I wrote this a while ago, but it seems especially pertinent on Thanksgiving, having spent last night catching up with the very people it’s dedicated to.
It’s common to reflect on high school with a sense of dread or ambivalence. Growing up in the small, suburban town that I did was not always sunshine and roses — as a matter of fact, I often longed for college, for getting out into what I considered to be “the real world.” I never felt that I quite fit in in a town that, as I’ve mentioned previously, privileged blonde haired beauties and lacrosse over everything else. There’s nothing wrong with that combination, necessarily, but I was an exotic and strange creature in comparison: strong features with dark hair, who was athletically challenged and had a penchant for more creative pursuits. I didn’t hate the place, but I spent a lot of time ragging on it and longing for the future. In retrospect, I wish I had been able to appreciate that environment for what it was while I was in it, and for the various people it introduced me to. But sometimes hindsight is necessary for such enlightenments, and I’m glad that now at least, I can reflect on it in a more grateful manner.
I’m not sure most of the people who grew up with me would agree with this sentiment, and I know full well that some of my close friends still want nothing to do with the place they once called home. But everyones experience is different, so that is to be expected. Most of these people went off to colleges where they immediately fit in, discovering a new happy place that was more in tune with their personalities right away. Conversely, I made a misguided college choice and was surrounded by people whose immaturity and lack of respect for others confounded me, which is saying a lot when you’re coming from the bitchiness-breeding chaos of high school. One blessing of that experience (among many, actually) was that it taught me to appreciate my roots more, especially when it came to those people I had traversed adolescence with. Had they all behaved perfectly over the years? No way. Had I? Absolutely not. But c’est la vie, right? What I began to appreciate was their forthrightness–a certain openness about who they were as people (their so-called bad qualities and good), compared to the meticulous facades that most of my new collegiate comrades appeared to be putting on as a means of covering their deep-seated animosity. This is not to say that anything about my town was perfect or ideal–but I’ve realized that there was actually something quite honest about it that was far more comforting than the slog of bullshit I was now trying to adjust to.
Eventually, I changed schools and had the experience I had always wanted from college–one in which I met genuine people who were passionate and constantly expanding my worldview. Rather than spending all of their downtime criticizing others, they were the types to focus instead on milking LIFE for all it was worth. I was constantly in awe of their kindness, their empathy, and their intelligence–a refreshing change, to say the least.
But their behavior also taught me to turn a different lens on the people I grew up with, teaching me to be more open-minded and less stuck in whatever notions I had formed in my angsty teenage past. It was freeing to let go of all that, but what was even more exciting was to see that most of my other literal homies were doing the same. I began to look forward to seeing old faces over school breaks, to catching up with people whose responses felt more authentic than ever before. Perhaps it was our collective maturation that did the trick, but the comforts of familiarity also went a long way. I’ve become closer to certain people post-high school than when I was actually in it, finding that we had so much more in common than I’d once perceived.
This blog, in particular, has become an emblem for that transformation. Suddenly people I had lost touch with or only knew peripherally were reaching out to share their thoughtful words and tell me they’d been reading…that they could relate. It came up at parties over throwback games of beer pong and the murmur of De La Soul, or via sweet, unexpected Facebook messages that people had no obligation to write, but did nonetheless. None of these people probably have a clue how much it meant to me to hear those things, how much it still means to me.
We all have days when the world seems to be caving in on us, when we begin to question vast concepts like human nature or the benefits (if any) of the daily grind. I’ve had many of those moments, some that seemed to drag on for months, but seeing how kind a certain subset of people can be–how people truly can grow and change–has given me a sturdier foundation to fall back on. It’s taught me the blessings of shaking off the past and focusing on the present, the beauty of reaching out to someone and telling them how you feel (whether it be about them directly, or their work). So this is just my little thank you note to those people. Some of you have been dear friends for what feels like forever, the rest of you I may have known forever but not necessarily well. We may have even pseudo-disliked each other at one point! But man am I glad we’ve grown up, and I’m really thankful that all of you have passed in and out of my life at some point or another, showing me how rewarding it can be to take off any “airs” and just put yourself out there.