High School - The Worst and Best Years of my Life
Why The Hell Am I Here Anyway?
If you were to ask me what my high school years were like back then, I'd probably tell you that it was hell. It was full of regrets, heartaches and disappointments. Of course that is if you'd asked me that question when I was 16.
For the longest time, I dodged any conversation that had anything to do with high school. The years leading up to high school was spent in confusion and depression with many days feeling angry. Most days, I felt as if I were drowning and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get myself out of the deep end.
Many people say that high school was one of the best times of their lives and I used to envy them. Good times for me were too few to remember and happiness was like a foreign language. I always felt as if I was immune to happiness and the harder I tried, the more it seemed to be out of reach.
When I was 14, I attempted suicide twice but the grim reaper wasn't ready to take me just yet. Family life was hard and home life was, well...unbearable. At school I always felt like a freak and at home, I didn't know what to feel. I never thought that I'd make it this far in life, but amazingly I survived.
*Photo credit : Shinichi Mine
From bottom left - My cousin Lisa, my sister, my cousin Akichan and me ( guy with "new wave" hair with popsicle in mouth. )
Let's Be Honest.
Have you ever attempted suicide?
Something Inside of Me Snapped!
I might as well admit that, like any teenage kid, I didn't much care for school. However it wasn't always that way. Until middle school, I actually liked going to school. I've always enjoyed learning and most of my teachers were pretty cool. It wasn't all that fun staying home, so being at school was definitely the better option. It's hard to say exactly when or why I started to dislike school, but looking back, I can now see with extreme clarity in my mind's eyes, the exact moment that something inside of me just "snapped"!
My life at home was unbearable to say the least. Sure, I had a home to go back to and a bed to sleep in. I had more than enough to eat, so what was the problem? Why was I being such an ungrateful bastard of a son? I probably didn't know it back then, but I think I just wanted to be loved - in any way and any form, it didn't matter. Perhaps a supportive hug from my mother, or a call from my dad. I must have been desperate for love.
With love being absent from the home, I unconsciously looked for it at school, where I realized that my feelings for boys were anything but natural, according to popular consensus. Nobody had to tell me that it was wrong and as everyone knows, gays went to hell. My mother, my class mates and society would label me a freak if they were to know the truth.
It was hard trying to figure out these feelings for myself. Those were days before internet and instant access to information so it was hard to know where to look. My mother was busy with work while my father was in Japan busy with his own life. My sister got into her own problems, including drugs. I started dating a girl just to feel "normal" but it only made things worse. I eventually rebelled and started hating everything and everyone around me, including school, my family and myself. I eventually dropped out of school at the age of 16. After a huge fight with my mother I ran away from home.
For the next year, I would roam the streets for no reason at all, or hanging out with drug dealers ( who let me stay with them in exchange for sexual favors ) and although I was often in extreme circumstances, I continued to learn more about life but especially, and more importantly, more about myself. I knew I had no intention or desire to live a life of crime or becoming the lover of a drug dealer. I knew that much, even at my young age.
So in my free time, I would often spend hours at the local library, where I would lose myself in the world of books. It was possible for me to escape to a different world, where anything was possible! But it wasn't all about escaping. Books taught me that there was a whole world out there waiting for me to explore. If I wanted to, all I had to do was let myself. Without books, I probably would have never learned the most important lesson, which was learning to love myself.
*Photo : Me and my sister in 1984
The Novel That Changed My Life
What started out as a newspaper serial that ended up as a novel, this is the book that opened my eyes to a whole new world. A great book that reads like a TV series, and can be enjoyed by everyone. The first book in the Tales of the City series.
The ninth and final book in the Tales of the City series, this book focuses on Anna Madrigal, now ninety-two. who embarks on a journey with the help of Brian Hawkins, to attend to unfinished business she has long avoided.
Finding Myself in Many Ways
When I turned 17, there were major events that shaped my life. I came to the realization that without a high school diploma, it was difficult to get the job I desired. So I got one through the GED ( General Education Development ) program so that I could enroll myself into cosmetology school. Yes, at one point in my life, becoming a successful makeup artist was my dream job.
Going through cosmetology school was a completely different experience from high school. With people from all walks of life, it was certainly an interesting experience. Among the varied group of foreign immigrants, transsexuals and housewives, barriers became non-existent and for the first time in my life, I felt as though I was in my element. As the days passed, I started to feel better about myself and about life in general. Life was starting to actually become fun and I no longer felt like a freak.
To get me through school, I found a part-time job working for a sushi shop and shortly thereafter, forced myself to audition for an "aerobics instructor" position at a local fitness club, just so that I could get over my fear of talking to people in public. It wasn't easy, but hey what did I have to lose? I was getting used to taking chances by now, and every time I did, I surprised myself. This was about the time I learned that fear was mostly imagined and all in my head. Once I went past the feeling of fear and doubt, I always found myself asking, " Why was I so scared in the first place?"
A year later, I would audition for a job that would take me away from the place called Honolulu.
*Photo : Hair, nails and makeup competition. Our team wins 2nd place. 1984
Howard Takes Me Under His Wings
At one time in my life, I had a friend named Howard and he taught me what was important in life. He was one of my first gay friends who took me by the hand to guide me through the wilderness called life. I would go as far to say that he was probably THE biggest influence in my life as a gay man. He literally took me under his wings to teach me a thing or two about life. He basically taught me this fundamental truth : It was OK to be myself and there is absolutely NOTHING to be ashamed of.
My mother still hadn't accepted me as being gay so I was still going back and forth - temporarily going home for a few weeks but mostly room sharing with friends. Every time trouble ensued, I would run to Howard's place, where he would always let me crash for a couple of nights, or for as long as I wanted. Some of my best "high school" years were during this time, with weekend parties, beach picnics and just getting to know people, including myself. A few months later, I left Hawaii, against my mother's wishes, to work in Japan.
Working in Japan was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I was having a blast! Not only was I getting reacquainted with my Japanese heritage, but by this time, I was finally getting the hang of just having fun. But, halfway through my one-year contract, I was to get some news that would devastate me for months. I got a call from a friend in Hawaii informing me that my dear friend Howard, was dying. He was suffering from a new disease that no one had heard of before and it shocked me to the core.
He was dying from AIDS.
*Photo : Having a good time in Osaka. 1985
High School Ends
The year in Japan went by in a flash and looking back, so much has happened to me during my "high school" years. When I was 16, my life was one of despair. By the time, I was 18, I was practically a different person. I felt that I had lived a lifetime by then, but I knew that life was just beginning.
Howard's passing made a huge impact on my life. Since his passing, more than a dozen friends have passed away. These became shocking reminders that life is fleeting and there really is no day but today. If we don't take charge of our lives now, there may never be another chance.
"Live each day as if it's your last. I love you. " Those were the last words Howard said to me.
It would take me many many years to evolve into the person I am today, but it sure has been an adventure. I don't regret a single thing in my life and it's true because my experiences, bad or good, has all helped me become who I am today. And believe me, it certainly has been an adventure!
My "high school" years is far from the norm but perhaps, not so unique after all. There are many people, even today, that suffer through their teen years. But take it from me when I say that things do get better. They really do!
So if you would to ask me what high school was like for me, I'd say it was one hell of a journey and I sure as hell enjoyed every minute of it!
Love yourself starting today and always, always...believe in yourself.
*Photo : I am ready to take on life! 1985
High School Poll
How would you describe your high school years?
How was your high school experience? Would you say that they were some of the best times in your life? Or your worse? Perhaps somewhere in between? Please feel free to leave any comments you may have.