November 1, 2013 § Leave a comment
For most of my life, I have felt like an outsider. Different.
My years of high school stand out in my memory as awkward and anxiety filled. I attached myself to the ‘cool’ group of girls in my first year, doggedly persevering over the years to make friends with people who delighted in bullying and teasing everyone except their closest allies.
In my second last year of school I finally moved to sit with the group of girls with whom I had easily and gradually formed true attachments. I had one particular friend with whom I quickly became extremely close, our friendship being the absolute light of my life for a few intense years.
But still I felt ‘different’ – I came from a single parent family, something not so common in those days. As I moved towards the end of school I also found myself processing the death of my father (he died when I was four) and trying to identify my place in the world. I had a definite rebellious streak, sneaking out to party and drink and explore the town with friends – but these were friends who had pretty much given up on school – I had not. Most of my new ‘group’ were pretty hard working, responsibly preparing for study and careers beyond school. I straddled the two groups of friends, fitting in as a sometime ‘good girl’, and sometimes not.
Recently I attended a 20 year reunion for this class.
I was very nervous to attend. Scared to revisit those feelings of difference now that I am a well adjusted adult who has found her ‘tribe’. I don’t feel any long lasting scars from my high school time, but all the same I had no wish to see again those women who ignored, put down and sneered at me.
But, I went anyway, interested to see those with whom I had lost touch over the years, when we were once so close. Only 30 or 40 people out of a 200+ class attended. It was confusing and interesting to see faces, so familiar, yet also changed. I suppose we are all older.
What struck me though, was the fact that most of the attendees admitted they were nervous about coming too, for the same reason as I. Suddenly I realised I wasn’t so different. I wasn’t the only one who felt those girls’ presence at school like a heavy shadow.
How many times have I lain awake at night, wishing I could go back to that time for just one day, but with all the wisdom and confidence I possess NOW? I’ve held these imaginary conversations with certain other students, and a small number of cranky, overbearing teachers.
Going to the reunion brought me some peace, as well as some renewed friendships. Everyone there rejoiced in the different paths everyone’s lives had taken. I felt accepted, but ironically I also realised I didn’t need their acceptance or approval any more. I’m pretty happy with the adventures I’ve had in my life since then, and with the person I am.
Feeling different turned out to be a gift. As I moved into my university years I found a way to embrace it, and used it to take risks, explore my identity and have some great adventures.
I’m so thankful for those years of my life.