If you read this I've surprisingly managed to get the subject of my first appearance in Oasis out to Jeff in time.
The name I will use throughout my columns is "Mats", although it is not my own. You will probably hear the story about the original owner of this name in one of my future columns.
I recently turned 22 and live in one of the biggest cities in Germany. I am currently a student of Business Administration at my hometown's university. As you can see English is not my native language. Therefore I already apologize in advance for any grave errors in punctuation or grammar that I will doubtlessly commit.
When I first seriously pondered the thought of submitting something for this great online resource (I've been a regular reader for over a year now) I decided to deal with my time in the German conscript armed forces "Bundeswehr" (10 months which began immediately after High School Graduation in the summer of 1996) and my ups and downs during that time in my debut column. But then I saw Jeff mention the next issue would be a "special" about things related to school. Thus, I changed my plans and will proceed to try and tell you what this both great and horrible place meant for me...
Ever since I started Elementary School I was a successful pupil. Good grades came naturally even in times I didn't invest too much energy in learning and preparing. Elementary School lasts four years in Germany after which parents decide, provided with a professional assessment by the teachers, on which kind of school their children are to complete their education. The highest final examination that gives the right to study any subject at university level is achieved in the "Gymnasium" which lasts from grade 5 to 13. Roughly one third of all German kids are in such a school nowadays.
I lost almost all of my friends from Elementary School when I attended the "Gymnasium", but adaptation came quickly. Finally the contents of the lessons became more demanding in comparison to Elementary School where it often had got fairly boring.
I have always been interested in various subjects and enjoyed mathematics, physics, geography, politics, economics, literature, history and especially philosophy. As I think about it I realize that there were only very few subjects I did not like. For example I hated art and especially art teachers. Is it the same in the US that in all subjects they teach you something and control if you learned it well afterwards only with the remarkable exception of arts, in which my teachers always seemed to assume that you either could draw, or could not draw and that there was no sense in trying to provide technique for a hopeless case like me?)
From an outside viewpoint my way through those nine years must have seemed relatively straight-forward: I was friends with almost everybody, I was successful (even in sports) and improved my grades every semester until graduation when I managed to get one of the best score sheets ever handed out in my school.
But I couldn't watch all this from such a viewpoint, although I sometimes merely felt like an observer of my own life. I had started wading through masses of books as early as grade two and read all the time. I don't know what I might have become without my books. I had always known that I was somehow different from the others, but I had to wait until a vacation in grade 8 to actually realize what it was. To put it simple I fell in love with a younger boy and was running around with a beaming smile literally day and night for a whole week. Of course nothing happened with him at all, but my masturbation fantasies should never recover from that incident of late night revelation...
After that I constantly fell in love with boys in my school. But I had no one to talk to, never had a real "best friend". In fact I didn't socialize with the others after school so much at all. In contrary I dreaded my natural need for sleep and the velocity of my watches hands because all that robbed me off time to read and think and program my computer.
To be honest I cannot even say that I missed anything back then - apart from the boys I loved, of course. As usual for a new bunch of kids getting together for the first time in grade 5 there had been a time of getting to know each other and establishing social relations. I never let anybody pick on me right from the beginning (not that there was much of that, just the usual amount that everybody gets from time to time I guess) and therefore didn't have to deal with any shit later on. I would say that I was respected in school for what I did and what I said. But there was no friendship beyond the normal bonding between kids in the same grade.
Therefore I was alone with my secret feelings and didn't have anybody to talk to. (I came out to my parents as late as seven years after I first realized that I was gay.) The good thing is that I never had any problems in accepting what I was and what I felt. I welcomed it.
I will try and describe my attitude in school. I was proud on my being different. But there was also pride in my ability to "fit in" as successfully as I did without the others suspecting anything like big smiling Mats being desperately in love with a long row of boys through the years who additionally happened to be mostly as much as two or three years younger than me. I fought with slightly arrogant feelings towards the others (their talking was so meaningless, they did not even see what was going on directly around them...) and cynicism. The latter one was springing from my conviction that I would never even get the chance to get friends with one of those I loved. And yet I had to bring all that together with my basic characteristics of optimism and pragmatism.
My resulting view of the world could be summed up like this: I was completely OK with who I was and whom I loved. I was so happy to be able to see the beauty in those boys and if anyone (even the proverbial fairy) had asked me back then if I'd like to change the way I felt I would have said, shouted even "No, not for anything", despite the fact that I was really lonely.
But I still couldn't even imagine telling anybody about me. That was due to my pragmatic side. I "calculated" costs and benefits and decided that it was not worth the effort to try and get somewhere with my dream-dates. I liked the impression the others seemed to have from me but did not trust them to be mature enough to be able to handle this hidden part of me. Today I am sure that some of my "friends" in school would have been well worth such a try and I sometimes wonder how things might have evolved when I had reached out to them. But I always chose the way of least resistance: I did not see any chances to actually get friends with one or more of those boys I loved and therefore decided not to take the risk of stirring up any bad reactions from anyone in case word got around. (And you know how fast that can happen...)
So I just lived on as if nothing had happened. Breaks became the most important part of school for me, because that was the only time during which I could see what my heart longed for. One smile of him (whoever he was at a given time) could make my day back then. I projected all my wishes for friendship, for another human being to actually share my thoughts and impressions and ideas with into those boys. I think it even did not ever occur to me that it has not necessarily have to be a person you love that you can share all these things with. (Sometimes love and its various impacts can even interfere seriously with the friendship part as some of you doubtlessly already have experienced as well.)
I loved the last day I spent in school because it brought me nearer to independence and living on my own. And I hated it at the same time because I probably would not see many of those who enlightened my school years ever again. I was terribly sad but ready to embrace the future.
I am not sure if I really managed to give you the right impression what it was like for me back then. But I did my best in trying to. Sometimes I am not even sure if I understand all of it myself.
I would like to know what you think. (Please also do not hold back any critics concerning my writing style. I love to improve.) Did you experience something similar?