Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Real Slim Shady

For a lot of folks, I'm sure going to a high school reunion is a chance to relive past glories, an opportunity to be hailed as the football hero or gorgeous and popular homecoming queen. When I attended my 20-year reunion a few weeks ago, I saw the possibility of resolution. For me, it was a chance to lay to rest old insecurities and see myself as an equal to the many people whom I thought of as superior to me because of the distinctions of class and clique that plagued my school. I wasn't some miserable slob that everyone mocked or anything. But I never felt as good as everyone else. I never felt like I belonged. I knew I'd never be on the homecoming court or go to cotillion or do any of the things the rich and popular girls did, but I was a smart kid which gave me some good standing. Everyone knew me and although back then I thought everyone hated me or thought they were better than me, most everyone (with a few notable exceptions) was at the very least polite. Still, I really didn't know what to expect at the reunion. I imagined that everyone would fall back into their same little cliques and that I'd hang out with my closest friends the whole night.

Thank God for Facebook. My friend Daryl created a FB group for alumni of our high school and over the course of several weeks before the reunion, several folks from my class found each other. By virtue of space, time, and goodness of the Internet gods, we were able to connect and soon I found myself interacting with people whom I never imagined I had any common ground.

At the reunion I found myself flattered and surprised by how many people remembered me and talked to me. In fact, I was only a little disappointed that people recognized me. I think I've changed dramatically enough that more people should have been surprised, but that's okay.

I didn't exactly get the resolution I was seeking. I got something both better and slightly more disturbing.

I found out that people liked me and I only wish I'd realized it then instead of wasting my time, energy, and emotions thinking no one did. I've also been surprised by the ways in which people remember me and disappointed in myself for not living up to the expectations I had for myself and for not retaining more of the girl I used to be.

My old friend Tim commented after the reunion that he was glad to see I still had "the same zest for life," that I had back then. It was only when I read those words and thought about how – even though I may have thought I was an outcast and felt unloved, unattractive, and unfinished – I still found a way to live my life with joy and verve. I used to be a totally different person.

When did she go away? Is she dead? I think not, but I think I repressed her. I think at some point after college I realized that it was not cool to be happy and to enjoy your life. All the cool kids were darkly cynical and judgmental of those who just wanted to be and to be happy. It seems like everyone I knew had to overanalyze and critique everything and everyone and sadly I let myself fall into that trap. And I got stuck there. And then I got bogged down in the workplace and got married and lost babies and had babies and somewhere along the way forgot all about the real me.

I feel so angry all the time and I rarely express it. But back when I was happy, I let myself be angry if I needed to be. There was balance.

I am so thankful I went to that reunion (I almost didn't.). I felt really proud of my classmates and genuinely happy to see how well they have all turned out. There were at least three moms with 4 kids who homeschool and I am in awe of them. There was an Air Force Lt. Col. with a beautiful wife and two young kids. Lots of teachers and lots of moms just like me. It was really great to see everyone looking so happy and beautiful. And I am grateful to have gotten to see myself in the slightest way as others have seen me, to know that I was liked despite what I thought back then.

I hope I haven't hidden that old me away too long or too deeply. I want to bring her back. I don't know what that will mean to my husband. I don't know if he ever knew me in that way or remembers me that way. I just know I have to find a way to make myself happy again. I can't resign myself to a life of feeling hurt, angry, sad, and inauthentic.


Suz said...

You have to find her. Don't worry about anyone else.

I hope you can apply what you learned about how others saw you in high school to the present day. We all know you're wonderful and are waiting for you to get it!

organicyogamom said...

Go out and find that girl - it will be a better thing for all that come in contact with you especially your family! Go on - I'm sure she's not that far away!

Kel said...

I'm glad you had a nice time at the reunion. Finding 'you' can be an interesting process, but to be happy - to let yourself be angry or upset or sad is something that you definitely owe yourself.

Find yourself, it's the greatest gift you could ever give you!

rennratt said...

I'm glad you were able to attend your reunion.

I have always seen you as the vibrant, encouraging, nurturing type...who was perhaps having a crisis of faith.

Just thought you should know that.

Dawn said...

You are all too kind. You are all much loved and appreciated. Thank you so much. I feel I've turned a corner.