Part Four: Transitions

My sophomore year of high school was a turning point for me in a lot of ways, many of them of a more negative nature (which will be my primary focus here).
I had spent the previous two years attending Catholic School where the education was vastly superior to the public schools in the area and I had become actively involved in various athletic programs as well as Odyssey of the Mind. That is not to say that I hadn’t previously been involved with athletics and the like, as I had been playing basketball since I was in 1st or 2nd grade and participating in track & field activities since 7th grade in addition to being invited to the Governor’s Camp for the Gifted the summer between my 6th and 7th grade years…but I felt more actively engaged in those things while attending Catholic School and could have potentially gone to college with a football scholarship if I kept at it, according to my coach.
The religious component of the education there didn’t particularly bother me, having been raised in a Catholic household, and I just treated it as another mythology course and an opportunity to open the door to discussion and debate…which was something that my instructors did not seem to appreciate, and that is something I might address further in a later entry.
The precipitous drop in quality of education when I began my sophomore year in Sturgis, SD public school was a bit of a culture shock, as was the fact that I was barred from participating in athletics and other extracurricular activities due to the transfer from another school…a policy that has always struck me as being borderline retarded and highly paranoid.
Needless to say, but I am going to say it anyhow, I got bored easily and that led to me finding other ways to occupy myself. I somehow started making friends, a talent for which I had never displayed much skill…I haven’t always done a good job of fitting in with my peers (or anyone else, for that matter) and that is something I will discuss later on. It wasn’t long before I was skipping class to get high or to shoplift fishing reels (of all fucking things) from Wal-Mart with some friends of mine for the sole purpose of returning them for cash in order to fund our impromptu extracurricular activities. I developed a knack for shoplifting, which was honestly quite surprising for how easily I stood out…the previously mentioned fishing accessories, cartons of cigarettes, books, CDs, and whatever else I thought I could get away with. It was fun, and it kept me more engaged than anything in school managed to.
It was around this same time when I began to hitchhike to and from home, not having a car or license and only occasionally having friends who were free to take me wherever it was that I intended to go. I had a bit of a romantic perception of hitching rides, in no small part due to my mother telling me how my father used to hitch his way from where he lived outside of Saint Paul, MN to the western side of South Dakota in order to stay with his aunt and spend time with my mother after meeting her while he had been on vacation there with his family one summer. Not everything about the man was bad, and this was while he had been in high school himself.
There was something romantic to me about his going to those lengths to be with my mother, and about the whole concept of hitchhiking itself…and hitching became a way for me to feel a sort of connection with a version of my father who had disappeared sometime before I was born. We’ll ignore that this sort of risk taking behavior can be a strong indication of unpleasant character traits yet to emerge.
The drugs, drinking, stealing, and thrill-seeking behavior weren’t new things for me after beginning that year of high school in Sturgis…but it was during this time when those activities became my preferred forms of entertainment. I was still a voracious reader (as I had always been), I loved simply zoning out and listening to music, and horror movies never for a moment lost their appeal to me…I just used more of my free time entertaining myself with those less wholesome interests.
These poor choices directly led to my being expelled from school just over halfway through the first semester of that year, something I knew was coming…I just didn’t care until it was too late to fix it. That was to become a trend in my life.
The worst event of my life to this day was similarly a direct result of my poor judgment and being expelled from school that November…but before I go into that I should probably tell you about a girl.


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