My baby went to recess
Loose threads

Old enough to know

WELL. I just spent my evening well and truly delving into My Personal History Via Facebook and now I'm feeling all shmaltzy and drunken-toast-ish. Although I haven't drunk anything and I've never particularly cared to know what these people were doing before tonight and I am weirding my own self out. 

A few months ago I was friended by someone from high school, which I realize is a Non-Event to most of you, but as I made it pretty difficult for anyone from high school to find my profile, it was something of an Event for me. I think I've told you before that I didn't particularly like high school and high school didn't seem to like me, so I'm resistant to being Found. (I say this as if people are looking for me, which: doubtful!) I mentioned this to the girl who found me, who actually WAS my friend, and she said something to the effect of, "But you were so popular!" Oh, the LOLing I did when I read THAT! 

I think there is a difference between being Known and being Popular. I was definitely Known. I mean, it's hard to not be Known when there are 200 people in your entire school, and you happen to be one of five kids with a distinctive last name and get straight As and your teachers love you and you are involved in absolutely everything (without doing any of it particularly well) and everyone has an opinion about where you should go to college and the guidance counselor publicly dresses you down in the hallway that one time you skipped school - with your parents' PERMISSION - not because you weren't supposed to skip school but because all the other kids look up to you, and what have you done and now you have a giant red S on your chest for SKIPPER. (Perhaps I am not over that.) 

Popular, on the other hand: not so much. Show me a popular kid who stays home on Friday nights feeling anxious about the fact that she's staying home on a Friday night. And Saturday nights. And all the other nights that didn't involve a volleyball or basketball game.

I longed, oh how I longed, to LEAVE. Go somewhere else. Be someone else. I had this idea that everything would be better when I was 30. Seriously. Even in my first high school, where I was a heck of a lot more popular than I was in my second high school, I was overwhelmed with a sense of Not Belonging. And since all the grown ups (and even some of the older students, embarrassingly enough) were constantly telling me how MATURE and GROWN UP I was (BARRRRRF) it only made sense that I would Belong, somehow, when I was old. Like, 30. 

I think a lot of us must have felt this way. Even the truly popular kids. 

Our new house is close to the university. A bunch of college boys are renting a house down the street. (I know this because I got to hear their beer-fueled party antics the other night.) When I take the kids for walks I pass students. To get anywhere from my house I have to drive by the campus. I can see the dorms - MY old dorms - from our block. And Phillip is back in school, which means I've spent more time on campus this year than I have since the year when my youngest sister was still living in the dorms. I've taken my kids to all the good running-around places - the quad, the square, the fountain. And I watch college students. I look at what they're wearing, how they do their hair, how they walk, who they're talking to. I remember what it was like to be them. 

They look young. They look SO YOUNG. And suddenly I realize that I am old. Not OLD old, but old enough to know that they are young. Does that make any sense at all? I am feeling that so much this year, and I don't know if it's because I'm 30 or if it's because I'm suddenly surrounded by college students or what. My friend who talked me into all this enneagram stuff told me people shouldn't really try to type themselves until they're older (say, in their 30s) because you just don't know yourself well enough, you haven't had enough experiences. And I'm old enough now where I don't scoff at that, I don't roll my eyes at it, I NOD. Because I THINK IT'S TRUE. 

I am old enough to be older. It's... strange.

I flip through all those Facebook profiles with compassion - for them, and for myself. What a glorious and rotten time it was. How startling to know someone thought I was Popular, when really I was Miserable. How crazy to see that they are now grown ups, just like me. It's with delight and glee and profound relief that I can tell you I was right: at 30 things are better. At 30 I have, most days, found a way to Belong. And the 30-year-old in me can say, with detachment and charity and grace: it looks like they have too.

Comments

lindsay

Facebook is insane. You have people who grab attention by being ridiculously angsty/negative/"Whyyyyyy meeeeeeeee?" and then the people who are bragging so much it's like, is this really your life? Are you seriously THIS happy? Not to mention the almost daily warnings coming from I don't know where, SOMEWHERE on the net about our privacy and Facebook being the devil. All of this leaves me tentative at best with it.

-R-

A group of kids were at my office for some kind of business-type competition, and I honestly could not tell whether they were in college or high school. I am so old that I cannot tell the difference between a 21 year old and a 16 year old! And they all looked like little babies playing dress up in business suits! I felt really old that day.

I definitely understand your feelings about high school, though I was just looking forward to college. I thought 30 was WAY old. =)

pseudostoops

I know exactly what you mean- old enough to recognize youngness, and realize it no longer describes me. That's exactly it.

Also, all your talk of the enneagram has convinced me that I need to re-do it, since I haven't done it since I was 22 and I bet the results would be different. (Also, when I did it before it was at the behest of a professor who annoyed me a LOT, so it's possible I wasn't *entirely* committed to the process.) Adding that to "to do" list.

Holly

Man, I look back and think how awful high school was and I had a very normal high school experience. I think it's just that time -- it's awful no matter what because you think you know so much but you have no life experience and you just have NO IDEA how to behave.

On the old topic, Garrett has started working at Peet's Coffee again and all the employees are these young artsy girls who have big dreams and all that, and the other night we went to a pizza party with all of the employees and sat next to a darling and chatty young gal who talked our ear off and in the end told us with glee that this was going to be the BEST SUMMER EVER OMG! because she was finally turning 21! And I just about dropped dead of old age right there at the table :) When I hear people say "Oh to be young again" I mostly think to myself Thank God I'm not!

Amy --- Just A Titch

Teaching middle school gives me a front-row seat to the Awkward and the pain of feeling like you don't belong anywhere, with anyone, which is generally how I think most people feel at that age. I was always told that I was "an old soul" and would love college and adulthood so much more. Thank goodness those people were right. Sometimes, I want to tell my students (and have in some conversations) that someday, this all won't matter and you'll really and truly find your place. I think everyone does. At least I hope so.

HereWeGoAJen

How about the fact that I am starting to feel so much older than my peers? Most of my old friends that I keep up with on Facebook and things are still traveling all over the world and going out drinking every weekend. There are pictures of late night parties. Obviously, none of these people have children. But all their "fun" just looks so exhausting to me. I can't think of much that sounds less entertaining than going out to a bar until two in the morning.

Sarah

I remember my Home Ec teacher saying that she never knew why people told middle/high school students that these were the best days. She said that she loved being an adult far more than being a teenager. I've always remembered that and completely agree.

LenaDeeAnne

I love this post. I can definitely relate. I'm helping to plan my 20-year class reunion right now, and if you think 30 feels old, wait until you're 38, planning your 20-yr, and some of your classmates have grandkids!

Every one of these responses so far has so much truth to them! I'm trying to convince my 16 year old twin daughters that growing up is a good, fun thing, and that being an adult has its perks and rewards, but they're not buying any of it. They're just finishing up their sophomore year and one of them is stressing out because, basically, she's just scared of the idea of growing up! Honestly, I can't remember being scared- I just remember looking forward to being on my own.

Anyway. Your experience with the Fb friend just goes to prove that everyone's perceptions are different. And that sometimes it's really hard to truly *know* people- their journey might have been completely different than you thought it was!

Life of a Doctor's Wife

What a lovely, true post.

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