High school years are often looked at with rose-colored glasses, as is much of our childhood. That is, if we choose to look at it that way. There are also plenty of people who still look back and have bitterness or bad feelings even if high school was an overall good experience.
Do you know people who hang onto those feelings they had in their youth? I’m talking about those feelings of being left out or snubbed. The feelings of not making the team or not being chosen for a class office. Those feelings of not being tough or fast enough to be a starter on the basketball team. The feeling that certain girls thought they were better than you or certain guys wouldn’t include you because you weren’t deemed cool enough.
Some people still avoid people they went to school with years and years ago, and I’m of the opinion this is rather pointless.
But we still do it, don’t we? Those feelings, whether trivial or not, can be summoned and felt all over again.
I knew three people once who could be considered friends of mine. We grew up together and ran in the same circles. At times, though, I have to say I didn’t care for any of these three. Well, at least two of them.
One person always seemed to be my “rival,” although I don’t think either of us felt that way or had bad feelings about it. We tied one year to go to Boys State and they let both of us go. We ran against each other in student council, him eventually being president. Our class rankings traded places with each passing year and I’m pretty sure he eventually came out on top.
Although he was a much better athlete than I was (most everyone was a better athlete than I was), I remember beating him in a football kicking contest (the one athletic victory of my life). Overall, it wasn’t much of a competition and he usually won whatever we were “vying” for.
I never did have any ill feelings toward the guy. It just seemed that fate put us in the same places and we were usually pitted against one another. I can honestly tell you I had the utmost respect for him and remember him as a kind and straightlaced guy, one who was good to everyone always. Grown-up, mature; you know, the kind of upstanding guy we all aspired to be.
Yet I have to tell you there was always a little satisfaction when I knew I’d gotten a little ahead of him. Each time I gained a little momentum in high school and actually pulled ahead a bit, I felt good. Sure, there was a little jealousy there from time to time and I’d be lying to you if I said there wasn’t.
Still, to me, this guy could do no wrong and was destined to be a big deal someday. Heck, regardless of my competitive streak, I was cheering him on.
Then there was another of our classmates who might not have been so kind all of the time. This person was outspoken and was the type who would stand in the hallway with other cronies and make fun of others. This was the person who was popular and you couldn’t figure out why. I see now that much of the popularity was imagined and this person was a bully; the forceful personality was a façade for insecurity and probably discontent. But at the time, people thought this person was hot stuff.
I remember one incident in high school in which a good friend of ours, an “underdog” of sorts, made the team. This person had worked hard and rose from a bit of high school obscurity to become a confident, self-assured person. Even in our immature, adolescent years, we recognized this and I think many of us were proud and cheering this person on.
However, the aforementioned bully was having none of it, and I remember a bit of a conference in the lunch room about the whole thing. The bully was doing everything possible to tear this “underdog” down. The bully wasn’t interested in anybody achieving any success. I see now it was only insecurity and feeling threatened.
The third person I want to mention was the barometer of our class. This was the guy who sort of hung out on the fringes; the guy who invited himself along even when he wasn’t wanted. This was the guy who fancied himself in the “in crowd,” yet really wasn’t.
Still, I remember many conversations in class where this guy would dictate who should be with whom and so forth. I heard him tell another guy that he shouldn’t be dating a certain girl because she was out of his league. He would often tell some of us that we didn’t have a chance with a certain girl because she was a cheerleader or “rich” or too cool.
As with the aforementioned bully, you can see that this guy was just acting out of insecurity, too. Yet still at the time we all wondered who this guy thought he was to be dictating how everything should be.
Now, I have to stop here and tell you I was not an innocent person when it came to social interactions in high school. I often chimed in with the best of them. I was jealous when certain guys seemed to get all the girls or win at everything. I said things I shouldn’t have. I picked on people sometimes. I was not innocent when it came to how I treated my friends, my classmates.
Don’t you wish sometimes you could go back and be nicer?
Still, I recognized some things I didn’t like about some of the folks I went to school with, and of course, I waited for the day when they would get their comeuppance – not necessarily the first guy I mentioned above, but the last two anyway. I’m sure many of us were thinking the same thing: Someday, these people would get theirs.
In the past few years, they all have had some bad times. One of them was involved in a scandal that ended in a prison sentence and a complete overhaul of the life they once knew. Another became involved in drugs and was arrested as well. Another had a stroke and to this day faces health issues.
And I’ll tell you folks, none of it feels good. I’m glad it doesn’t.
Do we all feel these people had it coming to them? I hope not. Do any of us feel satisfaction or good feelings about the things that have happened? I can’t think of one of us who thinks justice was served. If any of us do feel that way, we won’t admit it aloud.
I recently spoke with a couple of my former classmates and the people I’m telling you about were brought up. We didn’t gossip. We didn’t smile with a sinister glee at the fate that has befallen them. Teary eyed and mournful, we hurt for them and we shook our heads. Not in a judgmental way, but in a “I just can’t believe it” way.
We looked back on our growing up years and remembered innocent friends who did the best they could, experiencing bumps and bruises, lashing out, but still having some good times with the rest of us.
Flawed, just like everyone else is and was.
We looked at who these folks had become and the life they had experienced as adults. And as I said, we mourned for them.
But we also looked ahead with optimism. We were hopeful things would change. We prayed for healing. We considered sending letters, cards, or Facebook messages. We felt like supporting them, not tearing them down.
After everything else that had happened, all we felt was a sense of caring and concern for our classmates. Our childhood friends.
It feels good to grow up, I have to say.