A very competitive place was Corona del Mar High School. There existed subtle but powerful pressures to achieve and excel: to be the best student, the best athlete, the best looking, the best dressed, etc. Our parents put pressure on us, the teachers put pressure on us, and, most importantly, we put pressure on each other. Clearly, not all teenagers thrive in such a demanding, ultra-competitive environment, but I did. It took me some years, however, to realize that the impulse towards perfection is more important than the perfection itself. I learned, in other words, to cut my imperfect self some slack! But as a teenager I was ruthless in my expectations for myself.
Looking back today at my high school regimen, I cannot imagine living so physically intense a life again. My average day in high school started at 5:45 a.m. with a morning workout followed by a quick shower and breakfast at school, classes all day long, workouts after school, and then homework and studying often until late in the night. Whew! My life revolved around sports and studying, sports and studying, sports and studying, etc.; sleep was something I caught when I could. I remember vividly wishing for sleep (or the free time to sleep) and struggling to stay awake in class. In retrospect, it was a great idea to put so much of my adolescent energy into positive activities: I earned good grades for college, acquired work habits and discipline, and was a valued member of successful athletic teams. I enjoyed working towards something valuable much more than wallowing in confusion and adolescent angst (something I unfortunately did during my dismal freshman year). All this, of course, need be seen in the hormone powered confusion of adolescence. I ached with the sexual urges of nascent manhood and had absolutely no idea how to relieve them. In my fours years of high school, I went on the grand total of ONE date. I had absolutely no idea how to seduce a woman; I had to learn this later.
Above all else I remember bonding fiercely with my peers at Corona del Mar High School. In particular, I fell seriously in love for the first time, something which brought me both enormous pleasure and acute pain. In the end, I never kissed her nor even told her of my real feelings. If I ever was anything (even in those early years), I was a passionate (if diffident) lover. I was an indefatigable reader who learned all the essential things about writing which make up the writer presently jotting down these thoughts. I was a solid "F" student in French 1 who (whom after a teacher challenged and made me mad) returned on fire and was the top student in all of French 2 with a passion for languages that survives to the present date. I won an award for Social Studies achievement, served as Sports Editor of the campus newspaper, and managed to pull an amazingly diverse number of "F's" and "A's" in my classes. If I liked a teacher and a subject, wild horses could not stop me. If not interested, I would do absolutely nothing and stare stubbornly into the teacher's glare.
My teenage years: impossible confusion, explosive pleasures, dark grief, eternal restlessness, the sultry sexuality of nascent manhood... they are not years that I would ever want to live again.