I remember being in high school and not being visible. I was quiet, normal, and to be honest, a bit frumpy.. All four years I swam along that way. If you would have asked anyone who was believed to be high school royalty status they wouldn't have had any idea who the girl behind the name was. I was just me. And, I was content that way.
The only time I was ever in the spotlight was during my senior year. I had gotten married at 18 to my high school sweetheart. He was an alumnus of our school and also a USN sailor.
For the first time i was receiving some major attention, and it wasn't a "15 minutes of fame" type of deal either.
I was the girl who got married at 18.
Even some teachers were calling my choices irrational. Students asked me if it was true, why I did it, and if I was "knocked up". I tried to ignore it, because sooner or later someone else would do something drastic and my situation would be old news.
Although my marriage turned sour, and I did become a statistic, something even stranger came from it.
After 3 years of living on the East Coast I moved back home with my mom and dad. I had a newborn baby, a broken heart, and about 12 tattoos I'd collected over my years.
When the hurt healed I jumped onto the Tinder scene, and practically all of the virtual dating scenes I could find.
That is when it happened.
A boy I had gone to school with since 6th grade matched with me. Of course I knew who he was, but he had no idea I was the girl who had shared Geometry with him, or Biology, or 8th grade P.E. as well as a plethora of other classes.
He asked me where I had went to high school, and when I confessed that it was the same school he'd attended he assumed I was two grades ahead of him because "If we had been in the same grade he would have been all over me."
I was flattered for about 5 minutes, when the reality of this statement struck me. This guy liked me because I'm covered in tattoos, about 30lbs lighter than I was senior year, and because I had mastered my makeup routine and could contour out the real me who loved books, sweatpants, and laughed too hard at lame jokes.
I'll admit, who I was in high school compared to who I am now almost appears to be two different women.
My personality bloomed after high school. I'm now bubbly, outgoing, and a huge people person.
But I'm still me.
It stung to know that who I was then couldn't compete with who I am now. I had never changed myself on purpose.
It was a gradual evolution.
Boys who I had gone to school with or had been friends with once upon a time wouldn't recognize me.
Then, came the comments; "Wow you turned out to be really hot!" "Those tattoos definitely helped you out." "Talk about an ugly ducking story!"
That last statement was very hurtful. I unmatched him immediately after I read it.
I learned I have "late bloomer syndrome." I became true to who I am after I graduated.
I still give people some confused looks when they refer to me as beautiful, and when I am asked out on a date some part of me thinks its a cruel joke.
But I've learned I'm not alone.
I've learned there are a lot of people who blossomed after high school. I know a few people who are still working on it, and then I've got a few friends who haven't changed a bit, they were always themselves.
Being a late bloomer has its ups and downs, but day by day I'm learning a little bit more about who I am.
I appreciate my journey, I think tenderly of my metamorphosis, and I'll keep collecting my tattoos.