My graduating class from Junction City High School was barely 120. In the same way my husband says he is 5’12,” stretching to own every last available increment.
We didn’t have a salutatorian, but in that way you know everyone else in your small classes GPA along with who they’ve kissed, and, well, other things that maybe you didn’t really want to know about them, I knew that if we had, it would have been me. I wore a Gunne Sax dress I’d sewn myself (which may or may not have been adorned with thin strips of blue and green satin ribbon) to graduation, and accompanied–very poorly–I am not a good accompanist–my friend Kellee Bradley for her musical number. (At least that’s how I remember it. It may not have happened that way at all. But then, you’ve seen plenty of disclaimers from me about my memory before.)
Graduation was followed by a summer of long days and nights hoeing by day and slinging pizzas by night–well into 1-2am before being back to sharpening the hoe by 8am the next day.
And then I found myself living the dream I’d proclaimed aloud in my sophomore (or possibly junior, but my money’s on sophomore) year English class.
“I’m going to BYU and I will major in English.”
I set off to BYU, presidential scholarship in hand (or in the bank, or BYU’s bank, as it were), ready to take it by the same storm I took good old JCHS.
And there I was mistaken.
Slowly over the next couple of semesters I learned the painfully hard way exactly what it meant to go from being a big fish in a small pond to barely measuring up to baby-sized guppy in a veritable ocean.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying. I was INVOLVED!
I had a job. Eventually two jobs (just not simultaneously).
I was not shy. I said hello to people (in a way that is no longer possibly on account of everyone is glued to their cell phones) in between classes and on the way to and from school.
I was assistant hall president (or something) for Bowen Hall. (That might have been my second year, I don’t recall.)
I became friends with the hall residents.
I volunteered for some sort of council where we met with student representatives for all the other schools in the WAC. Where, for the first time, I realized people really truly think we are weird. (We are weird. I’ve just always thought it was a quaint or charming weird and didn’t realize that there are people out there who don’t actually like us. Like not at all.)
I asked boys to preference.
I was an instigator and DID THINGS.
I had my first caffeine in the form of a Big Gulp of Pepsi from 7-11, which made me so hyper I’m sure I made even more friends.
And nothing worked.
I got lost.
People were not as enamored with me as they had always seemed to be back home. Nor were they as enamored with me as I was with them.
I was no one. Invisible. Forgettable.
I started sitting on the back row of all my classes. Not just Physical Science and American Heritage classes populated by literally hundreds of students, but also my English lit classes.
I stopped raising my hand and asking or answering questions.
I got my first C in a class. And said goodbye to the easy A s I’d been so accustomed to.
I felt insignificant.
And very small.
Eventually I got used to it. I realized I was not going to be salutatorian or make the dean’s list or receive an award for Outstanding Student in English or be nominated Most Likely to Succeed by my graduating class or even get asked to Homecoming.
And I became ok with that.
[Day 144 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]