There have been a few books that have really hit home for me or elements of them that I’ve related to so, so well. Just last week, I couldn’t stop thinking about Eleanor and Park because so many of Eleanor’s thoughts felt like I lived them. They felt real to me. This made me start thinking about what kind of character I would be if I pieced together all those different aspects of me.
So, hello from high school Magan. (With more pictures included, I promise.)
If you’ve been a Rather Be Reading follower for a while, you might remember the post I wrote about meeting my husband in honor of our 8th wedding anniversary. I met Dustyn when I was 16 years old. Before dating him, I had this touch and go relationship with my best guy friend. I would like him. He would think we should just be friends. I would move on. He’d want to date me. Things were complicated. (HA! If Facebook were around then, I wonder what my status would have said?)
I think maybe because of that boy (who shall remain nameless), I related to Belly so well in The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han. I met this boy when I was in fourth grade. I went to a tiny, tiny school where my high school graduating class was all of 23 people. We saw each other all the time. I loved his mom. I knew he had kind of a wild side, but I liked him in spite of it. I would go so far as to say that sometimes he knew more about me than anyone else did.
There was this strong push and pull of — how is this ever going to work? There’s so much chemistry, but is it right?
I remember these aching moments of seeing him with other girls and feeling so helpless. (Conrad kind of made Belly feel the same way, yeah?) For us, the stars never did align, but all of those emotions are so relevant when I read YA. So many nerves and so much anxiety can be wrapped up in relationships, and it felt all-consuming.
Sometime during my fall semester of my junior year of high school, I decided I would quit fretting about making that relationship work. If it was meant to be, it would work out. I spent more time focusing on my girlfriends, school, and sports. I was pretty actively involved in sports. I mean, when you’re in such a small school, you can’t help but participate in everything — even if you’re not the best at it. All tightly wrapped up in one book, Miranda Kenneally captured the tension and unease of loving your best friend in Catching Jordan as well as what it’s like to be a sporty girl. Now I wasn’t, by ANY means, as kick ass or awesome as Jordan. What I did relate to was the sense of belonging and community. My sports teams were always filled with much more drama and cattiness over playing time, but the bus rides home singing music at the top of our lungs always pulled us back together.
Given that our school was so small and we all played on every team, it was only natural that my best friends also played with me. And even better than that…
Two of my best friends were sisters.
They came from a family of five kids. Going over to their house was always so much fun — an older brother that teased them, older sibling drama, having a sister super close in age, etc. I didn’t really know how that felt because I was the oldest and my younger brother and sister were 4 and 6 years younger than me. I soaked up every bit of time I could with them because I love, loved the dynamics of their family. While My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick was definitely more dramatic than Leslie and Anne’s house, it did make me reminisce about those days together at their house.
Fast forward to Christmas of my junior year and that’s where Dustyn comes in.
You can read all about how we met in my anniversary post, but I’ll just simply state that young love can be lasting love. I was super young when I met him (16) and super young when we got married (almost 19 – the summer after my freshman year of college). People were super worried I was making a big ol’ regrettable mistake, but I can honestly say, I’ve never made a better decision before. I don’t know how I had the backbone to stand up and do what I wanted at that age, but I did. And here we are.
Dustyn told me very early in our relationship (um, second date) that he loved me.
He was very aware of how he felt about me, but my mom was telling me, “You’re too young to say I love you!” For a long while, I told Dustyn I loved him in Spanish (“Te amo.”). He knew how I felt, but I needed some time to develop more than just a physical “hey, he’s cute” response to him. The lady who I think writes about this so, so well is the one and only Stephanie Perkins.
In Anna and the French Kiss, Anna and St. Clair obviously have an attraction. The conversation is great and their interests are so similar. He’s better for her than that d-bag she left back in the States. (See where I’m going here?) I related to the slow build of Anna and St. Clair’s relationship. I always said I wanted to marry my best friend. It took time to learn all those details about Dustyn, but just like St. Clair and Anna — we stayed up later than we ever should have talking, went to movies together, toured cities together, etc. (Above: We were on a vacation with Dustyn’s family that took us road trippin’ all over California that summer.)
And guys, much like Lola (in Lola and the Boy Next Door), I was pretty experimental with my hair. (Maybe you guys have picked up on that? I still am. For the majority of my life I was a blonde. Now I’ve played with my hair so much I have zero idea what color it naturally is anymore.) I remember dying my hair in my parent’s bathroom (when they weren’t home, mind you) and having no idea how it was going to look. Also: Lola is much more fashionable than I was, but um, I really tried to rock the bohemian look a lot back in high school. (Was that a “thing” back in the early 2000s or was I just really unfashionable?) I cringed a lot at some of the photographs I just looked at of myself, guys.
For much of high school, I wasn’t allowed to have a lot of friends over. We grew up in not the nicest house and we didn’t have a lot of room or money to feed tons of extra people. That’s definitely not a highlight of this period of my life, but it has made me very appreciative for everything I’ve got now. And even more appreciative for Dustyn. He came into our home and would help me cook and clean. I’m pretty sure every Friday started with him helping me tidy something up even though there were other more fun things we would have wanted to do. He never judged. He never said a word. It just was.
Looking through my entire list of read books, I don’t feel like many stick out as having gone deep into these nitty gritty details of a low-income family in a way that really hit me hard. But The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell certainly stand out from the crowd. I cried big, fat tears through some parts of these because of how well I understood. (Oh, and yes — The Glass Castle IS a grown up book! Also! It’s a memoir … and really, really good if you haven’t read it.)
For the most part, I was a really big nerd. I knew I had to study hard to get into college. (Meeting Dustyn who is … SUPERSMART … was a challenge because I always had to prove that I didn’t need his help with my calculus even though inside I was going “PLEASE DO THIS FOR ME.”) I was that girl who didn’t need much punishment other than being told someone was disappointed in me. That phrase right there, “I’m disappointed in you” did. me. in. It killed me. I walked a straight line and hated getting in trouble. I tried to be in every club and participate in every sport and make perfect grades. To be honest, I’m not sure how I survived putting all that pressure on myself. All of these girls had mountains of pressure on them, too, so I was very much like, “Yeeeeaaaah, girl. I understand!” (Pictured below: Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, and Golden by Jessi Kirby)
So, that kind of wraps up who I was back then. I was a girl who had a close group of friends that didn’t have the nicest house or the coolest gadgets, who fawned over a boy who she never dated (probably because she was just too nerdy and studied too much), but fell in love at 16 with the boy she’d marry.
Oh, but I promised you more pictures. Fine. Here you go:
Hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane and seeing me in high school.
Tell me a few books that reminded you of pieces of your high school self!