Changes and growth
As I read through the invite, I could not believe it. Had it really been 40 years? That would make me…uhm, a hell of a lot older then I tell myself I am.
Forty years ago I walked across the stage and was handed my high school diploma. I don’t remember any warm fuzzy feelings and didn’t feel exceptionally proud of what I had accomplished. I wasn’t valedictorian as my best (and pretty much only) friend was and I didn’t even make the honors list.
Tonight is my 40th high school reunion, but I have no plans to attend. Last night, since I was in the neighborhood and feeling a bit nostalgic, I drove by my old Alma Mater and peered through the locked gates. I could imagine seeing a long blond haired skinny leg girl walk timidly across the quad. She purchased some nuts from the snack stand and sat on the steps to eat them. Alone.
I knew she was listening enviously as a group of popular students, almost stumbled over her as they walked by her, unaware. She heard them talking excitedly to each other about the upcoming homecoming dance, whom they were going with and what they planned on wearing.
The blond had no plans to attend the school dance. No one had asked her, not that that really mattered. She was terrified of talking to any guy, let alone anyone that she liked enough to go with to a dance. Not to mention she was really afraid of attending high school dances. She was certain that if she was to go to one, she would be pregnant by the end of the evening, even if she never touched a single boy the whole night. Those school dances were like that. They could lead to all kinds of immoralities. At least that is what her religion had taught her.
“Be in the world, but not of the world”, she had heard said at multiple church meetings.
She was a pretty girl, but I knew that when she looked in the mirror in the morning, all she saw was the couple of pimples she had on her face, her scar that went across her cheek from an accident she had when she was two and her crooked nose: All those things, she assumed (no, she knew) made her look unattractive.
She was funny, but too scared tell a joke. She was smart, but was too afraid to speak up in class because everyone would find out how stupid she really was. Once, in math class, she had written down an answer to a difficult homework assignment. The next day in class her teacher called on her, as he was pretty certain she would have the correct answer. Terrified, she replied she didn’t know and looked down at her paper to avoid all the stares from the other kids, while the correct answer on her paper glared at her.
As I stood “watching” the invisible girl through the locked bars of the high school, I wanted to go to her, wrap her in my arms and say, you got this! You are much more than you think you are. You are beautiful! You are smart! You are funny! Love and trust yourself!
It was several life times ago and things have changed so much since those teenage days. I now have a better understanding of the world around me, but I also am aware there is so much more I can learn. I have more confidence in my abilities, but am aware of what are not my strengths. I’m not as afraid to speak up with answers or to tell a joke. I still though, on occasion, can hear that young girl’s voice say, “Maybe you better keep quiet so you don’t embarrass us.”
My mantra, (which I repeat to myself several times a day) is, “She believed she could, so she did.”I am unsure of the author of that quote, but it inspires me.
I’m not going to my reunion tonight. That timid girl that graduated from Mira Loma High School in 1978 didn’t “exist” then, but now, 40 years later, she exists and has begun to come alive.