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Back to high school for a day

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With each step I took toward the building, the pit in my stomach seemed to expand.

Years ago I promised myself I would never return, yet here I was just yards away.

My thoughts were broken when the girl in front of me narrowly missed smacking into a pole.

That tired, comatose feeling she had is pretty much how I would feel at the end of the school day.

Yes, I said school day.

I was a high school senior again. At least for one day.

I decided to go back to school for a day after years of hearing from people “school sure has changed since I was there” and “kids these days are so different.”

I wanted to see just how different things were. But returning to this world of teenyboppers, as my dad jokingly calls them, was hard.

School was not easy for me back then.

The mere thought of going back in that building, or one resembling it, sent a shiver up my spine and goosebumps across my arms.

Back before I graduated in 2006 in Winona I was over-weight, shy and unsure of myself — a terrible mix for anyone in school.

I wasn’t a complete outcast. I had my core group of friends, three to be exact.

It was the acquaintances that made me feel small. They were the ones who smiled to my face and talked bad about me behind my back.

It started in elementary school. Some boys on the play ground threw pebbles at me as a wasp flew by, trying to get it to sting me.

In middle school, someone stole my coat from my locker and it was found hours later in the trash can. That same year, I was told the popular kids didn’t like me “because I was fat.”

One day in junior high, one of the popular boys told his friend that he asked me out for his friend. Of course, I was the worst choice in both of their minds, so after the gag was up, they all had a good laugh.

That was enough to keep me from being outgoing. I kept to myself for the most part, unless I was with that core group of friends or I felt comfortable enough in the small group setting to speak up.

In high school, one of my biggest fears was lunch time.

What table you sat at defined you as a person — at least by high school standards. It showed what group you belonged to and where you fell on the social ladder. Should you sit with a clique that you didn’t belong, you most likely wouldn’t get acknowledged.

Every semester class change, my friends and I would compare schedules to see if we were in the same lunch shift.

Once in my sophomore year, I was the only one of my friends who had the first lunch.

I’d rather eat a cold lunch alone near my locker than be on solo display at a lunch table, or worse yet, be ignored sitting next to another group of girls.

I dreaded lunch time that whole semester. I never felt more alone.

Today, my shyness, along with the baby fat, have been shed. I am proud and happy with the person I am.

I was ready to face the dreaded high school again.

So I traded in my laptop briefcase for a worn blue backpack I found tucked in the bottom corner of my closet. I switched out my reporter notebook for a legal pad, since I couldn’t find even one wide ruled notebook.

I drove up to Brainerd High School, head held high and smile on my face.

Then I saw the buses. The students walking in groups to the building.

I worked up enough courage to open the front door and step into the main office.

“Hi,” I said to the secretary. “Today is my first day.”

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at

Look for PART TWO of this story in Monday’s Dispatch.