Yesterday on a Facebook thread I was chatting with an old friend about high school. I said I was living in a kind of hell back then. A mostly tolerable, mild-mannered, negotiable hell with no bills to pay. Obviously I survived. But it was pretty bad. I was walking around with a kind of blanket over my head.

The friend said he didn’t know things were so terrible for me back then, and I replied that they weren’t. My head was just in a mildly miserable place — the difference between terrible (a.k.a. horrible) and mildly miserable having been explained by that old Woody Allen joke.

Anyone who claims that their high school experience was soothing or ecstatic or emotionally fulfilling apart from the sporadic highs of parties, beer-chugging and camaraderie is either (a) lying or (b) wasn’t paying close attention back then. If they were truly surging and delighted in their mid to late teens then I fear that the ancient Chinese curse “may you peak in high school” might apply in their case. (And I’m sorry about that.)

As I said, my unhappiness was manageable and not “oppressive” per se but I was walking around with a pall in my soul. I was living in my dreams with input from movies, music, TV shows, books, magazines. And no mind-bending substances. (That came later.) I didn’t know much when I was 17 and 18 but I knew for damn bloody sure I didn’t want a life like my father’s — that decision was carved in stone.

Most fearfully, I was living with the chilling idea that things might get better but they might not — who knew? Well, they did and thank God for that. Because they almost didn’t. I’m not actually thanking “God” for things having turned out well. I’m thanking…well, maybe I am.