Last week I was in Topeka (my home town) for work. On a whim I decided to drive by the house I grew up in, which happens to be a mere mile from my high school. I drove by my old house, slightly concerned that this would happen again.
After seeing my house and realizing that nothing on my old street ever changes except the size of the trees, I took an extra minute and drove quickly past the jail. I mean, high school. But it wasn't a jail anymore.
Let me explain.
My high school used to look like this.
Okay, it didn't look EXACTLY like this.
(It had windows.)
But in all seriousness, my high school was not conventionally pretty. It was essentially a big block of concrete with windows, a gym, a sad excuse for a music room and a small art department. Oh yes...and systems furniture for walls.
Yes that's right.
We did not so much have dry wall in the interior of our classes. Oh no. We had partitions. Which, looking back, was quite convenient if you wanted to get answers to a test from someone in the room next to you. Partitions aren't great with acoustics.
I make fun of it but the truth is, my high school had character.
(If it were a cartoon, it would be Goofy, but it had character none the less.)
A few years back the school underwent a renovation. I was there for the walk-through of the renovation and was impressed with how much the school had changed.
The exterior had aesthetically pleasing architectural elements like glass and brick and metal.
The music room was much larger with fancy-schmancy acoustical wall covering.
The science labs were much science-ier. (Clearly not one shred of scientific knowledge stayed in my brain after senior year.)
All in all it was a beautiful renovation. Spectacular even. But it made me a smidgen sad. I mean, a lot of the things that made my high school my high school were the ridiculous elements that are no longer there.
It's just like the crappy apartment you lived in for three years in college. You hated the refrigerator with the broken light bulb and the dishwasher that only worked if the bathroom light was on. You hated the kitchen faucet that dripped to the beat of "Jingle Bells", and the air conditioner that sounded like a rocket ship deploying into deep space. But when you finally saved up the money to move into the Falling Leaves and Fancy Free townhome with amenities you desperately wanted for so long, you suddenly missed that bare bones apartment. It wasn't fancy, but it was your home.
My high school is the refrigerator with the broken light bulb. It was a home to me for three years, crappy partition walls and all. It's where I met some of the best friends I still have today.
(And possibly some people Facebook affords me the ability to laugh at today.)
It's the place I still feel immense anxiety over when I pass by eleven years later. It's the place that still haunts my dreams (Did I really pass French? Did I really convince those teachers I deserved a diploma?) and stars in some of my most embarrassing stories.
I'm sure my high school still maintains a vast number of annoying faults for future generations to whine about. Ten years from now when the school undergoes yet another renovation, some snarky kid like me will swear that the new high schoolers are SO spoiled. In his day, Channel One was viewed on a clunky 42" HDTV flat screen and each student had to borrow a Kindle from the library, they didn't just get one. For shame.
And so, I've decided to accept it. Things are going to change. My old school will get improvements that I never had. Kids now have a parking lot that doesn't land their car in the shop twice a month for re-alignment. Students can't pass notes THROUGH THE WALL any longer. Science labs will be more memorable with the equipment to back up the curriculum. There's no harm in that.
So, my high school can go ahead and improve all it wants. Because I'll still remember the way it was.And cringe.