Childhood Series

Survival Modes – Jade Anna Hughes

Here we have Jades second part of Jades childhood journey this is a very moving piece that I can very much relate to as I am sure many of us can. Being  a teenager I think is one of the hardest times of a child’s life so much happening at once with everybody judging your every move. For Jade this time was definitely a hard journey..

For all the ones Who bum me out Shitlist For all the ones Who fill my head with doubt Shitlist For all the squares who get me pissed Shitlist You’ve made my shitlist – L7, Shitlist

High School is the same everywhere in the world. Groups of teenagers trying their best to get through it in one piece so that they can move into adulthood; awkwardness, love, rejection, fear, dread, laughter and multiple bouts of crying and desperation. Of course, classes too, and last minute cramming before tests. Knowing that it’s the same everywhere and for everyone doesn’t make it easier for me though. I go to a part “international” school, meaning that I have all of the normal classes in a French high school, plus two extra hours of History and Geography in English and 6 hours of English classes, all taught as if we were native English speakers in a British or American school. There are different levels, and also other languages (German, Spanish and Italian), and you have to take a test at the beginning of high school to determine first of all if you are eligible for the “International” section, and second of all what level you are to be placed in. I am in the native speaker level of course, Level 4. A mix of very good students, students from England and the US, students born in France with one, or both, parents from England or the US, or Australia for that matter. You’ve guessed it, this means I have a lot of classes, a lot of homework, and have to deal with a lot of people who feel that because they passed an easy English test are part of some elite.

The French school system is intense. You often have classes until 5 or 6 pm, and there are always classes on Saturday morning. You are supposed to get Wednesday afternoons off, but I am not lucky enough for that… No, that’s when I have three hours of English. My favourite class, but still draining, especially when I have to listen to some idiot student droning on about his interpretation of Iago as the anti-hero for twenty minutes. Thankfully I love my teacher; he’s the only reason that I can even be bothered to make an effort anymore. His classes are always interesting, difficult and there is never a boring moment. He also pushes me to go further into my thoughts and analyses, makes me talk about them out loud and constantly gives me extra reading material to go through. He’s strict and sarcastic, but he demands the best, and I would never give him less than that. He knows talent when he sees it and will do everything he can to make you pursue your dreams. If they were all like that high school would be heaven.

Last Wednesday Philip wasn’t in class because he was going to pick up his best friend who was coming to visit for a month. So, instead of hanging around chatting after class I grabbed my bag, ran down the stairs while rolling a cigarette and walked straight into one of the most gorgeous men I had ever seen. I literally bumped straight into him when I came rushing out of the door into the courtyard. Then I heard Philip laughing and he was standing there with his mother and brother. He had obviously forgotten to mention that his best friend was also going to be the man of my dreams who I had not yet had the chance to meet. He’s simply wonderful… Tall with long brown hair, easy to talk to and just so nice and smart at the same time. The next day I spent my lunch break (and more seeing as I couldn’t be bothered to go to class) talking to him at the bar across the street. There were a bunch of us there, but it was like no one else existed, and I know he felt the same way. It’s a pity he’s going back to Canada soon, because if not I know that we would have started going out together. Why don’t men like him exist here?! In the meantime I will just enjoy his company and dream about other lives in other places.

I fall in love all the time. For the past year I have been in love with the most gorgeous guy in the school. I think he is the most gorgeous anyway, and I know my tastes differ from the norm. I say “in love” but do I really know what that is? I have never spoken to him, I would never dare. He has the most beautiful blue eyes and long blond hair, and lives right by the school. He’s a year above me so I don’t have any classes with him (and if I did I would probably be too scared to even go to them in case I had to actually speak to him!). He wears a jean jacket with a Jack Daniel’s patch on the back of it, and I spend most of the breaks just staring at his back from behind my sunglasses and hoping that one day he will notice me. Other than that there is really no one in this school who I find remotely interesting, apart from my little group of friends. Most of the kids don’t bother talking to me, unless they need me to answer a question about school, and most of them think I am a little strange. Shy and strange, with my music tastes that differ from theirs and my ability to excel in literature and history but fail completely in Maths and Physics. I don’t care if they think it’s weird that I prefer to hang out with people like myself in the smoking corner during the break, instead of trying to fit in with the mold of “popular” people. There is this one hypocrite who for the past 4 years has only spoken to me when she needs something from me, and then I hear her laughing at me behind my back. Well, little does she know that half of the people in the school hate her guts and laugh about her behind her back too. One day, when this is all over she will find this out and regret that she was a bitch. In the meantime I am going to stay with those who love me and work on getting through these last few years that way.

Our school is not that big, and it’s pretty easy to know most people by name in your year, even if you have never spoken to them before. I often wish I was part of a bigger school, where you could disappear in the crowds. And where there were more cute guys. Before this year started I randomly met this really cute guy and his friends outside the music shop. We started talking because we were both wearing Nirvana t-shirts, so Rina and I decided we were going to locate where he went to school so we could get to know him. It appears that he goes to the much bigger school about five minutes from our school, so we now spend all of our lunch breaks there, and even try to run over there during our smaller breaks too. We just grab a couple of slices of bread from the canteen, or buy half a baguette from the stinky woman’s boulangerie and run over there. We walk around the multiple courtyards, and relax on the benches, hoping that we will run into someone good-looking. We have already met a really gorgeous metaller who goes there, and I have the biggest crush on him. There is another group of grunge guys who we have our eyes on too, so much more interesting than our school. I’ve given them all nicknames and we pass notes in class drawing their caricatures and writing funny stories about them. One day we will have enough courage to talk to them. Hopefully this will make Rina forget that awful person she had a crush on last year. I can’t stand him, he thinks he’s the greatest thing ever to have walked into the doors of our school, and lets everyone know it. Ugh.

We are studying Lamartine in French class this term. Every week we have to write an analysis of a poem and show the teacher. He then calls on one of us to read our papers in front of the class and discuss. I usually write mine ten minutes before class and then if I think concentrate hard enough he skips over me and doesn’t ask me to read aloud. If he did I don’t know if I could actually do it. I’m fully fluent in French now, and know that my writing is fine, but I have this real fear of speaking in front of people. I know nothing is going to happen to me, but even the thought of it puts fear in my heart. I even feel this way in English class too, but I am less self-conscious there because I usually know what I am saying is going to be appreciated by one of the teachers. Not the other one, the American one. I used to like her a lot a few years ago when I had her in 4eme. She was sweet and funny and interesting. Now she acts like I am a demon from out of hell and on drugs. Maybe it was because I happened to do a presentation on the occult in The Scarlet Letter and focused on the dark sides of religion? Well I’m not a demon from hell, and I sometimes do drugs, outside of school hours. I don’t yet think I have been high at school, I still feel some kind of responsibility towards my life. A little bit anyway.

My friends are good people, all a little quirky and strange, a little like me. I met Philip at the beginning of the year. He was walking behind me to English class and I saw that he was new and not from here, so I introduced myself and we became fast friends. Canadian, cute, funny and smart, he is also the most laid-back and calm person I know, which counter-balances my stressed out, depressed persona. He’s a constant in my life, someone I can always count on and who is always there when I call. Philip’s the one who likes to get chilled out high, I’m the one who likes to get wasted drunk. It also helps that we absolutely love the same music and can listen to it for hours. Rina has always been around and is my closest friend right now. She gets my thoughts and my jokes and my ideas, and thinks it’s funny to follow cute guys to see where they go to school and make up stories about them that we then document in drawings. Sometimes I worry that I am running off the rails too fast for her though, sometimes I skip school too much for her liking, or I smoke too much during the break… She’s the youngest in a family of three children and her parents are very stable and in love. A very happy family who always make me feel welcome when I am invited over. Sandra is like me. She gets my darker side as she has the same one. We both write poetry and are interested in witchcraft and like to listen to bands with screaming front women. Or just front women in general, like Belly. We also have an affinity for Nine Inch Nails and Natural Born Killers and dark, dark literature. Sandra used to do hard drugs, but now she just drinks and smokes hash with me. We spend nights lying in my room on the mattresses listening to music with just a candle to light our faces and talking, talking, talking about life and death. She got kept back a year because her “French wasn’t good enough and she would have trouble following the lessons in French”. She’s American, French is never going to be her strong point as she moved here last year and she’s going back next year, although my heart already breaks to think about it. Then there are the others, friends from other schools, like us. We meet up in the park, at the bar, at each others’ houses, on the steps of the church or the music shop, waiting for something interesting to happen. Without this group of people I don’t know how I would get through every day.

My house was the best to hang out in, but we are moving to an even better location soon. The house is too big for just the three of us, and there are too many memories of stepfather and my little brother there. I’ll miss sitting on my window ledge, smoking cigarettes and listening to Fun Radio and Nirvana while looking out over the little river and the fields towards the city. We are moving to a place in the centre of the city, by the museum park, up on the fifth floor with a long balcony. Sometimes the mountains that surround us make me feel trapped and like I am suffocating, other times I can’t believe I am lucky enough to live in such a beautiful place. It’s going to be so much nicer to live a walking distance from school, rather than having to take the tram all the way to the last stop and then walk another 20 minutes. I hate walking past the local high school, there are always kids there who try to talk to me, and even though I know they aren’t going to hurt me, I still have such little self-esteem I think everyone is making fun of me.  One day, in the spring, a car stopped next to me and the guy started talking to me. Then I realized he was wanking off in the car, so I ran off home. I saw him again in the city, same car, same man, but this time I was with my friends. We all started kicking the car and calling him a pervert so he drove off as fast as he could. Disgusting.

High School is pretty much the bane of my existence. But it’s also the centre of my existence. Two more years and I can go to Oxford or Cambridge, away from all this. Become someone else and be free of all this sadness and anger and pain that has been building up. Just two more years, it can’t take that long can it?


Part 1 of Jades Story, The Invisibility Cloak – Jade Anna Hughes

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