Can’t Relate to Euphoria? Try Growing Up in Las Vegas.

Reporter Seanna Simpson shares her unusual childhood of growing up in Sin City, or why Vegas teens relate more to the craziness that occurs on the hit HBO show than people who grew up in smaller cities.

My sister and I posing for our first day of school.

Misconceptions and Growing up Fast

The first time I smoked weed was when I was in middle school. While my cousins in Reno were still experiencing the leftover innocence they had from elementary school, I was getting high and smoking hookah in my friend’s garage.

On one occasion in eighth grade, I thought I was about to get caught. So, I did what any eighth grader would do, and I planned my very own escape plan. I found a bus that went all the way to Huntington Beach that was stationed outside of the casino Circus Circus. I was going to hitch hike there and run away to the beach.

Watching the latest season of Euphoria, it dredged up memories of my time growing up in Vegas. I saw so many tweets stating that what occurs on the show would never happen in the real world, but this contradicted by my own previous classmates who could relate to the drug crazes and party scenes that play out in the high intensity television show.

I don’t know what it is about Las Vegas, but kids there have to grow up a lot faster than what I have seen from my cousins here in Reno and in other cities. I am sure there are similar experiences here, but I have met very few people who grew up in Vegas and had a normal and innocent childhood.

I grew up hearing many misconceptions about what it is like growing up in this party city. During my first year of college in South Dakota, everyone had the understanding that we lived, at most, ten minutes from the Strip. People don’t know until they fly into the knock-off city of lights just how large the city is. There were also misconceptions about how we spent our time there as children. Strangers of the city believe it must be such a fun place to live and that we never get bored, and what I always have to tell them is that there is almost nothing to do for kids. This is a city made for adults.

My sister and neighbors pose with me for my ninth birthday in my childhood home.

A Not so Special First Kiss

For the most part, I am grateful for my past because I wouldn’t be the same person without it. However, there are times where I envy those who were able to retain their innocence. For example, I hate hearing stories of people’s first kiss. Sometimes the stories are awkward and cringey, and other times they are damn romantic. Mine was terrible and gross.

It was the last day of eighth grade and I went to a hotel party with an old friend of mine, who is actually a mother now. They were doing lines of cocaine in the room and had handles of vodka in the bathtub that was filled with ice. This night was also the first time I got drunk.

At one point, the rest of the people in the room left and I was alone with a guy who was celebrating his last day of high school. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but he eventually asked me if I wanted to kiss him.

I got butterflies and was shocked that someone so grown up like him wanted to kiss a girl like me. I was in my awkward phase and just got braces, so this simple question made me feel special. However, there was also a part of me still holding on to that shred of innocence I had left. I was intimidated and nervous, so I told the guy I didn’t know. He kissed me anyway. His breath tasted like cigarettes and my back was aching from the awkward position I was in. This is the story I get to tell when asked what my first kiss was like.

My neighbors and I all pose for our annual Christmas party picture.

A Mixed Bag

Although there are some pretty terrible memories, there are great ones too. The street I grew up on was like a family. Every neighbor knew each other and there were so many kids my age. In between my house and my neighbor’s, there was an electric box that we would meet at after school and let our imaginations run wild.

Every holiday, the street would come together and throw parties. On Cinco de Mayo, we would rent a bouncy house and have a taco bar. Every Christmas Eve, each house would be assigned a certain food to make and we would go around and try everything that the neighbors made. Our house was always the last one, dessert.

My mom would have my sister and I help her bake hundreds of sugar cookies the morning of the party. For the last stop of the Christmas party, everyone would come to our house and decorate those cookies. It’s a memory I truly cherish, although the appeal got lost over the years. Us kids became teenagers and had better things to do than hang out with our parents and their friends.

All the neighborhood kids pose in their Halloween costumes, ready to go trick or treating.

Great Halloween Memories

My favorite memory from my childhood had to be Halloween. Our huge neighborhood was the best trick-or-treating spot, and every year without fail, the neighbors would have a chili cook off and pass out the chili to trick or treaters. My opinion is probably biased, but my dad’s chili was the best.

At the end of the night, all the neighbors would come to our house and sit in our living room while our parents were still outside drinking and enjoying the end of the night. We would sit on the uncomfortable and scratchy carpet, and trade our candy. I felt like a proper business woman, making trades and outsmarting the other kids. I would always end up with the most Butterfingers, which was my favorite candy. In middle school I found out I was allergic to dairy and never had a Butterfinger again, though.

My sister and I with our uncle Scott at my graduation party.

Bat Shit Crazy High Schoolers and Tragedy

High school is where I realized that people can be really bat shit crazy. The craziest experience I had was when a girl who used to be my best friend went around telling people that I had a demon inside of me. I wish I could make this up, but she actually told people that if they were around me too much, then I would possess them. I’m not sure how this made me an outcast my first year of high school and she became the popular one, but I guess crazy attracts crazy.

I found a solid group of friends my sophomore year, and had a pretty normal high school experience after that. My senior year of high school, however, was the worst year I ever had. I played on my high school softball team and one day before a game, I found out that three of my friends were killed in a drunk driving accident in Huntington Beach. When I received the text, I went into shock and continued my warm ups, but my coach could tell something was off. I then had to break the news to my entire team and my coaches that three of our friends were killed. When we got back to school, we discovered that someone at our school also committed suicide the same night. This was my first major experience with grief, and it was so terribly difficult.

Even with everything I endured and had to work through in high school, I graduated as valedictorian of my graduating class of almost 800 people. I didn’t know it yet, but leaving high school and Vegas was the best thing that ever happened to me. I finally formed a solid relationship with my mom and she became my best friend. I created friendships that will last forever. The point is, every choice I made and every experience I had brought me to where I am now, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

But I know for a damn fact I will never raise kids in Vegas.

Reporting by Seanna Simpson shared with the Reynolds Sandbox

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Reynolds Sandbox

Reynolds Sandbox

Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.