Revisiting Old Places, Old Faces

“When I think of them, I am suddenly that girl again.  I so don’t want to be that girl again.”  

I grew up in a small town.  Growing up, I felt like it was such a small town that EVERYONE knew what I was doing.  I was a babysitter, worked at the local department store, and tried to stay out of trouble at home.  I managed to stay in trouble over small things, but I did a pretty good job of avoiding big trouble.  Of course, there was the time I was driving home from a babysitting job and ran smack into a large sign in the fork in the road.  I guess even then I reacted without lots of thought. I wasn’t even under the influence of any mind-altering substance.  (I know you were wondering)

So, when a friend from high school asked if I would be willing to help with our 30th class reunion, I was typically quick to respond “Sure, I’d be glad to help!”  Then there comes the buyer’s remorse, or in this case the volunteer’s remorse.  Oddly enough, it didn’t hit me until the day before the reunion.  I had no problem with the work beforehand:  planning decorations, meeting, contacting classmates, sending a newsletter.  No, it wasn’t until I realized that I would see people who 30 years prior were so skilled at making me feel that I was somehow “less than”–though not sure less than what–that is when I had my volunteer’s remorse.

The feelings were totally unexpected for me. I am not in high school anymore.   I am a happy, well-adjusted, successful in my own right  girl woman. Yes, I can stand in front of total strangers and talk about issues that for others would be uncomfortable, but to go back to see the people from 30 years ago…it nearly undid me.  High school just wasn’t my favorite time.  I felt incredibly out of place and different.  I was tall–taller than most of the boys.  I was a talker–not everyone likes to be around a talker.  I was friendly–some people just don’t know what to do with a friendly girl…she might be ‘that’ kind of girl!  I was painfully aware of feeling like I might not fit in.   And here I am, the mother of two young men, the wife of a wonderful man, scared of facing the people from my past.  The old insecurities were suddenly at the surface, and I would have been happy to climb back into bed and keep my head under the covers until the day was behind me.

I drove down early and stopped at a wonderful coffee shop that seemed to call my name.  It calmed me…coffee shops and I have a good relationship.  I drove on to the venue for our event and unloaded all of my things.  I began working on the decorations, still alone with only the maintenance man to speak to every so often.  Then, my first helper arrived.

“Are you ok with all of this?”  She was fine.

The second helper arrived.  “So, are you ok with all of this…this being with people you haven’t seen in forever?”

“Yes, Susan, it’s not like we’re in high school anymore.”

Well, of course we aren’t in high school anymore.  Did I look THAT blonde?

So, we worked.  When it was just the three of us again, the discussion returned.  Agreeing to work with me on decorations wasn’t that thrilling for them.  They didn’t know what I would be like.  I had been excited about working with them.  Their uncertainty simply confirmed why I wasn’t crazy about high school.  But as we talked, lots of truths for each of us unfolded…kind of like when you get brave enough to unfold your picnic blanket to allow others to sit with you.  We had a great talk, and I was suddenly glad that I had agreed to be there.

The night went really well.  I saw lots of old friends who seemed genuinely glad to see me.  I saw people who never spoke to me.  They didn’t speak to me in high school much either, though, so there was really no reason to expect it to change.  It was the friends who I have cared about, who have cared about me, who I hadn’t necessarily seen in a long while…those were the people I am most happy I saw.  I got to know wives of friends as if they were my better old friends.  Those are the nice surprises that come with attending a reunion.

But the best part…well, it was the reason I had given in my emails to classmates before the event:  “Come to the reunion for others who need to see you.”  We get so caught up in our own insecurities or feelings of unworthiness that we forget we aren’t the only show in town…there are others much more important.  And so, for my friend Louis (pronounced Louie), I am most proud I attended.  It was good to see others, and many made me feel appreciated, but Louis…he was special.  He has always been special.  His 80-something mom and he live together.  He takes good care of her.  He just lost his brother recently and was still very sad.  He was happier to be at that reunion than I had been afraid of being at the reunion.  As he reminded me…we go back a long way, we’ve been friends a very long time.  He won two awards and got to take flowers home to his mom.  It was a great night for Louis…he helped make it a great night for me.

Nope, I’m not in high school anymore.  People actually seemed glad to see me.  I was very glad to see almost every person there.  I’m an adult, a grown woman.  I’m still tall, but many of the fellas are taller.  I still talk a lot, but I’ve learned to be a good listener.  I’m still friendly (sometimes friendlier than a girl should probably be).  I still am very sensitive about fitting in.  But I’m different.  I like my own skin.  I love my place as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and aunt.  As my new old friend said “Susan, you is kind, you is beautiful, you is important.”  (Trading beauty for smart, I suppose)  I am good enough, pretty enough, and nice enough.  I am glad that I went to my reunion.  I will go again.

Go, step out in your fear, and embrace the past that might haunt you.  It might just surprise you that you can leave the past where it is and replace it with the present.

And if you have a Louis in your life, remember you can make the day so much brighter for him and for you by just being there.

 

8 Responses

  1. Terri Davis
    Terri Davis September 3, 2012 at 8:27 pm | | Reply

    You really didn’t know how people saw you then do you? You actually were then the way you are now only older and wiser. You may have felt awkward here in this small town but Susan…people here did not see you as awkward or unworthy. I for one have known you since elementary school and yes you were tall, funny and talked alot… which I loved. BUT the one thing is your smile…it lit up a room and made others feel comfortable and at ease. Your smile made you approachable and definitely not unworthy or awkward. You always “fit in” no matter where you were or who you were talking with. I didn’t run with the “IN” crowd but they were all my friends. I for one am proud and so fortunate to call you a close friend. I can remember people picking on Louis even some adults when we were in elementary school and I would always take up for him..even got in trouble one day for sticking up for him…but it was well worth it. He is special and we as the class of 82 were the only friends he probably has ever had. I was so glad to see him at the reunion and so glad that i got to see his smile. You are truly a sweet, kind and wonderful person and I am so glad that we have kept in touch.

  2. Liz
    Liz September 3, 2012 at 8:35 pm | | Reply

    I love it!! I was so glad to hear about Louie, too. Now would you please send over a hanky.

  3. Carrie :o)
    Carrie :o) September 3, 2012 at 9:15 pm | | Reply

    Susan – you are good, you are pretty and you are nice BUT the greatest thing you are is KIND because you can be everything else but if you are kind you can not show that love that is truly in you. Your kindness is like helium – it makes everyone feel so much lighter and carefree because you have shared it with them. I am so grateful that we had the chance to get to know each other at this reunion because everytime we will see each other from now on there will be no intrepidations that are a barrier for us to not completely enjoy each other’s presence!! iloveyou my friend and my classmate :o)

  4. Penny
    Penny September 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm | | Reply

    I must say, what I took from the reunion this year was more than I thought I would. Susan you are right the gift everyone in the room gave Louie was the best gift I think we could have given. I am so proud to be a part of a group of people that can be so loving and caring and put all pride aside just for a moment to give someone a smile that just would not stop. Thanks to Carrie and Susan for girls day out! Susan, thanks for asking me to help decorate. I have 2 new good friends and in my world you can never have to many of those. See you soon, Love you guys!

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