I had hoped when I started the Defending My Life series that I would be able to have it culminate in some wonderful moment, a reveal, that would be cathartic and symbolic. If I were truly a smart person, I would have timed it to lead right up to my 20th high school reunion. I did not, but the reunion did occur recently and I found myself faced with a whole catalog of issues that are a direct result of my general ‘fearfulness of life’. Some of these were met with success and some with failure.
Going to the reunion itself was a moment of conquering fear. Would anyone remember me? Would anyone want to talk to me? Would it be a scene from Carrie where I get up on the stage in my prom dress and pig’s blood… wait, no that wasn’t even close to being a possibility. Of all the nightmare scenarios that raced through my head, it turned out to be a brilliant and wonderful experience with two critical life lessons that I felt I needed to share.
A Tale of Four Women
In my early years, I had four main crushes that extended from roughly 4th grade to my senior year. In each instance, I handled my attraction poorly, not that I think many people in that age range handle any relationship with any notable skill. In two of the cases, I never made my attraction known, mooning over them from afar. This involved my crush in 7th grade and my crush in my senior year. In both instances, I merely hoped that my presence would be enough to garner the attention I desired. Not surprisingly, merely being present and available is not really a quality that reaches high on many people’s list of traits they are looking for in someone to date. Don’t get me wrong, they are important traits, but I’ve known many relationships that lacked one of those two elements, sometimes both. Long distance affairs have been known to occur.
In the third case, a crush I had in 8th grade and 9th grade, I failed at directness. This was a crush that was passed anonymous notes and suffered my general sappiness. It was pathetic on so many levels. I never put myself in a position of being rejected which means I never put myself in a position to be accepted.
The fourth case is even worse. The fourth case was tied to fear of direct rejection. My sophomore and junior year the girl I had a crush on truly suffered my attention. Young, stupid, and hormonal I deliberately ignored the signs of disinterest. I confused passionate disgust with flirtation. The list of what I did wrong is so long, not really sordid, but shameful to say the least. I was the poster child for ‘Needing A Clue’.
Now ideally this bit of writing would lead into some form of climactic account of how I confessed my interest to these women or apologized where appropriate. That did not happen. I was not interested in having any sort of showdown at the reunion. I was delightfully surprised to see each of these women there and had an opportunity to have a conversation with each of them. Nothing grand or dramatic, just nice normal conversations. If there is a lesson from all of this, it is not to dwell on the past. I wasted a lot of time contemplating the what if’s of these crushes… what if I was more direct, what if I did confess my interest, what if I wasn’t such a creepy jerk… but that accomplished nothing. Feelings of regret and shame might not be as bad as fear, but are equally as pointless. Yes, in the one case an apology was most likely in order, but I had to consider, was I apologizing to heal a wound I caused or would it be an attempt to assuage my own guilt? She had moved on and so had I. An apology would have been mindless drama.
Who is the Jerk?
A new theme I am discovering and will explore in other writings is the concept of the Second Chance. Everybody deserves a second, third, fourth chance. You get the picture. Something I realized at the reunion was the late John Hughes was right in The Breakfast Club, no one has a great high school life. Everyone is the outsider in some way, dealing with pressures and issues no one else can fully understand. I had my negative moments in high school just like everyone else. Coming to the reunion led me to ask this question of myself: Between two people: a fifteen-year-old kid who engaged in playground shenanigans or a thirty-eight-year-old man who judged someone based on an action taken twenty plus years ago, who is the jerk?
We all walk a twisted path through life, have done things that cause us shame, regret not doing other things, and in general are good people just trying to do good things for ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. We have our moments of failure, our moments when we step off the path. For such minor transgressions against each other, should we be condemned for life or do we deserve a second chance, third chance, or more? I don’t think so. I know I don’t want my past transgressions to be held against me forever.
I don’t mean for this to sound so saccharine. Blame the endorphins that are still flooding my brain from such a wonderfully positive experience I had. The world is currently very rosy to me.