Thursday, October 22, 2009

An Open Letter to my High School Class

Thanks to Facebook, I've re-connected with some former High School classmates -- I guess that is part of what we "old people" do on Facebook.

It's been good. It's fun to see my HS class all grown up. It is strange to see us with kids, jobs, and responsibilities. I've enjoyed following the threads of sharing memories. Catching up.

As I type these words, I realize that some of my former classmates may actually read this blog (although I'm betting most of you have more to do with your time than stalk my blog!). I hope this post is not misunderstood. In fact, I hope my words ring true to you as well. I would love to hear your thoughts, either here or in my inbox.


Dear Former Classmates of Toronto High School

Recently, I got out my HS yearbook (yeah, I was trying to figure out a friend request). It was the first time I had looked at that book, or for that matter, even deeply thought about high school in years.

And as I looked at the pictures, matching names with faces, I realized something: At the time, so many of your opinions meant so much to me (I guess that is the way high school is for a lot of people). Today, I don't remember many of your names. Some I couldn't remember at all.

I realized that I had forgotten who the HS quarterback was, and I couldn't name more than two cheerleaders. I'd forgotten who was voted class president or prom King or Queen. (I did remember Gretchen was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" but only because she was my first girlfriend and my first kiss. Come on, I was in 5th grade, I think... so I'm sure she will own up to it.) But I had forgotten who was voted "Most Popular" or "Prettiest Hair," etc.

I don't say that to be mean. In fact, I'm kind of embarrassed by it. But it WAS a realization that the particular part of my life called "high school" was actually a very small part in the overall picture, and a fairly insignificant part.

I smiled when I looked up the section of the yearbook where we voted for "Prettiest Smile," "Funniest," "Most Talented," etc. I smiled because, at the time, those things actually meant something to me. I looked at the pictures of the guys who were so popular. I looked at pictures of the girls I had huge crushes on... I remember feeling like I was on the outside most of the time.

But here's the point: In those days my classmates' acceptance of me mattered. My day would rise and fall based on their opinion of me. Opinions based, not on any substantive character issues, but on who was "in" who was "out."

That is so sad.

And now, with age and perspective... I really regret the way I saw myself and others in high school.

So I'm writing this letter to my entire class to apologize.

I'm sorry for those of you I may have excluded. I'm sorry I made you feel like others made me feel.

I'm sorry for those of you I judged, or put into a box, or stuck a label on: "stuck up," "jock," "nerd" -- whatever. We label people to control them. To categorize or even dehumanize them.

I'm sorry for the years I lost because I cared more about avoiding you, or impressing you -- rather than caring for you or impacting you.

I'm sorry I was so worried about you noticing me, that I didn't really notice you.

I suspect many of us felt "on the outside" in HS.

I suspect many of us wore masks.

How stupid we were.

If I could do it again, I would do it differently.

So I commit to trying to live that way now.