Posted on | October 17, 2016 | 1 Comment
There are times in your life that you want to forget; times when you made terrible mistakes; times when terrible things happened to you or to people you love. There are times that when you think of them, you cringe and wonder how that part of your life existed in any form, ever.
For a lot of people, many of those times came around high school. And me? Well, like most people, there were so many things I thought I should have done differently then. There were people I hurt and people who hurt me… times that I thought my whole world would blossom or shatter over what he or she said about or did to me. Because when you’re 15 through 18, the world is that building and those people. You honestly and fully believe that your universe can and will be destroyed by one bad outfit choice or one awful hair cut.
When graduation came around, I was genuinely excited to move forward and away from the people who had known me through my awkward teen years. I was ready to leave the memory of that tall, gangling, moody girl behind and embrace some magical new me that would automatically spring into existence with her entry into “University.” For the most part, I made the decision to leave her… and have left her in my past… along with all the people who knew her.
But this past weekend, my husband, son, and I drove the long and winding road back to those high school years, presenting as requested by invitation in Greensboro, North Carolina, for my twentieth high school reunion.
Twenty. Years. (Let’s just not go there yet, okay? I’m not ready for that reality check.)
I’d love to tell you that I was confident and sparkly and ready to remember, but the truth is, I was terrified. Excited, yes… but also terrified. I am not the girl who graduated in 1996 in many, many ways… but in many ways I still am. And these were the people who knew that better than anyone. These were the people who held the memory of her in their heads, lying in wait to attack the me I am now and to remind me that I’m nothing if not awkward. And gangling. And moody.
I brought two dresses with me, figuring one of them would match the cryptic “dressy casual” attire listed on the invitation but on the night of the reunion, neither seemed right. I wanted to buy new shoes. And a new purse. Something expensive. Or something that at least looked expensive and lawyerly. Because I needed to look expensive and lawyerly so everyone would remember that I’m not 18 year old me any more… I’m now successful lawyer me, thank you very much.
In the end, I wore what I had.
With great trepidation, I let my husband convince me to exit the car and wander down the parking lot to the white sign with red and white balloons. It was going to be bad. What if no one talked to me? What if no one REMEMBERED me? A couple ahead of me turned and my head swam with memories: the roar of a basketball crowd, taped up gymnasiums and the squeak of tennis shoes against hardwood. A familiar smile lit up her face and before I knew it, I was wrapped in the first of a million hugs and just. like. that. I was only the best of me at eighteen all over again. No angst, no moodiness, no desperate quest to find myself… I was just me. Wrapped in the arms of a world of people who knew me when I didn’t even know myself.
That was how the night went… hug after hug, reminder after reminder that these people have changed and stayed the same, too. And the things I remembered about them grew blurred and faded like an old reel movie that skips a frame or two. The bad fell away and before me stood group of men and women who remembered when my face was less lined, my body less curved. They remembered the best of me: the moments I was kind, the moments I was helpful, the times I did something right and none of the times I let them or myself down.
This wasn’t a high school reunion… it was a rebirth of youth. A sweet, velvet-soft reminder that though we may not know ourselves at 18, those around us do. They know us and twenty years later they remind us that even when we thought we were floundering, we were still showing others pieces of our best selves to come. No one is a finished product at 18… hell, I’m still changing at 38… but this weekend, I was handed a rose-colored reminder of the “me in training” that I was… and she was more and better than I ever believed her to be.
So I’m glad I made the journey back, even though my legs are still aching and the tiredness from the weekend has seeped in and over my Monday like a heavy black cloud screaming “YOU’RE SO OLD NOW”into my ears. I find I’m suddenly proud to have been the girl I was at 18, all awkward and strange, because she was and is a part of the woman I am today. It may have taken twenty years, but today I am embracing that girl with her too-poofy hair and penchants for wide-legged pants. So I owe you thanks, class of 1996 for not only remembering me twenty years later, but for reminding me that who I am is and always will be tied up in who I was.
Also? Let’s do this again soon. When I can drink, too.