Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ghosts of High School Past

This weekend is my 30th high school reunion. Ours was a class of 67 lassies in a 7-12 all girls school. With the increasing popularity of Facebook, I made a specific page for our class. Only a handful of us really interact there but, with the reunion fast approaching, more people have logged on to see what's up. Some good conversations were started, but most have petered out due to some sort of a "let's just put that all behind us and love each other now" derailment. I wish it were so easy. High school was hard for me. The heartache and loneliness ran deep. Leafing through the old yearbooks takes me back to a place I don't ever want to be again. I really thought I was the only one, but a couple of old classmates, girls I hardly knew, have confessed to me that they, too, struggled in silence. Below is a response I had to one friend as I shared my current fears:

Every time I start to say that this past year has been the hardest year of my life (struggles with children, menopause, depression) I stop myself because high school was worse. So much worse. Aside from all the hell of home and my personal struggles, I can still feel the sting of rejection and the frustration of being labeled and put in a box. I was terrified to go to our 10 year reunion. The 15th came a little easier and the 20th, too. But I still experienced moments of being the odd man out with no one to talk to. And I so wanted to prove that I wasn't that messed up kid any more. Facebook has changed some of that. I am totally comfortable now with the people I interact with there, but I'm still a wee bit nervous about the ones I haven't seen in 10-30 years. I so wish to shed the insecurities of youth and just move on in life, but they come so easily, like riding a bike or singing along with a bad BeeGees song. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am shocked that other people feel this way. Everyone seems so excited about seeing everyone. And I DO want to see people, to connect and maybe establish new and healthy relationships, but there's still a bit of the teenage me inside who's hesitant.
I have even paused about sharing more openly on Facebook my pain and struggles for fear that my high school friends will be like "Oh, no. Here she goes again." I did struggle in high school with awful depression and anxiety and probably OCD and most likely ADD as well (yes, my kids come by it honestly), not to mention the hated eating disorder, which pushed me over the edge to total "freak" status. I didn't want the high school people to think that I hadn't grown beyond all that. But life is life and life is hard and pretending it's not doesn't change it at all. So I've been honest at the total risk of being labeled "least changed" or whatever. I've been honest because it's hard for me not to be and because most people I know (though maybe not most people we went to high school with) can relate much better to failure than to success. And because Jesus came for the sick.

Strange as it is, I do still feel the need to connect with people from my past. This desire has only gotten stronger since my mother died. Within days of her death my desire to reach back and grab what shreds of my past that I could took on a life of its own. Am I trying to make peace with it? Am I trying to make sense of it? I don't know. It's just there. Perhaps the hardest of all is wanting to and trying to connect with those who clearly have no desire to connect with me. I must pause, accept it for what it is, hand it over to God, and move on.

I know that some classmates will not come to this reunion or any other reunion that we have. Some will not come because time or distance or previous engagements will not allow it. Others will not come because, for them, reconnecting with long lost friends just isn't that important. Some may not come because their lives are in the pits and they don't want to have to keep up appearances. But others won't come because the reunion could be like choosing to enter back into a bad dream. And most people won't do that willingly.

I read an article on reunions that stated that through the 25th reunion, people are busy showing off their adult lives and their well trained bodies and their hunk-o-husbands and gorgeous children and their impressive careers and, somehow, by the 30th, so many have gone gray or gained weight (menopause...sigh) or lost jobs or passed through teenage hell or are one paycheck away from foreclosure or their marriage is in the trash and somehow they end up being much easier to relate to. I guess life does that to us.

So I'll go and see and hope that I can be a friend to someone who is in need and put the past behind me.

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