Sunday, February 17, 2008
Trekking Down Memory Lane
I hated high school. My parents, thinking they were doing the best thing for me, sent me to one of the finest schools in the country. I did so not fit in. I’d come from a small, nurturing school where I was a sporty A Grade student and found myself in a school that was, to my 12 year old perception, huge, cold and frightening. The happy, bright child morphed into a timid, resentful and underperforming teen. Grades plummeted, I refused to participate in sports - and I found myself friendless. My best friend was at another school, having the time of her life and my world felt like it had come crashing down around my ears. I went through high school almost completely alone. Lunch-breaks were spent mostly in the library or sitting outside with a small group of girls – and then ducking off to the library. I never bonded with anyone, was never part of my class. I was there and yet not there, leading some strange half-life.
This weekend I went to my 30th school reunion - and enjoyed myself. Multiple things struck me. First of all, I was acutely aware of how removed I’d been. There were these women sharing memories and events of which I wasn’t even remotely aware. School year books were brought out and laughed over. I didn’t even know that we’d had school year books! It was a surreal experience which left me wondering where I’d been. Then someone asked me who I’d been friends with at school and I had to reply “No one – my friends were at another school.” I was struck then by something I found almost surprising – and that was what wonderful people all these women are. Maybe it has much to do with me finally growing into myself and maybe it has to do with all of us being comfortable in our own skins. 30 years on we’ve all experienced that much more of life - the pain, the trauma, the highs and the lows. I still can’t say that I totally feel like I “belong” (I am missing years of connectivity), but I really enjoyed the time I spent with them. And curiously, I found they accepted me as being part of them. That was heartwarming - and a whimsy little voice inside wondered what school life might have been like.
I think one of the most interesting things was there was little talk of “back then” (it had no doubt happened at earlier reunions) and conversations focused on the here and now, journeys undertaken and experiences shared. The “girls” were not, I discovered, vicious bitches or űber-cool ladies of leisure – they were just regular folk. Sure, some of them I was more drawn to than others, as one inevitably is. Some I had more in common with. Some I didn’t even get to speak to and really wish I had. Overall, I was struck by what nice women they all are.
I’m not given to regrets but I have to confess to just wishing, for a brief moment, that perhaps it could all have been different. High school would not have been such a thoroughly intimidating and lonely place. Then again, perhaps I would not have so much material for teen fiction had it all been that much easier! Silver linings are everywhere.