As a motivator and a happy tradition, I’ve decided to start going to Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe the morning after doing server updates. On Saturday, I finally went to bed around 5 a.m., then woke up around 8:30 a.m. for my breakfast pilgrimage.
While I wasn’t sure I recognized her at first, it turned out I was eating at the bar next to a girl I knew in high school. Talking with her was like the blessing I experienced last summer when I ran into a different old friend at a house party. She just seemed happier, and healthier, and wonderful, and I love seeing that in people.
Last night was our 10 year high school reunion, and I had kind of expected it to be like breakfast at Gailey’s, or the house party last summer, and I did experience a bit of that. There were a couple of people who seem to be doing well, and I was glad to see them and catch up. But last night also brought back some unpleasant memories and emotions.
There was a video on loop showing us in junior high and high school, and seeing us in the atrium on the film reminded me of my times there. The video was of people drinking hot chocolate, or at a blood drive, or being excited and dancing around. All I could remember was mourning our classmates who died over the years, or walking through a crowd that at turns either ignored me or shoved and tripped and mocked me. I remember those blue benches, and crying with Matt and Christina, and standing huddled with people, none of us making eye contact after the latest tragedy.
The class of 2003 from Hillcrest went through some rough stuff. We didn’t talk about that last night, though.
I was also surprised by the level of animosity I still have towards some of the people from back then. There were people there who made me feel terrible. They wounded me deeply, over and over, and over the course of years.
A week or two ago, I was thinking about another guy from high school who probably had a lot in common with me. I kind of hated him back then because, while he was also an outcast nerd like me, he sold out and got “in” with the jocks while I stayed on the abused fringes. He spent the last couple of years of high school with the popular kids, and that just got under my skin. But when I thought about him recently, I was able to extend some grace to him. He was doing what he needed to do to survive. In a way, we all were.
That experience, of thinking about him and being able to forgive, made me assume that I’d feel the same about everyone else last night. A lot of water has passed under a lot of bridges since elementary, and junior high, and high school. Because this wasn’t just a high school reunion–there are some of these people who I’ve known a long time.
I was wrong. I guess when you get hurt that badly by someone, for that long, it doesn’t just go away. I was glad to see a few people and hear that they’re doing well, but I was more glad to leave that place.
When I graduated in 2003, I went to the all-night graduation party (I can’t recall the name of it now) with many of my classmates, and we road a school bus back to the school in the morning. I looked around the bus as we pulled up to Hillcrest and thought, “I’ll likely never see most of these people again, and I’m alright with that.”
Last night, I realized that I’m really happy with how my life is now. April and I have a great group of friends, I have a great job, and I like the people I work with and the things we’re doing. I have April. I have a home. We have money and food and a sense of security and belonging and love.
I’m glad I can be one of those people who are healthier and happier. I’ve only realized recently, in the last couple of years or so, how incredibly angry I was as a kid. I remember hurting back then… I mean, between the classmates who died by drug overdose, or auto accident, or suicide; and my niece dying; and 9/11; and the woman I loved committing suicide; and the other woman I loved cheating on me and breaking my heart; and a third woman I loved leaving me and callously ending our friendship; and dealing with being mocked and ridiculed and excluded on a daily basis… I knew I hurt. But I wasn’t able to recognize the anger until recently. And I’m healing from that. I’m way, way better now.
But there’s still some of it I’m carrying around. I kind of think I always will.
I look forward to trying to make it better for our kids, once we have some. I think I can make it better for them. I want them to live better than I did.
And I want to remember the goodness of back then too. My classmates were so happy in that video… there was no mourning, only excitement to be alive. And as I am fond of saying, “I have loved and been loved by more women than any man has the right to be.” There was heartbreak, but there was great joy as well. I found a family in the speech team. I learned a lot, and between computers and communications, the lessons in high school helped set me up for my current career. I became Christian.
I hope I can get some of those old pictures and videos. I don’t want to forget the bad stuff that happened… I want to honour the memories of those who died, and to remember the pain that we can inflict on one another far too easily. We have to learn from those experiences so we don’t repeat those mistakes. But I don’t want the bad to overshadow the good. I didn’t see much good at the time, but maybe I can find some rose-tinted comfort in the memories recorded by other people.
And Lord knows, we’re making new memories now that will outshine anything that came before.