I am traveling back home soon for my 20th class reunion. I wasn’t able to make it to my 10th and I’ve been counting down since. I’m excited and a little anxious and so ready to get on that plane.
A few new friends have wondered what in the world would possess me to WANT to go to a class reunion. For them the idea of eating glass while set on fire is more appealing than attending theirs. They’d rather drop dead than buy a ticket for their reunion. Let alone purchase a plane ticket. After all, why would anyone want to go revisit their past?
I can’t answer for everyone who chooses to go, but I can answer for me.
To start us off, how about I quote a pretty well known English author. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times-”
When it comes to memories of my formative years, they are most certainly scattered about the pain scale of 1-10.
At times I felt I fit in. I played in the band, twirled flags and excelled at eating cookies in class. At other times it was painfully clear I stood out. Like the time at the end of my sophomore year when my mother felt the only way to combat an age old battle involving hair and certain parasites was to shave my head.
The beginning of my junior year was excruciating. I still remember vividly the first week of school. Most of my lunch crowd from the previous year had conflicting schedules and I found myself not only without 90% of my hair, but also without any friends to eat with. Not wanting to sit in the cafeteria alone I chose the glass enclosed atrium as my fortress of solitude.
Huddled against the wall, having chosen the ground rather than one of several wrought iron chairs, I tried to eat my sandwich while avoiding eye contact with the group of hard core punks gathered across the room. I tried to drown their mocking jeers with the sound of my chewing but it didn’t work. Their accusations and snide remarks that I was trying to be like them found their mark.
As I sit here and write this I have to admit, there’s a whisper of that long ago pain squeezing my heart and causing my eyes to water.
They can also heal.
I might have spent the first week of the 97′-98′ school year alone at lunch, but for the remainder I found my place. With friends who had always seen me, the real me, hair or no hair. They knew me even when I didn’t. Their words encouraged and held me up. Their belief in me stood in and took charge when I had none for myself.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
Growing up is painful. And it’s not limited to our school years. I’m STILL growing up. I’m learning and growing every day through moments of victory and absolute failures.
I’m going back this coming week because the me I was back then helped me to become the me I am now. And to deny she ever existed – that’s just unacceptable to me.
I can’t erase the past. I can’t take away the pain of rejection. I don’t have to. I’ve given all of that to my God. He’s got me in His hands. All of me. The past me. The present me. And the future me.
I’m excited to see old friends and can I be honest? I’m also looking forward to meeting those I never truly knew. And there’s a lot. Our graduating class numbered in the upper 300’s. I know this thanks to social media. I also credit social media with helping me to reconnect with old acquaintances, some I’d never really gotten a chance to know. Mostly because I was so wrapped up in my own insecurities and battles, I’d never given them a chance. I’d just assumed they could never like me.
Want to know something I just recently discovered through these interactions? Those same people I thought wouldn’t like me were thinking the same about themselves at some degree or another. We all have doubts. We all fight fears.
I still have a few as June 1st gets nearer. What if’s are aplenty especially after 20 years, but I’m not letting that dictate my choices.
I may be bigger than I was and my dance moves are whiter than the new albino panda that was discovered, but that’s not stopping me. I owe the old me that. She didn’t always embrace life back in school, but she will this week.
Now if ya can just pray for me – traveling makes me a neurotic nutcase. I’m not scared of the flying part. It’s the getting me on the plane part. Navigating unfamiliar airports. Throwing all my stuff in security bins quickly so that the masses behind me don’t die from waiting 2.5 seconds. And mostly – not dying on the human conveyor belts. I trip. A lot.