As I grew more comfortable in my own skin and I learned to accept my classmates as friends, they accepted me likewise. In the last couple of years at River Oaks, I ran for Student Government vice president and won, and I maintained the Fellowship of Christian Students. I was one of the drummers in the band for the school football games, and regularly participated in All District Bands.
At the same time, we as a class struggled through the loss of our head football coach, a child in a lower grade – due to an accident with a gun, and the loss of one of our own classmates as the victim of a drunk driving collision. Another friend at school lost his father, and another friend’s parents were in a car accident where his mother died and his father was put into a coma from which he never came out. Apart from the school, in church we lost a friend to suicide.
Easily the two hardest to take was the classmate in the DWI collision and the friend’s suicide. The suicide drove home the idea for me never to let depression win, but the DWI loss strengthened any depressive tendencies and made me question the very faith in which I thought I was so solid. This was mostly because, as leader of the Fellowship of Christian Students, I led the high school in prayer for our friend during lunchtimes. Immediately after one of these lunchtime prayers, I was going to my car to visit the student at the hospital for the first time, when her family member came in to tell us she had passed away. I was by no means her closest friend, but I felt the loss of a friend and the loss of faith in God to answer a perfectly reasonable prayer. I further felt the sting of having led the whole school in ineffective prayer. I didn’t understand. Counselors came to the school and did whatever counselors do in a situation like that, and I went to the weight room to work things out on my own. I guess I never really accomplished that.
So on one hand, by the end of my senior year, I was comfortable “making an appearance” at a social event once in a while, and I felt accepted by my classmates, like I had actual friends, and on the other hand the very faith that had been my identity was becoming more fragile.
I had been offered two scholarships: one to Northeast Louisiana University to be in the marching band, and another, for academics, to Louisiana College (LC). I wanted to get out of town and take the scholarship to a private baptist college and I knew I would major in pre-law, as I had decided that in fifth grade. To top this off, on a recent church youth trip to Glorieta, New Mexico, I became acquainted with a nice family who lived in Pineville, where LC was, so I felt like I already knew someone there. Lastly, that’s also where my friend Tamara went to college.
I was on my way.