My teen years

My teen years

Life started getting normal for me once I became a teenager. I was living with my guardian, who created a stable environment for me. There was a rocky period in grade 8, but by grade 9, I went to an All Girl's School. Somehow, the absence of boys helped me to focus on myself. I met my best friend, who was determined to be the youngest to swim Lake Ontario. I remember going with her to her practice and would swim every third lap with her so she wouldn’t feel alone. She was such a strong and fast swimmer; I couldn’t keep up. I really admired her determination. It's not like her parents made her do it. They were Immigrants, just trying to survive in Canada. My best friend and I spent a lot of time together until I started dating her brother. This was my first consensual sexual relationship; I count him as my first boyfriend. We had nothing in common except for sex. We would go to his room, fool around for hours, then I would go home. However, my girlfriend and I still hung out together, and my memory of this time together is fond.

This is where I learned to smoke Pot. We occasionally were able to get ahold of alcohol, but the pot was our preference. I still remember the first time we got high, we were babysitting, and the power went out. She had to call her father to come over, and he didn’t understand why I was acting so weird. I was high as a kite and super paranoid he would find out. Her parents were super strict, so I didn’t want them forbidding me from being able to come over.

I liked the school I went to. However, they didn’t have some of the programs I wanted to do. I wanted to go to drama club, and cheerleading, and of course, I was boy-crazy. The initial relief of not worrying about boys soon wore off. So, I switched schools. I went to a large coed high school. I joined the cheerleading team, tried out for the drama club, got roles in plays, and learned the flute. I was succeeding and doing well. Of course, the normal teenage rebellions of smoking in the bathroom and getting caught, and skipping school, were considered expected behaviours considering my childhood. I had a couple of different boyfriends, but never really felt connected the way you imagine as a teenager. There were times I was obsessed, with attention from them, but that deep connection didn’t happen. I sometimes wonder if I just resigned myself that this is my life. I would never meet my soul mate.

I struggled with my grades early on, but by the time I was in grade 12, I was getting marks in the '80s. I had hit my stride. I knew the possibilities were endless. I wanted to go to university and become a doctor. I really had no concept of the difficulties I would have. I was born with congenital nerve damage, so I had enough hearing loss, and attending large lectures would be a challenge. Hearing Aid technology back in the early ‘80’s was still in development. The aids just amplified everything, instead of just speech. I had always rejected hearing aids, as they made everyone sound like they had colds. So for the most part, I just struggled through, hearing what I thought I heard, and missing a whole lot. Looking at my report cards from grade school, there were a lot of comments that “Clare daydreams a lot”. Even though the teachers were told I couldn’t hear well, they didn’t understand how to teach someone with hearing loss. My mother, in her opinion, didn’t want to send me to the School for the Deaf. She didn’t want me to be different from my siblings. So, I missed a significant portion of my early schooling. I was never part of the deaf culture, and would watch others signing, and feel like my tribe is over there. I relied on lip reading, which I learned by myself, but missed many ques, that I would have picked up on if I had been taught formally. One of the good things about High School, I was the first student in “regular” schools to use the Phonic Aid system. This is the early FM technology, where the teacher wears a microphone, that feeds directly into my hearing aid. It was a bulky system, but I liked it. The funny thing, though, was that it picked up CHUM FM radio station and would broadcast it when I was in Science class. Only in that class. My teacher would get mad at me, but I kept telling her I wasn’t doing it. The hearing aid technician said it had no ability to broadcast, and I think she didn’t really believe me. I told her to talk to my science teacher, but don’t know if she ever did.

Back then, Ontario had grade 13. You go to grade 13 as a pre-university requirement. I fully intended to go back. However, that summer, I started dating a guy. My guardian had married by that time, and they went on vacation together. I worked as a cashier for a grocery store, so was considered mature enough to be left alone. So, instead of going home each night, I would stay at his place. Again, it wasn’t a feeling of sole mates, just a guy I was seeing, and having sex with. When my guardian and her husband came back from vacation, they forbid me from sleeping over at his place. I had been doing it all summer, was working, and had no parties in the house. Yet, somehow, I was not allowed to stay over at his place. The ultimatum was given. Move out or stay, but I couldn’t live there if I was staying over at his place. I remember the hypocrisy of them. Prior to their getting married, they lived together. They both worked for the Catholic School Board and were forbidden from living together unless they were married. I wasn’t allowed to have my friends from school over, in case my friends found out. So they were allowed to do that, but I couldn’t spend the night with my boyfriend. So, I’m sure you know what happened next. I moved out.

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