Secondary school is a fundamental part of everyone's growing up process. Some people enjoyed it, yet others absolutely despised it. I guess I am somewhere in the middle.
Everyone's school experience is different. I guess it all depends if you were one of the geeks, popular kids, 'smokers', drama freaks or sporty types. Can you guess where I fitted in?
I am extremely grateful to have been able to go to an amazing school, and I look back fondly at myself when I was in high school. I can't help thinking "Awh, I used to be so cute".
If you would have told me that I will become such a strong, independent and happy woman - I probably wouldn't have believed you.
I was an extremely nervous and quiet child - the teacher's pet, as some may have said.
... with friends
... or the lack of them.
No, I'm joking. I had some friends at secondary school, but making friends was definitely not my strong suit.
Year 7 (the first year at secondary school), was difficult for me. I came from an extremely small primary school, and when I say small - I mean 8 students in my year. At primary school, I was usually socialising with the girls, doing cartwheels, skipping or playing house. So, you can imagine what a shock to the system it was when suddenly, I was surrounded by 12 year old boys punching and peanut-ing each other.
Understandably, I wasn't the most popular kid on the block. I tried my best to socialise with other people during break time - but the conversation only lasted the amount of time I was able to ask "what do we have next period", followed by "I don't know".
Admittedly, at the start of secondary school, I had very few-to-zero friends. I resorted to hanging around with my sister, which definitely wasn't my proudest moment (1).
I did finally make some friends in year 8, and that continued throughout school. As mentioned before, I was never a popular kid, and I don't think I ever will be.
In a way, I am rather grateful that I didn't have many close friends during school, it allowed me to look inward and helped me understand who I am. I know that you probably expected me to be writing a sob story here, but in reality - I had enough friends to not make me feel completely alone, but it also allowed me to focus on myself - which not a lot of people have the opportunity to do.
... with anxiety
Year 7 was the first time I experienced social anxiety - but the funny thing is, I didn't know it.
Coming from a Polish household, and just the times we were living in back then - not many people spoke about mental health. Unfortunately, my mental health wasn't amazing during high school.
So, as I've mentioned before - I had social anxiety at the start of secondary school, which looking back, was quite a common thing for many students.
I remember one instance where I had to go home because of it. I had a deep pain in my belly - and I just assumed I over-ate or under-ate (let's face it, probably over-ate if anything). But the pain would only occur when I was at school, or approaching school. Then, when I was in the comfort of my own home, the pain miraculously disappeared. I felt so worthless, I never experienced anything like it - and I tried so hard to control it. Thankfully I settled in at the end, and it was gone - for now.
I always think back to those moments, and how that pain was just in my head. Now, I try to remember that I suffered so much from something that was just a mental trigger, and I try my best to move past it. I've really pushed myself everyday since that experience.
If you know me now, you'd know I'd be the last person that you would suspect to have social anxiety. I try to be the first person to volunteer, speak in public - and I guess I like to be a leader now.
... as a student
I don't think any teacher could have asked for a better student.
I was in the top sets for every subject apart from Physical Education, Religious Studies and English. I was definitely what you would describe as a "sweat" - meaning I would do all my homework on time, be really attentive during lessons, and just overall a good student - which should have been praised more than condemned - but I guess the cool kids didn't care much about their futures.
I finished secondary school passing all my subjects - which in my eyes is all that matters.
I averaged a B/6 in my GCSEs, and I was super proud of that.
I am NOT naturally smart. I had to work very hard for these grades. In the end, I am very proud of little Sebby.
... as a drama freak
I was one of those musical kids.
I was never into sports, apart from that one time we got to do trampolining or when I got this one popular girl out in dodgeball.
As a way of making friends, or it's finest attempt - I joined the drama club, which later led me to doing the school production. I did the school production for 5 years. Honestly, I loved it. I felt like I as part of a family and the sense of community made me enjoy school that much more.
And yes, I did play male characters - which was a bit uncomfortable for me, but I guess I was perfect for the role, as I was trying my best to play a male character all my life up-until I came out (2). I used to dream to be cast as one of the female characters, but that was never going to happen.
I am really happy that I was part of that drama family. They taught me so much about going after your dreams, and being able to express myself
... with boys
They hated me, I hated them.
Later, it turns out: some of them actually fancied me... read all bout it in the article "Dating as a Trans Woman" (3).
What I learnt from secondary school
... that I've had enough of playing a part.
Throughout secondary school, I tried so hard to please people with everything I did. And looking back, I could have been so much happier if I would have just let go of people's opinions. Thankfully I have learnt to not care about what other people may think of me (on the most part) and just live my life, because we only live once.
... that people's opinions mean nothing
I would always wonder: 'what do my teachers think of me', 'what will my friends think of me if I show them who I am' and 'I need to be the perfect son'.
Pleasing others has never been a long term solution for anyone.
If you can't be honest and true with yourself, then you seriously need to re-consider who you're surrounding yourself with, and why their opinions are so important to you.
The thought of being disliked at school drove me crazy - and it made me really miserable too.
... that grades are not everything
Throughout year 10 and 11 I worked extremely hard to get the highest grades I could get across my subjects - which did pay off.
But I am kind of upset that I stressed myself out about it so much.
I wish I had just let go a little bit, and enjoyed the journey. We only have one secondary school experience, and I definitely did not make the most of it.
Now that I am finishing up my second year at university, I try to get my work done well and efficiently, but I know that grades are not everything. I now prioritise doing things that I love, such as creating content for you to see and hopefully inspiring people to be themselves.
I guess I've figured out what's important to me.
... that you will get what you deserve
Some people will interpret this in a negative light, some will interpret this in a positive light - that alone will show you a lot about your character.
I have received so many blessings in my life since secondary school.
It's crazy to think I am here today writing my own blog. (PS I hate the idea of writing a blog because I think it's super cheesy and self-indulging, but I figured it could help some people).
I finally feel happy and content in my life. I know that there are many more beautiful things coming to me in the future. I feel like I have gone through so much struggle early on in my life, even though many people don't realise it. That's truly made me who I am today.
2 Coming out
3. Dating as a trans woman