I’ve been feeling very nostalgic lately. And it’s Friday. And it’s raining. Seems like the perfect time for reflection.
Within the last six months, I have had two separate conversations on Facebook with former high school classmates. One conversation involved me and just one other person. The other involved several of us. In both cases, these are people with whom I didn’t socialize back then. The common thread was this: everyone felt misunderstood, mislabeled, or had a perception of themselves that was completely different from their perceived high school personas. No big surprise there, huh? Except that it was, at least to me.
I graduated from high school in 1979, so we’re talking 33 years of distance between the class of ’79 and now. I’d bet everyone at one time or another wishes they could have a do-over where high school is concerned. Either to relive your glory days, which have long since turned into something not so glorious, or to inhabit those 4 years as the person you are now instead of the child you were then. Or to simply tell a bunch of people to get over themselves already.
For me, it would be reason #2. My days in high school were neither glorious nor tortuous. I had your basic teenage experience hanging with that comfortable, “middle” crowd–the one that was neither popular nor unpopular composed of good students and the theater, music, and band crowd. Not edgy, not cool, not particularly notable or noticeable. Not being noticed really bothered me back then. I guess almost every adolescent has a secret desire to be part of the anointed. But the funny thing is that the people I reconnected with via social media were part of the anointed, but they had their own sets of issues. And what we found by talking as adults is that we actually had more in common with each other than with members of our own “groups” in some cases. But the class system that existed back then prevented us from ever finding that out.
However, the thing that sticks out in my mind about these people is that they were nice. And kind. And even though I haven’t really talked to them in years and years, I bet they still are nice and kind. What I said in that Facebook conversation was this: “Sometimes you just remember nice regardless of who you hung with.”
I think about all the time wasted in high school simply fitting into the mold that was given to you. All the false barriers between people who would have otherwise, as adults, gravitated toward each other. Nice, kind people generally like to be around other nice, kind people. Of course, my own friends back then were mostly nice and kind, too. And recently I’ve reconnected with two particularly memorable friends who are definitely the kind of people I would still be attracted to today. And I’m very glad to call them friends. But some of the others in my “group” were not really like me at all. That’s not to say that they weren’t nice or kind–some were, some weren’t. But we didn’t really have that much in common except the fact that we were lumped together out of convenience and based on superficial things like activities, classes, and that damn caste system.
Maybe this happens because as teenagers we don’t really know who we are or where we fit in so we’re more than happy to let others tell us. I guess it’s all part of growing up and finding out what you want out of life and what kind of people you want to be a part of that life.
I wonder if being nice and kind is still undervalued in high schools today. Based on stories my kids have told me, I’m thinking that maybe it is, which is a shame. It shouldn’t take 33 years to identify the people who probably would have made good friends–maybe lifetime friends–at a time when all kids can use as many friends as they can get. But not the kind of friendships that are forged out of circumstance, but rather the kind of friendships that are founded on a shared worldview. But then again, most 16-year-olds don’t necessarily have a worldview.
I’m not saying that all high school friendships are based on false pretense. That is most certainly not true. As I said, I still keep in touch with two and I know that my daughters forged good, solid friendships in high school that will hopefully last a lifetime. And I hope my son is doing the same thing. But then again, I think they are more sure of who they are at a younger age than was I.
What I’m saying is that there could have been so many more friendships, I think. If only we all hadn’t been so focused on who we were told we were rather than how we felt inside. I hope kids are smarter today. And more accepting. And, above all, nice and kind whenever possible. Because someone, someday will remember.