Coming to North Star at the start of this year, I crammed my head with question after question. Who would I talk to? What weird effect would it have on my home life? What classes would I take? Would I, as always, feel out of place, even in the accepting environment of North Star? How might people judge me? These questions and more raced through my head. I was 12 at the time, and would have been attending sixth grade.
As I very quickly learned, no one came to North Star to judge or label me. I felt a heavy weight lift inside. Looking back to a year ago, I have no idea what I was doing in public school at all. In fact, sometimes I wonder who was the little boy hiding in the closet, unsure of who I was or what I wanted. For the first time, I felt really okay to be myself. That meant wearing surprising outfits and pink clothing, and simply feeling the emotions that I had. This felt different from what I had to do in the past, such as acting interested in sports and doing the things that differentiate most typical boys from girls. Being myself also meant having the freedom to be spazzy and spontaneous and letting my energy out in a way that I wasn’t able to do in school.
So many possibilities and so many open doors. It became slightly overwhelming, and for a short amount of time I had no idea what to do with myself. “Eek!” I thought. “So much freedom.” I had visited North Star, but it never really hit me just what North Star was until my first week there. It was a puzzle of opportunities. Now I needed to sort through the pieces.
During my first couple of months at North Star, I was adjusting to this new lifestyle and coming in only three days a week. As I became more involved in things such as constant theater rehearsals, my sister and I started coming full time.
During my time at North Star, I enjoy taking the various activities and classes offered. On an average day, I usually have two or three commitments to stick to. This past year at North Star I was involved in a dreams interpretation class, the costume and object design class, music improvisation sessions, the social issues class (which I dropped when I realized that I can’t stand politics anymore). On most Monday mornings and occasional weekends, I went down to Lisa Andrews’ house in Hadley to get down and dirty with some gardening. I also was part of the fabulous writing workshop, played in one of the gaming workshops, and, finally, I was in the theater group. Theater has been in my life for years. I love acting, especially with this group at North Star. However, something was different about this theater year for me. I felt at home with other people who were keen on acting and being more involved in the process.
I do have a life outside of North Star. Nothing special compared to many, but still it’s something. I have an informal routine at home I use almost every day. It goes along the lines of “eat, sew, sleep, do a craft, do another craft, jot down a poem, do some form of craft, work on a craft for class, take a break, pick up where I left off doing the crafts.” I think I am a craft.
Art has always been my thing. It’s what I do. All sorts of styles including macramé (mainly using hemp), sewing (involving the destrucition of all my old preppy clothes), and knitting with a touch of crocheting on the side. I also do some bead work and embroidery, resulting in a lot of jewelry. Even more, we have a pottery studio in our basement. Finally, I can’t forget to mention all the crazy stuff I do with duct tape.
Another major part of my year involves this article – writing. Writing has been a key way for me to express my emotions. I’ve shared this writing with the excellent writing workshop at North Star. The helpful hints and criticism from the other workshop members have allowed me to develop my writing.
The ultimate drama of my year was whether I would come back to our beloved North Star in the fall. The drama began because North Star does not give out diplomas. For this reason, my parents wanted me to return to school at some point. People ask, “Is he honestly learning enough?” or “Is just having fun really okay?” I think to myself, “What kind of question is that?” From seeing adults operate these days, I would think they might understand. So many of them put a ridiculous amount of pressure on themselves to succeed in things they don’t enjoy. This can turn into a serious health issue. I believe all people have skills, and that we should use them. At any rate, with help from North Star, my parents have come around and I will be returning in the fall.
I appreciate everything North Star has done for me, including bringing me beyond the chitter chatter and thick piles of tedious work in the classroom. But above all, I left public school because it just wasn’t the right thing for me. Surprisingly, I had top grades. But how much was I learning? Or even absorbing? Fifth grade was a year of mental hell for me. I was moody, unstable, and worried. I found it hard to enjoy myself. I felt pressure to succeed, and I created a living nightmare trying to live up to it.
This is why I choose to continue coming to North Star and teaching myself for the next year. Hopefully North Star will still work out for us. It has helped me in a vast number of ways. I hope other newcomers to North Star will find it just as useful and lifesaving. I anticipate watching others next year fight away their self-created nightmares as I have done this year.