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.