A little more than a week ago I attended my high school reunion. It was a chance for me to see people who I haven’t seen in years. Like most people, I feared the reunion. Not because I was ashamed of myself, but because my memories of primary school were not always fond. As mentioned in a previous post, I have always had a creative mind; I just didn’t always know it. It led me toward a lot of scorn and misery throughout my primary school education. And despite the good times, the memories that stood out to me were mostly the bad ones.
It was for this reason that I feared my reunion. I remembered the popular kids who wouldn’t talk to me unless I was in their way. I remembered the jocks who mocked me at every chance they had (often making fun of my last name, Zipse). I remembered the stoners and punks who found excuses to make fun of me. I was afraid of looking these people in the eyes again. So in my 30’s, fear of being treated like I was in high school was once again in the forefront of my mind.
And because of these negative experiences, I allowed myself to disappear off the face of the earth. I started introducing myself to new people using my Native American name. I got married and changed my last name. I lost contact with the people who actually got along with me because I feared the people who didn’t. As far as my fellow high school graduates were concerned, I didn’t exist anymore.
Then, about five or six years ago, I was able to find each of the girls from my close circle of friends on Facebook. I reconnected with them, even if only superficially. It was because of them that I found out about the reunion. No one else knew who I was anymore.
The morning of the reunion I pulled out my senior yearbook and started reading the comments that my classmates wrote in my book. It floored me how many of them knew where I was headed with my life when, at the time, I was completely clueless. It took more than ten years to find the path for myself. I wondered why no one encouraged me to pursue this path back then. I also looked through the pictures of my classmates and tried to remember names with faces. It was harder than I thought… and I failed at it miserably.
By the time I got to the reunion, I forgot all of it. I was surrounded by familiar faces but I couldn’t remember names. Thankfully, my girlfriends were there to rescue me in my stupidity. But each time someone said hi to me (by name) my heart sank a little further. I couldn’t remember them. And each time I could remember someone and tried to strike up a conversation, I felt like I floundered or insulted them.
Here is what I did remember: Sarah Westburg and I talking and hanging out at 4N6 practice and meets. Jim Rosin and I walking to classes (some of them we had together) just talking and being friends. Arwen Mosbo and Pam Plowman being super sweet and friendly, with the kindest hearts I’ve ever known. Andrea Schultz giving me advice about writing (or sometimes just talking about the newspaper together). Erin Brown chatting with me in class, and when her cat had kittens I came to her house and picked one up to take home. (Sorry, Sara, but Stardust had to be put to sleep about 6 years ago. She was sick.) Patricia Schaffer took a trip to the Dells with my family, and she and I bought best friend necklaces (which I may still have stashed away somewhere) and she was there to support me when my grandma died. I remember the history club trip to Boston, and sharing a room with Vicki, Kristina, and Sarah S (It was an epic trip!). I remember sitting in the history hallway each morning with my girlfriends just talking until first period started. I remember a host of other people talking to me, being friendly with me, encouraging me to keep dreaming, keep writing, and never let anything hold me back. (If I didn’t name you personally, believe me it doesn’t mean I don’t remember how nice you were to me.)
I remember which boys asked me out on dates (though I don’t think it’s necessary to name names). I wish I hadn’t been so scared of what other kids might think. I wish I said yes. I remember the boys I did say yes to.
I lost touch with these people, some of the most important people in my life, because I wanted to hide from the people who didn’t treat me as nicely they did. It is without a doubt my biggest regret.
However, thanks to social networking and my high school reunion, I was able to reconnect with those who had an impact on my life. I hope that they can forgive me for running away and losing touch with them. I hope they give me a chance to really reconnect with them.
To those with whom I didn’t have the best relationship, it’s okay. We’re all adults now. While we may never be close friends and hang out, it doesn’t mean that I don’t care about you; it doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends.
And let none of this sound like I regret where I am in life. Those choices have, step-by-step, led me to where I am today. Though I regret being so afraid of others and afraid to just taking control of my life, I don’t for a second regret where it has put me today. I have a great husband, beautiful kids, a brilliant step-son, and a clear career focus.
My only regret is that I let fear hold me back. My children will be strongly encouraged to take the risks that I was afraid of.