This year is my thirty year high school reunion. Thirty years. That’s a long time to be away from youth. Yet, it doesn’t seem far enough. Some would decry their lost youth. Not me. I feel as if it just keeps getting better and better. There’s far more laughter and love now than existed then. Maybe. Perhaps I’m only old enough now, mature enough, to appreciate it.
Facebook, scion of Memory, has created a whole new high school perspective for me. Over the course of years, I’ve always wondered what happened to all those people from high school and poof! There’s an application that allows you a view into their very NOW lives. The one or two people from school that I regularly talk with were amongst my first “friends” on FB. Then, the wondrous idea hit me – what about all those people who I spent years beside in school rooms – formidable, painful adolescent years? What about high school – that quintessential experience of moving from youth to adulthood with all the grace of a wildebeest in heat? Oh yes! Let’s friend THEM!
I thought feverishly of all the people’s names who came to me easily – the crushes, the swim team, the Honors classes, the geeks (before computers), and my confidants. What happened to them all? Somehow, like solving the great mystery of life, I had to know.
I started with a few “sure shots” – the people from my elementary school at progressed with me through high school. Scott, Ted, Dean, Emil, James. I always got along better with the boys than the girls. I was a tomboy though and through and never found time for makeup and shoes. Well, things do change…but then, it was about sports and writing and science fiction books. To my surprise, I found these guys easily and even friended them. How odd it was to see how they had changed, and not changed at the same time. They are the fully mature versions of the little boys I knew so long ago. Over the course of months, we evolved a weird FB existence where we might send things to each other but never speak about school outright, and certainly not about reliving the old days. That was okay with me – as I’ve said, I never wanted to go back.
A few girls, the close friends, were already on Facebook. They were a no-brainer. They are still part of, and even more significant, never left my life after school. The Roma’s and the Bev’s of the world – they rule. Sista!
But…oddly enough, none of the mass of girls friended me. Ever. Annette, Janeen, Linda, Colleen, Maureen, Gina – not a one. It didn’t surprise me. I was always the odd one out – non conformist in the oddest of ways – I didn’t really care about what they cared about. I felt like an odd mixture of naive and mental, rolled into the girl that was slightly fat and laughed too loud. I fit in everywhere and nowhere. I never went to a football game in high school, never dated a jock, and liked to write. I was a young Jane Austin (if I can be that presumptuous) in the 20th century. But still, I wondered what happened to them. So, I started stalking.
I’m not talking the creepy dude in a car stalking… No, I’m talking about Facebook stalking. It’s where you look at your friends page and then look at their friends. You start clicking on the people you know and see what they have chosen to share with the world at large. Photos are the easiest things because many friends share their photos with each other, especially if it includes them. You click on where they’ve been, what concerts they’ve seen, books they’ve read, and their likes. A picture begins to develop of then – mingled with what you knew, you form an idea of what it would be like in their presence now.
My naivete has faded more than just a little since high school and realize that Facebook is simply the Wikipedia of social world – lives posted there, including mine, are only what we wish the world to see. They are not the true pieces of the puzzle that make up the complex beings behind the masks. Or, perhaps in some cases, not so complex. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The facade of high school has, in some cases, simply migrated to the digital world.
After a recent evening of social surfing, I had a far greater insight into my own psyche than I cared to have at that moment. I realized at when I looked at most of the pictures of these people from high school, I was sad. I found that I didn’t like how it made me feel…the loneliness of being that “freak” and the loathing of being the “cow.” It reminded me of the self-deprication I succumbed to in order to survive and be “funny.” It reminded me of…well, being seventeen again, and all the pain and desperation that all seventeen year olds feel, whether it shows in the facade or not.
I never want to be seventeen again. God no! I think I realize it more than ever. The people surrounding me, in the real world, are the fruit of my life’s true work – my discovering and loving the real me. Their presence transcends any desire for less wrinkles or youthful innocence. But I know, and remember, that who I am now needed the emotional poverty of that youth to be who I am today. So, in some odd way, I have to thank them for their, well, their “seventeen-year-oldness” that remains. It reminds me that the road from there to here is long, difficult, fraught with strangeness, and one which not many are fearless enough to take.
Every once in a while, I wonder if they think of me, too. I wonder about the odd, weird impression that I might have left on their psyche, on their shadowy memories. That no one from school has ever written to me speaks volumes.
I am guessing we don’t really miss each other all that much.
Thirty years have passed since cap and gown. At least two lifetimes ago for me. I am excited to see where the next thirty years will take me. And I promise you, it won’t be spent stalking youth. It will be spent embracing life and the joyousness of age and wisdom, sprinkled with the laughter of knowing my true self.