YOU’RE NOT WHO YOU WERE, YOU’RE WHO YOU ARE
Aside from connecting with so many old friends one of the great things to come out of the whole Face to Facebook journey was the knowledge that the person I remembered being and on some levels assumed I still was, either never really existed or ceased to exit long ago.
I’m not who I was, I’m who I am. And while this seems like the most simplistic of statements it can take awhile to understand.
Many people wonder, myself included why does high school and the person we thought we were back then leave such an indelible imprint? So much so that for many the person they think they are today, either stems from that early identity or any achievement or disappointment is compared to the person of yester-decade.
People often find their true selves in college, but they assume their subterranean lifetime identity in high school.
High school is when the labels are often affixed and the adhesive seems to always leave a mark. It may be faint but it’s there.
Boys who were nerds always have that little nerd lurking inside even if they grow up to be desirable, successful men. Sometimes it feels like all adult accomplishments are actually happening to that other person, the one no one wanted to be around.
In Hollywood all the short, ugly guys who couldn’t get a date for the prom marry girls who look like cheerleaders and often end up cheating on them with other girls who look like cheerleaders to either punish the original group or relive the experience they were denied the first time around.
A fat person is always a fat person no matter how thin they may get.
The gay kid who didn’t fit in always carries a bit of that feeling of not meeting other’s expectations no matter what he may achieve or how authentically he may live his life.
Labels and ostracization can sadly be lifelong companions.
The grand pooba of high school achievement always seems to be popularity. I have lived much of my life overcompensating for not being popular in high school. My memory of myself is that of an outsider wanting to be apart of a group that wanted no part of me.
But in going back and revisiting so many people I learned so much about myself and them, and in doing so I am finally able to let that leaden balloon fly away.
I learned that people I thought were secure were just as insecure as I was. I learned that while I might not have been a cheerleader or anybodies first choice for a dance at Jr. League Dance Class, while I was always the last choice for any team sport, I was not the loser I have felt it important to drown out by dancing as fast as I can for the last thirty years.
By going back I was able to turn much around at least inside my own head and in the end that is the only place that really counts.
Kids who were not popular with their peers or parents often end up being over achievers. Kids who suffered through both often end up living lives where nothing is ever enough. This is not a great way to live ~ take it from someone who has spent decades in therapy figuring it all out in attempt to let it all go.
I suppose on one level it’s not a bad thing as when you scratch the surface; of some of the biggest success stories are people working overtime proving that in fact they were worthy. Or they had so much free time they had the chance to go off and become really good and excel in different areas.
If Bill Gates had been partying and getting laid every night he would not have been locked up in the computer rooms creating the foundation of what would become his empire.
It’s not an accident that Mark Zuckerberg the personification of outsider invented the ultimate social connecting tool.
I’ve grown to think that the whole notion of being popular is vastly overrated to begin with. But it’s the only currency we have to trade in before we become who we actually are. It’s how we compare ourselves and place ourselves in the hierarchy.
My mother always told me I was unpopular from the first day I showed up at nursery school. I have no idea if this was true or not. I find it hard to believe. But I think it might have planted the seed that that was who I was and I lived that out in my mind as well as my life for many years.
It was quite astounding going back and hearing in fact what others thought of me and how they remembered me and for the most part it was not the way I remembered myself at all. And I found this to be true of others as well. The people I thought of as really cool never actually felt that way. And some thought I was too grown up by the time I hit high school to actually include.
But there are two great things about growing up and going back, one is when face to face decades later you only remember the good, the jokes, the nicknames, the sneaking cigarettes and crushes, all the firsts you went through together whether you were on the top of the heap or somewhere in the middle or even on the bottom. We now relate through this kind of we’re still here love fest.
I was with a friend this week whose wife died of a long protracted illness that turned her into someone she was not. He said now that she is gone all he can conjure are the good years and that is what he misses. It’s like it’s gods joke and his gift at the same time. It applies to so much of life.
And the other thing I really learned is I’m not at all who I was or ever thought I was, I’m who I became and that is all that matters.