Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen: I Resent My High School
Jan 2011 24

Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen: I Resent My High School

Posted In Blog,Love,Relationships,Society

by Brad Warner

I’ve been included in a Facebook group made up of people who are trying to plan my high school class’s reunion. I’ve never gone to any of the others – if there even were any others. I was living in Japan when they would have happened.

So last week on this FB group someone posted: “It’s Friday night, what would you have been doing on a Friday night in January back when we were in high school?” And people are posting stuff like they would’ve been out at a party at someone’s house, or with a bunch of friends doing donuts in the school parking lot or cruising by McDonald’s, which was the closest thing Wadsworth, Ohio had to a hang-out spot after the local Red Barn closed down (a prize to anyone who knows what a Red Barn was).

[Bully Suicide in a Schooled]

In case you live in a place where the roads never ice up, “doing a donut” means driving your car real fast in an icy snow-covered parking lot or street then slamming on the brakes so that the car spins around leaving behind a donut shaped mark in the snow. It struck me then, and it strikes me now, as a stupid and unnecessarily dangerous thing to do. As for parties, I never enjoyed getting drunk or being around a lot of people who were. And I was already edging toward becoming a vegetarian so McDonald’s was not an exciting destination. The things most people in my school did for fun seemed either boring, pointless, stupid or potentially dangerous. Very often all of the above!

So what I would’ve been doing back then was pretty much what I was doing that Friday night a week or so ago, which was sitting at home alone practicing bass. I didn’t party when I was in high school. I was not invited to parties. I was not one of the in-crowd. I was not somebody anyone cool wanted to be seen with. I looked like a member of the trench coat mafia, standing around in front of the school, not even in the commons where the cool kids congregated, dressed in my army surplus trench coat (yes, really) complaining about stuff to the few other nerds I knew.

Although I didn’t like almost anything that the other kids at Wadsworth High liked, I still wanted to be included. I was not a loner because I enjoyed being alone. I wanted to have friends. I wanted to be cool. But in the high school I attended this was impossible for me.

I have a certain degree of lingering resentment about that even now. And this FB group is bringing all that back up to the surface lately. I told this to another friend who’d gone to my school and she said, “You were one of the most interesting people in school and that was kind of intimidating.” I never knew this.

I’m not sure that was what everyone felt. The football guys who decided I was a “faggot” and wanted to whip my ass did not seem to feel intimidated by me. The cute girls who turned down my awkward attempts at asking for dates didn’t seem to think I was interesting. But maybe I was wrong.

I am not above thinking that it would be fun to go to the reunion just to see those people and be all like, I’m a fabulous famous writer who travels around the world to speak to people, has done eight records and made a movie that was shown at film festivals. Oh, and some people are making a documentary about my incredible life and I’ve just gotten the lead role in a feature-length narrative film too. What have you been up to? Still beating up “faggots” in Wadsworth, Ohio? At which point I shall tilt my nose skyward and flick ashes off my cigarette, that I’ll be holding in a long ivory holder. I’ll take up smoking just so I can do this.

(And why if I’ve done all this am I still poor as shit? But anyway…)

Such juicy bitterness! Oh it’s all in there and more, folks! You don’t get over this stuff. And the folks in high school were sweethearts compared to what I dealt with in junior high and grade school. I was “Bucky Beaver” back then due to my massive overbite. I was the guy everybody made fun of. Even the worst losers could score points by coming up with new insults for me. I’m sure some of them will be at the reunion too.

But the truth is I should probably thank those people for treating me the way they did. I understand what happened a lot better now. How could they have treated me otherwise in high school? I probably wouldn’t have gone to their parties even if I had been invited. The only possible fun I might have potentially had at one was getting laid by some girl who was too drunk too realize how uncool I was. And even that idea didn’t seem very enticing.

I managed to find fun things to do. I formed my own band. I traveled around being a roadie for my friend Joe’s band (much more popular than mine, natch) whose drummer, another Wadworth High loner, went on to join the band Warrant and drummed on (She’s My) Cherry Pie. Mmmm. Cherries.

I also got into meditation. Granted, that was a little bit after high school. But the seeds were sown in the days when I didn’t have anything to do on weekends except play bass and read a lot of books. If I’d been more popular, then I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.

I feel kind of bad these days for kids who are popular and well-liked in school. Some of them will be all right. But a lot of them are missing out on what’s really important. They’re being fed lies by a system that wants to keep them stupid and un-creative. They buy into these lies because they’re sold so powerfully and nobody is around to tell them there’s any other way to have fun. In some ways things are far better now then they used to be, though. Nerds are cool. Kids now have access to a lot more options than I ever did at their age. So maybe there’s hope.

But what do I do with all of my lingering resentment? Even though I did just fine in spite of the torments I suffered, I still feel all this rage. What does one do about that?

One of the greatest myths about meditation practice is the idea that it will somehow erase all the bad stuff from your personality. It doesn’t. So how come a guy who has meditated for longer than he was even alive up until high school still feels anger about those four short years? All that stuff was over when people still thought stone-washed denim jeans were cool! Lots of people would wonder what the hell good all that meditation did me. Shouldn’t it have made me all serene and stuff?

Meditation practice will not eradicate your likes and dislikes. It won’t cure you of your past. Nor will it alter your basic personality. You’ll still be who you always were. But you might come to terms with what that really is. You will not become like one of caricature meditation-guy types you see in bad movies. The guys who pretend to be like that are acting. The mask comes off as soon as they’re out of camera range.

In my case, I still have all my old resentments. But I see them for what they are. Just a lot of thoughts that come and go. In case anyone from my school is reading this, you’re not hearing now what I really thought of you. I thought a lot of different things about a lot of people.

Along with all my resentments, I had a certain sneaking admiration for the football team and their athletic abilities and their confidence. I thought a lot of the popular girls were cute with their big hairsprayed hair and were wasting their lives on things that I could see even then didn’t make them happy. All of us had a lot more in common just by growing up in that sucky one-horse town than we ever knew at the time. And Wadsworth, Ohio was kind of pretty and quaint. I hated that at the time. I don’t anymore.

I don’t need to cling to any of these feelings, though. The good or the bad ones. I don’t need to try and replace all the negatives with positives. I don’t need to believe in any of them. I don’t need to add them to that long, convoluted list of items that I grasp tightly for fear that if they ever went away I wouldn’t be me anymore. I’ll be me no matter what thoughts flow through my head. I never understood that until I really reached deep into myself.

High school resentments are comparatively easy ones to let go of. Most folks manage to drop them when they get a little past those years, even if they don’t meditate. But we all carry around a lot of other stuff that’s a hell of a lot harder to dig out.

It’s in getting to these hard-to-reach places that meditation really helps. If you can come to terms with the fact that all your thoughts, no matter how juicy they are or how important they seem are just thoughts, you can experience a tremendous sense of freedom that too few people ever get to experience.

***

Brad Warner is the author of Sex, Sin and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between as well as Hardcore Zen, Sit Down and Shut Up! and Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate. He maintains a blog about Buddhist stuff that you can click here to see.

You can also buy T-shirts and hoodies based on his books, and the new CD by his band Zero Defex now!

Brad Warner’s hardcore band Zero Defex is playing a gig on February 9th at the Matinee in Akron, Ohio.

Brad is also on a book tour right now and may even be in your area! To see where Brad will be speaking next visit his blog.

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