I'm sure I don't need to tell anyone this but the worlds of primary school and high school are vastly different from each other, I of course had no idea of this and went in with my new found confidence. I had learned the secret after all.
I was of course naive (not for the first time) and an idiot (definitely not the last time).
Things mattered now, things that did not seem to really matter before. Things like shoes, backpacks, hair cuts, jeans, t-shirts and the amount of money you brought to spend at the canteen. Apparently in 1990 the wrong things were all of the things that I had. You see, I am at my core a geek, I always was and I always will be. Yes, I was good at sport but I did not own sneakers with the words Reebok, Nike, Adidas or Converse on them. And for some reason the rules had changed without me knowing. Not only did you have to be good at sport but you also had to have the right sneakers.
What I did have was comic books, action figures, trading cards, a fondness for metal music and a dedication to my skateboard during a time when skateboards were really struggling to be considered cool by anyone (this would all change of course as soon as Tony Hawk's pro skater came out for the Playstation). I did not smoke, I did not get high, I did not drink and I did not party in any way.
I was immediately relegated back to the do not talk to that guy section of the school yard.
"But.. but... I'm good at sports" I cried out as they walked away.
"Uh huh, sure you are, weird kid." Said the same kids who had known me and talked to me during my primary school days.
This was of course all made worse by the fact that now I had started to notice that girls were around, they were everywhere all of a sudden and they had all started developing bodies. This was of course not news to the other boys who adapted immediately and just started to hang out with these girls. The groups started to join and form. There were no boy/girl groups before, there were boy groups, and there were girl groups. I did not know the first thing about how to interact with them, I was as clueless as Inspector Gadget when there was no Brain or Penny to help him. So I returned to what I knew, I played sport. All of them. Well all of the team ones anyway. I played football, soccer, rugby, cricket, basketball, baseball, badminton, table tennis, hell I even joined the athletics team. I played sport all year, every single day of the week. And nobody on any of the teams talked to me once the game was over.
It was at this point that I decided that most of the people that I knew were assholes. And that I did not care what they thought anymore. I also decided that I had to beat them the only way I knew how. I don't remember it happening but it must have been building up over time... A competitive streak was growing in me.
If being good at sports is how you gain acceptance from people then I'm going to be the best at all of them. This is seriously how I thought it would work. I had gotten stronger, faster and my understanding of each of the games grew until I was at the point where I stopped caring about other things. I forgot about girls entirely. My marks, which used to be pretty solid A and B type stuff started to slip and finally at one point I stopped showing up to lessons at all. I still showed up to sports and I still showed up at lunch time to play sport but the rest of it I just forgot about. I even stopped showing up to the art class where my teacher would accept my drawings of Spider-Man as actual class work. In short, I lost my shit. Having aspergers and not knowing it, meant that I had a disposition to becoming focused on one single aspect and forgetting about all of the rest. It wasn't that I didn't care, it was more like they didn't even enter into my thoughts. My parent's at the time had their own lives/issues and didn't even notice that I had stopped going to high school... but they are a different story for another day. I unfortunately started to think that competition was the way that you gained attention outside of sport as well. I developed an attitude problem, a smart mouth and a bad habit of getting my back up if I were ever challenged at something. Now this is something that I developed as a self defence mechanism, and at the time I honestly did not know any better. And even though I do know better now, every once in a while someone will throw down a challenge and I will feel the need to prove myself, and in that situation I can act like a bit of a dick.
Sport changed me you see, I love it, I fucking love the intricacies, the challenge, the competition, the feeling of belonging that it can instil, the rules, the spectacle, the drama, the elation, the disappointments and I love the way it makes me feel about myself. Before I found sport I was the most timid, meek, shy and quiet little mouse you could ever imagine. Sport empowered me, it gave me my confidence, it gave me whatever swagger I have and it taught me to believe in myself (It can also make me a cocky son of a bitch).
In year 12 of high school something changed though, something that opened back up the rest of the world beyond sport and competition. At lunch time, during a social soccer game a girl walked out into the middle of the field. She walked right up to me, handed me a letter and then walked away.
To be continued...