High School – Elements of Growing Up
Walking out of that sweaty auditorium into the midsummers air I was ready. Reflecting back on middle school it felt like a very short period of time. I was pretty happy I didn’t spend more than two years there, but I was also grateful for the experiences and challenges I faced. Without increasing challenge we can’t expand and grow ourselves on the inside. Our body itself will stop growing if there is no challenge for it to surpass.
I may not have always enjoyed school but I never gave up on it. I don’t know what it was like for my parents to watch me go through this time period, but I did notice some anxiety when my grades weren’t where they probably should be. I knew I wanted to be a great student, be that kid that teachers enjoyed teaching, to be the kid everyone went to for help, but I wasn’t. I was pretty average in a lot of ways but I was absorbing more than I realized.
I was growing up physically and mentally. I matured a lot during middle school and I could feel it. I could feel it when I walked down the steps of and out of graduation.
I was excited for what lay ahead.
I knew I could handle school. I wasn’t the strongest student, but I knew I could hold my own in class. I had a better sense of what I should be able to accomplish.
When it came to friends I’ll always be grateful for the people whom I hung out with in the cafeteria, in class, in band class, in athletics, and socially. If any of those people are reading I want to thank you for the friendship and fun times we all had together. I may not be mentioning you by name or talking about birthdays and movies seen together but I remember, and I love all you guys for that. Little more on friendship later ok?
Because I’m a Guy…
Growth spurts come and go. I’m pretty sure I had one somewhere in high school, because everyone seemed to get shorter as I got older. Even if I didn’t coordinate my body’s growing-ness I still had to endure a few things.
As I grew taller my knees would ache. I would try rubbing them to alleviate the pain but it was persistent. It would come and go but for a while I was simply uncomfortable. Growing pains, ekk!
Then came the body hair. Oh shit… To my dismay growing up included becoming a hairy italian kid. My upper lip was first. A slight peach fuzz grew which naturally required the most advanced razor of the time. I was proud of this fuzz because it was a place of prominence for any young man. For whatever reason I remember a video on, as best as I can describe it, being a man with facial hair. I quite literally have no idea when or where I watched this video but I remember it talking about facial hair and how it was usually a sign of maturity for us men. It was an older video which depicted lots of bushy mustaches. This helped me make the decision to grow a beard. Yeah… anyway.
Other than small amounts of facial hair and weird videos my body responded to growth all over the place. Legs, armpits, feet, hands, arms, chest, my man area. Pretty sure that’s called puberty but whatever.
With new hair came new anxieties. My armpit hair was a topic of sensitivity. I was actually pretty embarrassed about it. When I stretched around people I sometimes would remember I had armpit hair and not raise my hands up. As funny as this might sound I didn’t want other people to see that I was growing hair there. I thought it was weird and gross. I’m pretty sure everyone could see it but it made me feel better keeping my armpits closed.
I haven’t thought much about how I grew in high school until it became a topic within this blook (blog and book combined). At this stage of my life I didn’t choose to grow. It was an automatic process that I took for granted. Actually all growth is generally unconscious until we as humans become aware of it. I think it’s pretty amazing to have a body that is intelligent enough to grow all on it’s own!
Other than body hair and height I got acne, my voice changed, I had mood swings, DAMNIT STOP TALKING TO ME! Sorry… had a flashback. (bad joke?)
Lucky for me most of my experiences with this sudden hormonal growth didn’t make me go as crazy as I thought I would. In general I had a pretty easy time comparative to others. Even with some acne, my skin was generally clear and clean. My voice didn’t rapidly change pitch and I was gifted with a body that enjoyed burning calories instead of harboring them.
From the time I stepped into high school to about my junior or senior year I was physically growing. I stopped at a good height, about 5 foot, 11 inches. I was thin and strong at about 150 pounds.
Just like my childhood I was still always moving, but I also really enjoyed my sleep. I remember staying up later and later, and then my mother coming in and waking me up on a Saturday around 11. I did NOT want to get up, but short of getting prodded with an electric cattle prod I would get out of bed begrudgingly. I recently (2017) found out that at this stage of a teenagers life we generally fall asleep later at night and wake up later in the day. Apparently this process is a necessary step in a teenagers development. By getting in the way of it we may be stunting their growth in one way or another.
As with any good parent mine naturally slaved me out to yard work, house work or any other physical labor that they needed help with. I didn’t care too much for it but then again, I sort of enjoyed it. Digging in the ground, mowing the lawn, moving heavy logs, dragging bags of dirt here and there, moving trees, you know the usual stuff.
At one point during my middle school years we had purchased a lake house which we deemed, The Camp. When we went out to Camp I would help my dad and mom get ready for whatever project we were doing. In the spring it was putting out the swim doc, getting the water lines hooked up and cleaning up the residual mouse poo that was graciously left in our drawers. In the winter we would snowshoe out to the property to make sure nothing terrible had befallen the place during heavy snowfall. In the summer we would simply enjoy it until we had to clean up pine needles or fallen branches in the area. Maybe chop some wood, whatever!
Because of these tasks growth of my body wasn’t all that happened. Growth of skill and interests began to emerge. Mixed with some of my previous passions and skills I started to shape into a pretty cool young man.
Doing general labor helped to strengthen my body without me realizing it. Since the work isn’t focusing on one specific muscle group my body became stronger as a unit. Which brings me to my interest in exercise.
Weight lifting was definitely on my radar. I’m not sure how my interest in being fit developed but I think like most kids I wanted to have the kind of body everyone else envied. It’s funny how these ideas naturally seep into our heads.
I don’t remember anything specific about how I started lifting weights. I just know that my mother and I would go out to Play It Again Sports and pick up one or two weights for me to train with. I had nights where I would do crunches and pushups in my room, lift some weights, dream of having an incredibly body, rinse and repeat.
I’m pretty sure I wanted to be some super jacked guy that, again, everyone hung around with because he was a specimen of physical beauty.
When I got into running through my years in high school I would also do weight lifting. We even had a weight lifting class that we could take instead of doing a regular gym class. There were a few girls but most of the time it was just us guys hanging in the gym. Being sweaty and adjusting ourselves every five minutes.
Even though I was strong for my frame I wasn’t very big. I was lanky all through high school. Even with weight lifting I still didn’t get very much muscle mass. I’m pretty sure this was due to my incredibly metabolism.
For example… There was a point in high school where I had to take some time off running. When I came back I wanted to jump right back into the same thing I was doing, which was a ton of running and calisthenics. After a day or two of beating myself back into shape I developed such a ravenous hunger I could clear out our refrigerator in an hour or two. My hunger was insatiable and it was nearly impossible for me to stop. I didn’t gain any weight. This was my gift and curse. I was thin and could eat most anything I wanted, but the bill was always pretty high. I think a lot of guys might be able to relate to the idea that eating like this when we’re younger can translate into having a bad habit of eating a lot when we’re adults and gaining the wrong kind of weight.
Running had been on my mind since elementary school and even though I had joined the track team by the end of middle school I was still very new to the sport. I didn’t know much about how to train, how to race, or what the limits of my body were. I just remember getting my ass handed to me the minute I stepped into high school. This CRAZY coach by the name of Putnam was head coach at the time. I have many stories and inspiring events that happened throughout my time but he and the team were responsible for getting me in shape, pushing me to grow as a team captain and physically.
Wait, wait, wait…
What the hell Jay I thought we were talking about personal growth and developing ourselves and reflecting back on life experiences. Why the hell are we reading about puberty? Like, gross.
Well let me explain.
We as humans are naturally meant to grow. To grow physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually it doesn’t matter. It is our natural tendency to improve overtime.
As babies we are brought into this world kicking, screaming and struggling to live. As time goes on we get bigger, stronger, smarter. I’m simply reflecting on the miracle that was my puberty years because it’s an excellent example of unconscious growth. Growth that happens without an instruction manual.
At some point the growth seems to stop. For me it was some time before the end of high school but my body continued to change. I was at full height and bone structure but my brain continued to develop. I got smarter, was able to absorb more information.
As my environments changed so did I. It was uncomfortable at first but my zone grew bigger and bigger every time I was presented with a challenge.
You see it’s not just that we grow up from being a kid to a teen to a young man or woman to a full adult. We are also given opportunities to make choices. These choices, whatever they may be, have the ability to stunt our long term growth or propel it.
Choosing to smoke creates addiction to the drug, growth is stunted. Drinking lots of water helps to keep our body healthy and hydrated, growth is helped.
You see, growth isn’t just a kid to adult thing, it’s a choice we make every day. Our bodies simply gave us a blatant example to go by. Take in nutrients, have periods to rest, grow, rinse and repeat. Be relentless in the pursuit of growth because it is a daily task that will happen with or without us.
Putting that mess aside there was obviously much more to my high school experience than just puberty. Friends, school work, athletics, all that stuff created a 4 year experience that was one of a kind.
Moving forward we can now look at my friends, whom I’ve already written a little love note to.
Come back for the next part next week! 2/26/18