Geek Blogs Unite’s theme week for this month is ‘Feeling Thankful’. I’m going to take the opportunity to write about how thankful I am for my four school friends – I know this isn’t strictly to the letter of the theme, as it suggested we write about ‘the geeky things we are thankful for.’ While I wouldn’t be so bold as to call my school friends ‘geeky things’ without their permission, being geeky has everything to do with why they mean so much to me.
To explain why, I’m going to paint a backdrop. This post is quite a bit more personal than I thought this blog would go, so bear with!
Anyone who knows me will know that I found school socially difficult and, as an adult, I often reflect on how glad I am that I’m no longer an adolescent. I liked the vast majority of my classes, I was good at them and doing tests and homework gave me a buzz. In primary school, this oddity didn’t seem to be an issue – it made people more likely to be my friend if anything. When I went to senior school, it took me a while to notice that the social rules had changed (which is fairly typical for me), so for a good few months I made no secret of the fact that I loved homework and tests. And even though I might be moderately attractive these days, back then I was ginger, overweight and had braces – in short, I had the whole package.
At my school, the word of choice for kids like me around 2007 was ‘f**king boff’, or ‘boff’ if I was lucky. According to Urban Dictionary: “Boffin was a common colloquial term used in Britain during WW2 for the technical experts, the backroom boys, who were helping to win the war. An affectionate term, but with some practical fighting man’s scorn for the academic brain worker.” When I was called this, I certainly felt more scorn than affection from the practical fighting man, to put it mildly.
When I asked the four of them how we became friends and when, the answers were almost universally in the region of ‘I have no idea!’ and I’m not entirely sure either. Despite the fact that we all get along incredibly well and have been friends for over a decade, we don’t actually have a huge amount of interests in common, and it’s fair to say that we’re all very different people. I often find that when you see groups of girls together, they often look similar, sound similar, have similar interests and jobs. That’s really not the case with us.
So, we might have become friends because we were in the same form, because we were grouped together on a trip to the zoo, because we disliked the same people (strangely, I often find that this creates an instant bond…) or because we shared the same dorm at our year 7 residential. The last point is what sticks out for me as a defining moment.
So, at the end of the first year of senior school, the whole year group went on a residential. By this time, I still didn’t really have any friends, and spent a lot of breaks and lunchtimes reading in the girls’ loos to avoid anyone finding out. This residential itself was probably one of the worst weeks of my school life, for a number of reasons:
- It was a sports and adventure residential. I hate sports, adventure and being outside for prolonged periods of time. I detest being sweaty, muddy, cold or uncomfortable in any way. I have been told that I moan a lot.
- I broke my little toe on the first day during a morning run and was too embarrassed to tell anyone with any authority, and none of my classmates (including my friends!) believed me as everyone knew how much I disliked sports. So I carried on with all the week’s activities regardless.
- A rumour began that I had a crush on one of the most popular boys in the year – let’s call him Joffrey. This was extremely unjust in my opinion. In our dorm, one of the girls asked us all who we thought was the cutest boy in our year. I was too young to find anyone attractive, but another girl with more social kudos than me said she thought Joffrey was hot, so I copied her to avoid being thought weird. By the next day, everyone had heard, including Joffrey and his girlfriend. He and his friends proceeded to mock me regularly for a couple of years.
The five of us, along with a couple of other girls, happened to share a dorm together, which basically meant a week of sleepovers. We bonded over the fact that there was no hot water and that we had to shower two at a time in swimming costumes to not freeze to death. We also bonded over injuries – as well as my toe, which swelled to twice the size and turned purple, one of my friends ended up with a head injury.
After we came back from the residential, we just started hanging out together like it was natural, which was just wonderful. From there, school was an upwards trajectory for me. Once I had a few friends I could rely on (and I could always rely on them), I didn’t mind being ignored by everyone else. By and large this was the case, with occasional troughs and peaks either when someone got bored with the joke (me), or a new person found me interesting enough to pick on.
Despite the fact that they think most of my hobbies are weird, my school friends were among the first to indulge my nerdier inclinations. For example, a few years ago, they all agreed to let me GM a one-shot of Dark Heresy for them, which actually went surprisingly well. And this year, I have this creature to the right made by one of my best friends which I fully intend to hang on my Christmas tree. I imagine it’s very obvious that I am not a photographer, but it’s so cute that I had to try.
They gave me the confidence I needed to do what I wanted to do without caring what other people thought of me or my hobbies, and they (along with the tests, homework and lessons of course) made my time at school enjoyable. I won’t say this often, but I think it was worth being sweaty, muddy, cold, uncomfortable, limping and embarrassed at that residential to find them.