I received a text message from my friend Kelly this morning asking me if I'd received the invitation to our school's 20th reunion this coming weekend. This would actually be our class's 10 year reunion; however, I think they've just decided to use the 20th reunion as a way to get together. Either way, I can't go because my sister is coming to visit me this weekend. I had received the invitation but I must have thrown it away knowing I wouldn't be going.
Anyway, all of that is simply background information for this blog. Thinking about the reunion got me to reminiscing about high school in general. I have former students who I keep in touch with via Facebook who are now in high school. When I see their status updates about various things going on, I do not miss high school AT ALL.
I have always been different. In pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, I spent recess walking backwards around the perimeter of the parking lot we were given as a play space. Sometimes, I'd play games with people if invited. But I never initiated or really even cared. I was perfectly happy to walk backwards laps all recess long. In early elementary school, I often spent recess sitting on the ground picking up rocks because that's what I thought was fun. I also went around naming butterflies with my friend in 2nd grade (I did socialize occasionally) and got into a fight with another girl who told us we couldn't name them because they weren't the same butterflies. I think we even got sent to the principal's office over this fight...enough said.
Then, in upper elementary school, I remember some boy sticking up for me because some girl said I was "weird." I appreciated that he seemed to care, but I had never really even thought of myself as weird or different. All of that time, I had just been me in my own way and hadn't a care in the world of what anyone else thought about it. I enjoyed my life. I was happy.
In middle school, that changed even more. People start caring more about what other people think and choosing to point it out to you if they think you are different. Why it matters I do not know. But they suddenly not only care about what others think of them but they have some need to try to make you conform. So I started losing who I was. I started caring.
High school wasn't much different. I think I became even more of a mess because I was so busy trying to be a certain way instead of just being me that I was probably even weirder than I normally would have been. I sort of started to go back to my normal self my senior year. I met my best friend Lea who shared so many of the same things I enjoyed that people would raise their eyebrows at. We would scream with excitement over a card game called chicken cube. We placed all the cards face down, name a card (say 2 of hearts) and take turns picking cards. Whoever picked the card first won. Sadly we had a hard time winning anyone over to the game except kids.
But that's the thing, there is something in us that is beautiful that we lose. After high school, I slowly (and I mean VERY slowly) started to realize other people were just as "different" as I was. I made more friends who didn't care, and I really began to be myself again. Part of it was finding friends who accepted me for me and didn't care if something I liked was strange to them. Part of it was me learning to say, "I am who I am, you can take it or leave it."
I met my husband who accepts me just the way I am....someone who loves birdwatching, telling cheesy jokes, whatever else would be considered odd by some people. After teaching, I've seen many students become lost to what they think other people want them to be. I see sixth graders start middle school one way and leave completely different. And this isn't because they really wanted that to begin with; they just started to become overly self-aware looking for somewhere to fit in.
It's fun watching children because most of the time they are so carefree, happy to be in their world, and often very accepting of each other. Again, I said most of the time. Some kids are bullies from the beginning; however, the majority of children I see are not that way. Perhaps we should all be a little more like children...not pick your nose in public shamelessly like children...but happy to be the people we are and willing to accept we can be just fine with that in and of ourselves.