I know it’s been a while, but to be honest, ya girl has been tired and wo’ out. Life is hard, writing is hard, people dealing is hard. I just haven’t had it in me to do much but go to work, come home, drink, watch TV, and play a little Red Dead Redemption 2.
(Minus the alcohol, Layla would be proud.)
However, per usual, random events often jumpstart this ol’ noggin of mine to the point of harassment, and therefore I am forced to figure out what I’m thinking with you guys.
Last weekend, I attended my high school homecoming. For anyone who has met me within the past, oh say 10 – 15 years, my attendance there would be shocking, as I do not hold very fond memories of my time in high school. I will admit, my attendance was shocking even for me but I was kinda hoodwinked into going.
See my senior year of high school, we had a German exchange student for a year. We started doing that in my junior year, (at least that’s the first one I remember) with a student from Russia, and she and I got to be really good friends. When she left, her host family opened their home once again, this time to a tall lanky dude from Frankfurt, Germany. Since I did so well with our Russian student, I somehow became the… I dunno… unofficial international welcome committee of our high school? It turned out to be a blessing in disguise though. My senior year was going to be rather rough for me.
My best friend in the whole world graduated the year before I did. In my freshman and sophomore year, we came up with the idyllic teenage plan. She would graduate ahead of me and enroll in UT Austin, living on campus for the first year. After my graduation, I would head to Austin and we would get an apartment together throughout college. Ah, the best laid plans of sixteen-year-olds. During her junior year, she felt a different calling. Like her Uncles, Mother and Brother, she was being called to the military. She let me know the second semester of her junior year that she felt the Army was better suited for her, rather than college right away. Then she suggested I join with her. Oh, how we laughed and laughed and laughed.
(Okay, maybe I laughed and laughed and laughed. I HATED doing PT for basketball, a sport I loved, you want me to sign up for 4 years to kill myself, get yelled at AND possibly risk my life? No-thank-you.)
I was much more of a studious type anyway, so the sixteen-year-olds’ plan was derailed. When she graduated, I was looking at a fairly lonely high school existence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m from a super small town, so while I was lonely in so many ways, I wasn’t isolated per say. It was entirely impossible to be secluded where I am from, because everyoneknew everyone. (yeah it was one of those towns.) Anyway, I had a “group” of friends I hung out with, but by my junior year that relationship was pretty strained.
(There’s a story here, it involved a crush not reciprocated, and handling it like a teenager in a small podunk religious town.)
Anyway, I ended up befriending this really awesome guy who ended up being like a brother to me. So when he texted me in October and told me that he planned on surprising everyone and flying in from Munich for the homecoming celebration, it pretty much sealed the deal for me. I had to go. He is one of my closest friends. No one from my high school was present at my wedding (except my best friend of course) or even met my wife before we got married… except him. He wasn’t at the wedding, (though he tried really hard to come, it was solely a scheduling conflict), but he WAS there when we got engaged. Any time we are remotely on the same continent, we try to always see each other. He couldn’t come here for a high school thing and I not go. I mean we sat RIGHT NEXT to each other at graduation!
So, with much uncertainty and anxiety, I went. Shauna came with me, and I was terrified to see how it would go. There are a handful of people that I kinda keep up with via social media and even fewer I have actually seen since I graduated or shortly thereafter. This is despite the fact that I literally moved less than 40 miles away from where I grew up. I have been back to my hometown a few times for events, particularly involving my brother and music, or to visit friends who may live there. (That I went to college with, not HS with.)
However, the visit was surprisingly enjoyable. Shauna told me she felt like I walked into the school like a celebrity. That was not nearly the case, but I will admit the reception that I received was rather shocking. Don’t get me wrong, most of these people have known me since I was 5. I DID go to the same school from Kindergarten – 12th grade. I think part of the mirth was the fact that I showed up, as most people know I do everything in my power to avoid the area. But there were kids who were quite a few years behind me, who maybe were in the same class as my niece/nephew who lived with us. (5/7 years behind me) who may have looked up to me for whatever reason. Mostly I was known for band. In the 90s a female drummer was fairly unorthodox, and there were a lot of the smaller kids who wanted to know how to play. Some knew me because I was a starter on the basketball team and we often did things with the elementary program called “Little Dribblers” when I was in High School. These former children approached me as grown ass men/women and had the nerve to say, “Hi B, do you remember me?” then they got insulted when I didn’t recognize them as full ass adults as opposed to the babies they were when I graduated. But, it was a short-lived disappointment as once I heard their names and recognition hit, it seemed like water under the bridge.
It was the classmates around my year I was worried about to be honest. However, all of them seemed to approach me with open arms and smiles. I was taken aback by this initially, but as I considered the reception I received from my actual peers, (those in their mid to late thirties and early 40s, not these early 30 somethings. Lol) I think part of the disconnect between how they treated me and my memory of high school is that I have a memory of an empath.
Some say that people like me can’t let the past go. That’s not actually correct. It’s not the past in general we cannot forget. It’s the pain caused by those we care about the most that haunts us for life. Some of the people who approached me never really spoke to me in High School but perhaps we were friends beforehand. I remember when someone made fun of my weight or some other hurtful joke, these same people laughed at me along with everyone else. For them, they do not remember it, but for me it will always remain. I remember the girl who I had deep feelings for, who I thought also cared for me but not enough to tell me she was freaking out by the spark that was there. Instead, she ignored me and talked about me behind my back, not realizing that I always knew. I remember when I was picked on, some of these people who I went to church with, were cool with me outside of school, stood idly by and watched. (Oddly enough, some of those same people will say they don’t remember me being bullied.) I remember looking at these people I went to school with for years and realized that I couldn’t talk to any of them about the things in my mind that I lived with on a daily basis. I remember the day I tried to end my life, not one of them crossed my mind as people who would give a damn or even notice if I was no longer there. I remember being alone.
Look, being a teenager is rough for ANYONE, not just me. I’m certain I’m not the only person who felt alone and miserable. I’m only speaking from my personal experience here. But supposedly, one of the coolest things about aging is being able to grow into yourself and file that shit in the “awkward teen files.” The problem with being an empath is that either you forget it all together, and normally that’s shit from people who didn’t mean a whole lot to you to begin with, or you still remember it all too well. Especially if, like me, you avoided it for two decades. Seeing these people again didn’t just bring back the good memories of high school. (I will admit, there were a few good memories here and there.) It also brought back the painful memories, which was the reason I avoided them for so long. Why I never laid eyes on some of them for twenty years; why I never even tried to contact them since graduation. So for some of these people to show up with a huge smile and a “where have you been? What have you been up to?!” was just a little odd for me.
Shauna seems to think that my memory of high school may be tainted or somehow wrong, but that is not the case. It’s just that when you hurt an empath, if we cannot forget it, it’s because you truly held a special place in our hearts. Conversely, as an empath, you have to remember that 1) the person who hurts does not have the same memory as the person who was hurt and 2) you cannot treat people as if the wound is fresh because they have moved on with their lives and it makes you look crazy. So, you smile, you hug them back, you determine if you want to forgive and if you cared enough about them…you do.
I think the fact that I went home again and I was able to face these things, have these thoughts but not let them show in my face or actions means that I have indeed grown. Sure, not in the same way as others who don’t remember their awkward teen years. Maybe not like those who chalk up the misery as growing pains. No, I know how real it was, but it doesn’t matter anymore. Because I feel like that lonely experience ultimately made me stronger.
In high school I was an awkward closeted nerd who just wanted to fit in somewhere, all the while feeling like I was out of place and unwanted everywhere I went. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I was afraid to allow people to get to know me. I was afraid to acknowledge everything about me. I was afraid to live my life as me, rather than what was acceptable.
Now? Now I don’t care if you like me or not. I have been disliked and I survived. I have been feared and I thrived. I have been misunderstood, and I figured myself out. I can honestly say, I’m happier than I have ever been and I got here with no one else’s approval.
I no longer fear going home again. I still don’t want to make a habit of it, of course. But I’m not afraid. Because now, the people who have known me since I was a toddler, can be introduced to the real me. Will they like who they meet?
I don’t know, and frankly my dear… I don’t give a damn.
PS – if you stuck w/ me this long through a damn blog post, you can TOTALLY read Shadow Resistance. I don’t wanna keep hearing this, “it’s too long” nonsense!