swirling deeper and deeper into a pit of despair.
Now, I realize it puts a teacher in an awkward position to witness such behavior. However, this substitute had known me since Kindergarten. I shouldn’t have been some anonymous teenage face to her. She should have looked at me and remembered my big brown eyes, my brown braids, my thick southern accent. She should have cared enough to have offered me some help. Maybe she could have had me visit the counselor. Maybe she could have asked if I needed to talk. But no, she ignored me. And worse. She went home and talked about me to her family.
So two years later, her husband saunters into my place of employment and makes fun of me to the face of my employer, who says she defended me and let him know that his comments about me weren’t appreciated. Unfortunately, she told this story to the wrong person. They told me, she confirmed its accuracy, blah blah blah.
Boy, did this sting. To have my greatest high school accomplishment thrown in my face as if, instead of being proud that I’d brought this funny and quirky character to life, I should instead be ashamed of how well I was able to portray a wacky person. Of course, today I know that my comedic ability was nothing of which to be ashamed.
And neither was my meltdown in computer class.
Shame on the people who sat there, stared, and did nothing. And for using my meltdown as an excuse to gossip about me and turn, what should have been a wonderful memory, into something that brings me feelings of deep humiliation. Shame on everyone who didn’t help.