if you really knew me

We have established that, in terms of my television viewing tendencies, I am essentially a teeny-bopper trapped in the body of a 29-year old woman (see also: SYTYCD obsession, love of Pretty Little Liars). We have also established that I am a crier (see also: me since birth). On the surface, those two factors alone make it pretty clear that If You Really Knew Me on MTV was pretty much made for me… but in reality, I’m pretty sure you’d have to be a cold-hearted snake to not feel some sort of connection to the kids on this show.

The run-down: If You Really Knew Me is a documentary-style show, chronicling the experience of high schoolers across the country as they experience Challenge Day, run by an organization whose “mission is to provide youth and their communities with experiential programs that demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth, and full expression.” Each week on the hour-long show, a different high school is featured, and different kids share their deepest feelings and find unexpected common bonds with one another. The jocks, nerds, popular kids, and bullies discover that they’re not so different after all.

There are some things that haven’t changed since I was in high school — drama with friends, relationships, family turmoil, bullying — but one thing that is extremely clear is that the way the internet and cell phones have changed how kids communicate with each other (and bully each other) is pretty alarming. It’s hard to imagine what they go through now that we never, ever had to worry about. I mean, AIM was just catching on during my senior year in high school, and no one had a cell phone back then (except maybe our parents who had them for work). It was just a different world, and that’s kind of crazy considering it was only 12 years ago.

In case you don’t remember high school or were one of those rare people who never dealt with drama when you were younger, teenagers can be cruel. I mean, I’ve seen the internet be a threatening and scary place for grown adults who get bullied by strangers online — I just can’t fathom what teenagers deal with as Facebook, Twitter, Formspring and texting have all become commonplace means of communication and bullying. It is sadly not surprising to me that teen suicides as a result of online bullying have become an unfortunate reality in our society.

Personally, I had a pretty average high school experience. There were highs, and there were lows. I wasn’t the most popular, but having gone to school with the same kids since kindergarten, most people in my grade knew who I was (I think). I was never the victim of serious bullying. There were times when I didn’t know where I fit in, but there were also amazing friends who came along and made it all worthwhile for me. I was a fairly well-adjusted, well-behaved, and well-liked person. I was not faced with any major losses or tragedies in my life. I was lucky.

Hearing the stories of so many teens with real pain in their lives on If You Really Knew Me has me in tears every week. The show has kind of restored my faith in the youth of our country — maybe they don’t have an unrealistic sense of entitlement, after all. Maybe they get that life isn’t fair, and being kind to others is one of the greatest things you can do in life.

Have you seen this show? What was high school like for you?


  1. I’ve seen it and I love it. I saw the previews on MTV and I of course had to set the DVR to record it! I’ve only seen the first episode and I’m already hooked.

    I think we had a similar high school experience – it was a small town, public school, with kids I grew up with my entire life. I was definitely in the “nerdy but popular” group – since all of my friends were in honors classes with me. Since we weren’t very diverse in the typical ways I think for our school your status in the classroom was the biggest source of tension. Sounds really dorky but totally true. Oh and I can’t talk about high school and not mention I was totally Junior Prom Queen – highlight of high school without a doubt – haha!

  2. I could never watch shows like this because high school (well, most of K-12) was so painful for me…it would be like re-living it! I was definitely in the nerd crowd in a very white district so not only was I made fun of for being a nerd, but also for being Asian. It also didn’t help that I had braces, huge glasses, horrible hair, and no fashion sense at all. The funny thing is, because we had so few non-white kids, the black kids automatically became the cool ones while the Asians and Hispanics really suffered. I still shudder when I think back to my high school experience, and when I received the invitation to my 10-year reunion a couple of years back I automatically threw it away.

  3. I had a high school experience similar to yours. Not “popular” but had a good group of friends and people knew me.

    My husband, however, had a great HS experience. Lots of school spirit. Actually, have you ever heard of the movie “Go Tigers”? It’s a documentary about his high school filmed his senior year (2000). It was a national release, very big deal. His 10 year reunion is this year and, of course, we’re going. Allegedly it’s going to be “awesome.” We’ll see.

  4. I’ve never seen the show but it sounds very moving. I think like most people, I was picked on a bit in school and it was rough but I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must be for children now who can’t escape the bullying at school and online. I hope that the message this show sends resonates and helps change how kids interact with one another.

  5. No shame in being a teenage drama fan – I love me some Degrassi. ;)

  6. I love the show! In my high school we had a group…I guess it was like a school club..and you had to apply to get in and they interviewed everyone and only accepted a certain number of people. They did exercises like these throughout the school year.

  7. Wow that show sounds really interesting! I went to a private school in high school and for the most part had a really good experience and have good memories. I feel like sometimes that is not the norm though. I think some of it comes from a graduating class of 83 and most of us had known each other for a really long time. Middle school was awful though. :)

  8. I had the awesome opportunity to volunteer as an adult leader for a Challenge Day held at a local high school, and I will never forget it. It was so wonderful–I was crying by the middle of the afternoon!!

  9. I’ve been wanting to see that show. I feel like it’ll make me cry! I’ve always been a nerd. Smart, glasses, marching band, no boobs. High school was rough. I had my crew of fellow nerds, but I felt uncomfortable, embarrassed, and/or awkward about 98% of the time. And middle school was even worse. Mean girls threw pieces of paper at me in class. At least in high school I was just ignored for the most part.

    I debated whether or not I wanted to attend my 10 year reunion 2 years ago. Part of me wanted to say, “Hey, look at me now!” But part of me knew it’d be high school all over again. Well, I went. And I’m glad. Because I had an epiphany. Those people who I thought were cool? Yeah, not so cool. It’s not that I didn’t fit in because I was a dork. I didn’t fit in because I was special and interesting and creative! :) So even though it was torture, I’m glad I had the high school experience that I did.

  10. I have seen the show a few times, and to be honest, I’ve watched an episode multiple times. I cry every time. You can almost see the kids transform over the course of challenge day. It is amazing!

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