For several years now, I have moments where the whirlwind of life settles and I have time to think. In those moments, I often wonder who I am. I feel lately that I don’t know myself. I’ve become someone I don’t recognize and sometimes I don’t know if I like that person. That’s probably harsh and untrue, but I miss who I was and wonder what happened to me. Or her.
I had a baby very young, and that meant becoming a responsible adult very young. Add to that my status as a Capricorn and I guess I swung pretty hard from irresponsible teenager to buttoned-down, responsible adult without a lot of anything in between.
I get to work every day on time. I exercise. I eat right. I pay the bills. I worry about finances. I worry about my house being clean. I worry about making sure my daughter has what she needs and gets where she needs to go and that she’s doing well in school. I worry about how I’m going to swing a college education for her. I often think about going to grad school or getting a second job for the extra money, but then I look at my life and don’t know where I’d fit it in and still have any kind of leisure time.
I plan to spend time during the weekends reading and writing and never get to it. When I wonder why, I go through in my head all the other things I did those days. I cleaned, grocery shopped, worked out, did laundry, took care of the animals, ran errands. You name it, I did it. And before I know it, the day is over and I’m falling into bed.
I don’t like it one bit and I think it’s made me emotionally hard. I have to make a conscious effort to be soft. I don’t want to be responsible anymore. I don’t want to be a grown up. I don’t feel like one and sometimes I resent that I have to be.
I wrote last week about reading Les Misérables and how I had to read something lighter when I finished. The book I chose was one I purchased at the end of March, The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg. Unless I have a specific author I love, the way I tend to choose books is wandering aimlessly through the book store and if a title catches my eye, I read the description and if I’m still interested, I buy the book. That’s how I ended up with this one.
The book is about a group of people attending their 40th and final high school class reunion. Berg needs a better editor and a class on grammar, but the storytelling was pretty good. And she touched me with the novel. These men and women are all almost 60. They have marriages, divorces, grown children. Many have moved away from their hometown and on with their lives. They have careers. They’re adults. They’re a few years away from elderly. They’re probably members of the American Association of Retired Persons.
Yet, they’re thoughts, hopes, dreams — all of it — are the same as if they were 18 again. That’s how I feel. Age, as they say, is only a number. In the end, we’re all human and that unites us in spirit.
But what touched me more than that was how Berg portrays the group as they come together again. Some hadn’t attended a reunion in all those 40 years. She described being amongst their high school classmates once more as coming home.
Those are the people who knew you “when.”
That is the point that spoke to me. That was the point that brought me back to wondering what happened to me. And I realized how very much I need those people. I’ve kept in touch with most of them through the magic of Facebook. There are others who have just been part of my life from the day we met until now and will probably be there until one of us dies.
Some are people I knew and even liked but didn’t consider friends. We might chat in a class or smile and wave in the hallways, but we didn’t see each other outside of school. Still those people are important. Even the peripheral classmates know more about me than people I’ve met since graduating. They know more than Chris, who’s lived with me for six years. Even with the peripheral classmates, there’s a “remember when” moment or two. They saw me at my worst. They saw me at my best. We gossiped about each other. We grieved and cheered together. We listened to the same music, watched the same TV shows, went to the same movies, experienced history and culture together at the same moments of maturation in the same environment. They know the streets of our home town the way I do. They know the restaurants, the mall. We can all boast Ernie Davis, Kirt Manwaring and Joey Sindelar. We had the same teachers. We are a part of each other in a way we will never be a part of anything else ever again in our lives.
I know for some people, high school was a horrid experience and they prefer to forget it ever happened and just move on. But by doing that, a person denies an important part of himself and misses opportunities to set something straight. I liked high school. It was one big social opportunity and I made wonderful friends there who I love dearly still.
I went to my ten-year reunion. There was talk of a fifteen, but it didn’t happen (or they all hate me and didn’t invite me). I was debating about my 20th. I was leaning towards not going. I thought the ten-year was good enough. I experienced a reunion. I don’t need to experience another. Facebook keeps us all informed about each other’s lives, so there’s no need to catch up.
But there’s nothing like sharing the same space, breathing the same air, just being with those people who knew me when. I may feel differently a few years from now, but as it stands, I want to go. And I want it to be a different experience than the last one. We were still cliquey (though cliques in my high school weren’t quite what they are in others). I don’t want to see that happen again.