I'm blaming this entire post on Facebook, because through Facebook, I have recently reconnected with a handful (five, to be exact) of people from my high school. Note that I graduated high school in 1980 - so it has been many years since I last spoke with these people. And because I moved away from my hometown almost twenty years ago, I don't ever run into people from my former life, so this reconnect has been interesting, to say the least. It has been a walk down memory lane - a path I have not taken since the day I moved away. And this walk down memory lane has caused me to experience emotions I have not felt since I was eighteen year old <--- 29 years ago is how long that has been.
But what these emotions and thoughts have also done for me is make me hyper aware of what my own children must be experiencing at this very moment in their lives. And it has been a wake up call since I'd [selectively] forgotten what it was like to be a teenager; I'd forgotten what it was like to ask yourself every single day, "Will they like me? Am I being a dork? Are they talking about me? Why did I say that?" And the ever constant, "I wish I could hide in a corner."
John has often said to me, "Mom, these people don't know me. They don't understand me. They just don't get me." And until my reconnect, I'd thought that John was being silly... I honestly thought he was just making excuses as to why he does the things he does.
But here's what I've discovered (and I apologize in advance because this includes more talk about sewing, something I know people must get sick of hearing about). I am going to provide visuals to support these thoughts, since we all know that I am all about the pictures when it comes to the blog:
This is a picture of my last childhood doll. Her name is Velvet and she was given to me for Christmas when I was in fifth grade. I took the picture today, because I am a sentimental fool and I still have Velvet safely tucked away in my cedar chest. I tried to get a close up shot since the thing I wanted to show is the dress she is wearing and the very elementary sewing job that was used on her dress. I made the dress for Velvet when I was eleven years old. I was proud of the dress and I actually still have several other outfits that were sewn with TLC for my precious doll. My point: even in the fifth grade, sewing was my happy place and it was how I spent my time - I spent as much time sewing doll clothes as I actually did playing with the dolls. For me, the dolls were a means to an end: sewing.
The next visual is my senior picture - the quality is very poor because the photo is almost 30 years old and it has faded with time:
Disregarding the hairstyle and the blue eyeshadow (hey, it was 1980 - I was considered trendy at the time), note the wool jacket that I was wearing. I sewed the jacket and a matching skirt when I was a senior in high school. I made it specifically for my senior pictures. At the time, I was in love with the suit and I was so proud to wear something I had sewn to the all-important photo shoot. However, I never told a soul that I made my suit. I just handed out the pictures and kept the sewing part to myself.
So what does all this have to do with my recent reconnection with high school friends? Well, it has everything to do with it because as I have been corresponding with Gayle, who lived six houses away from me all through junior high and high school - a person I walked to school with, rode the bus with, cheered with, invited to our family beach house, had over to slumber parties... I GREW UP with Gayle - I was shocked to hear that she didn't know that I sewed. And that got me to thinking about how, like John, the people in my high school didn't really know me. I intentionally kept my favorite thing in the world (sewing) from them because 1) I didn't want to be made fun of, and 2) I didn't want to be considered a dork. But the truth was, I loved to sew then, and I still love to sew now. The person I was is the person I still am. And in spite of the fact that everything (and nothing) has changed: I was who I am - and I am who I was. Astounding!
As we've corresponded, Gayle made the comment that she enjoyed catching up with old friends because, "We knew each other before we knew ourselves." How true that is. I'll be the first to admit that I am a different person than the girl I was back then. I have more confidence, I embrace my inner dorkiness, and I have opinions that are actually my very own! And yet, the me I didn't know back then, became the core of me that is my foundation (in spite of my sewing secret). And this is what I wish I could share with John because the teenage foundation is absolutely part of becoming an adult.
Another person I've reconnected with is a guy whom Gayle and I were in swing choir with, Chris Bidleman. (Chris is in the top row: third from the left - Gayle and I are in the front row: I am the first girl on the left, with Gayle next to me). Note: I also sewed part of the dress I am wearing - other people had their moms make their dresses or hired out the project, but I worked with my mom on the dress and I was so proud that I had a hand in the design. Of course, I never told a soul that I made part of my dress. That was just something I didn't do back then.
Back to Chris... he was so much fun! And when I saw his profile picture on Facebook, I could almost smell our choir room... I remembered the piano and the risers... I remembered the trips we took for competitions and the times we spent hanging out as a group in that dark and dreary room where we spent so many hours singing and dancing and doing what we loved, because what we loved was music - all of it... the bee-bop of swing choir, the harmonies, the melodies, the instruments, the costumes, and most of all the friendships. And today, these are the things I still love (minus the costumes since I no longer perform other than with my six year old friend in the privacy of my home). My love of music back then, was the foundation of the music I love today. If one were to look at my iPod playlist, they would see over 500 songs that were popular in the 70's - songs that shaped my youth and that were the inspirations of my thoughts and dreams. And when I look at it that way, I realize that those songs are still the basis of my inspirations, and of my thoughts - and even of the dreams I still have. These people who I spent so much time singing with all those years ago know the foundation of me better than my own husband. Wow! That is a scary thought.
After considering these long ago thoughts and dreams, I have to ask this one single question: "Why is it that when I reconnect with my high school friends, all the old insecurities and doubts resurface?" What is up with that? I find myself still asking the questions, "Will they like me?" "Am I being a dork?" "I wish I wouldn't have said that." Seriously... WHAT IS UP WITH THAT? I'm a confident woman. Where is this coming from? And the big question is: Why do I care?
Why I care is this: I care because of the very fact that these people knew me before I knew myself. They know my brothers and my sister. They've been to my childhood home and met my parents. They know how I was raised and they know the rules I was required to follow. They knew when I followed the rules and they knew when I broke the rules. They were witness to the evolution of who I am. Every single memory of my youth includes something that was done or said or experienced by and with these people. And so the reality is that I care because, other than my family, these people know the foundation of Kelly, and if anyone on this earth is going to understand who I am today, it would be these people. They may not know me as a wife. They certainly don't know me as a mother. They've never seen me working. They have no idea of my current lifestyle. But they know Kelly - the real Kelly... the girl I was, who is the woman I am. That girl has blossomed and grown, but she is still there. She is so much of who I am today, because who I was is exactly what I have become.
And this is what I want to tell John. I want to tell him that even if his classmates don't know him, they know the foundation - and when he looks back in twenty or thirty years, my hope is that John will see the foundation and that he will still be the person he is today - bigger, better, grown, and confident... but still John. Because even though his "thing" is not sewing, and that's not what he hides, he has his own "things" and he hides them exactly like I did way back when. It's okay to hide... but it's not okay to lose our passions just because they are not cool at the time. John loves poetry. He loves to write, which is considered so not cool for an almost 17 year old "cool kid" - and so he hides these things and he tucks away in private and pursues his dreams alone. And that's okay. I get that because it is exactly what I did. But in hindsight, it doesn't matter because the passion is only part of the foundation - it may be the biggest part, but it is not the only part. It takes many layers to create the foundation... and a lot of those layers are within the halls of the high school.
The truth is, we are tied to our high school friends whether we like it or not. We can ignore them. We can run from them. We can try to never think of them again. But the bottom line is these people were there when we were building our foundation, and because of that single fact, these people are part of our past and part of how our foundation turned out.
And so even though I am experiencing all these feelings of insecurities and conflict (WHAT IS UP WITH THAT? Seriously... why am I feeling this way?), I have chosen to embrace my past because by doing so, I am able to be a better mother to John and Alyssa. Having spent an entire week thinking about this (and feeling insecure), I have gained a new parenting tool: I have more understanding; I have more compassion; and most of all, I have a point of reference that I had previously chosen to ignore.
When all is said and done, I think I will always feel insecure around my high school friends. And that's okay, because whether I like it or not, that's where the foundation began. Today I think that the original foundation is still there - better, bigger, stronger - but still there, so it's all good. And now that these old emotions have risen to the surface, I am able to do something with the memories - something that will help my own children. And at the end of the day, Alyssa and John are my priority above and beyond all else. If a walk down memory lane and a little bit of angst is what it takes for me to understand my teenagers, then I welcome the emotions, because right now I'm grasping at straws when it comes to my lost and conflicted son.
Self reflection. Pain of our youth. Angst. Insecurities. These are things that make better parents. Seriously... I had no idea. I'd been running from these things for so long that I hadn't really given it a thought. But now I know better. And better is always a good thing when it comes to parenting.
A final word to the two people from my high school who may read this blog entry: Thank you for then, because without the then, I would not be who I am today. And to be very honest, I really like who I am... I'm still me deep down, and the reconnect has helped me appreciate that for what it is.