When I was sixteen, I made the decision to switch schools. I was weary of the small-town vibe of Hopedale Jr./Sr. High School: a building that hosted just a few hundred students and what I considered to be a woefully inadequate Drama Club. In my bid for the big time, I looked to the next town over and chose Milford High School. MHS boasted many impressive features. It had about as many students in my grade level as Hopedale had in the whole school; a gym that was actually attached to the building (no more having to trudge down town in all kinds of weather for Phys. Ed.); a genuine honest-to-goodness football team (I had previously begun to suspect that high school football teams were something that only existed in movies) and, most importantly, a good Drama program.
So impressed was I by my new school that I lived in constant fear that my MHS classmates would see me for the stupid, small-town rube that I thought I was. The most substantial and absurd manifestation of this fear still haunts me to this day: I was afraid to ask where my locker was.
To be fair, I was indeed given a locker assignment. My locker number was neatly printed on a small slip of paper that was handed to me on my first day of eleventh grade. But, after spending the previous four years attending a school that consisted of little more than two short hallways stacked on top of each other, Milford High School’s expansive layout (it was divided into wings—wings for God’s sake!) seemed an impenetrable mystery to me.
And so, unable to decode the correlation between the numbers on that slip of paper and the location of my locker, and too shy to ask anyone, I endured the final two years of my high school career lockerless. Each day of school, every item that I might need—every notebook, every school project, every lunch, every massive hardcover textbook—went into my backpack. I spent my schooldays stooped and shuffling through the hallways, my overstuffed backpack strapped precariously to my then-willow-thin frame. After a while, the backpack seemed to become a part of my overburdened back, and I began to look like a teenage, female Quasimodo as I staggered painfully from class to class.
I’ve long since tackled my fear of looking stupid in front of strangers. Indeed, embarrassing myself in front of others is a phenomenon as frequent and inevitable as the rising of the sun, so why not embrace it? I do wish sometimes, though, that I had learned this lesson earlier; it would have saved me years of resultant back pain after daily laboring under a load that would make a pack animal wince.