It is said one must confront one’s fears in order to conquer them. I guess I’ve always assumed the same is true for people and events that have hurt me in life. I’m finding that immersion is not always the best therapy for the stain of the past.
For almost a year we have staggered our way through a pandemic. It’s given many of us time to reflect. It’s given many of us the opportunity to reach out and demonstrate our care of others. And it’s given many of us the chance to move on from the past. Sometimes it’s a combination of all three.
For quite a few months, I’ve been participating in a Zoom call with people from my high school class. I’m told it began as a way for a bunch of guys (many of them frat brothers from back in the day) to check in with one another. This is a nice outreach. Guys are far more successful at uncomplicated friendships than women. Zoom is a safe place and it’s nice to see familiar faces from the past.
We all know high school is not an easy time for many teenagers. Teens are not always the nicest to one another and I grew up in a very nice suburb and went to a highly-regarded high school where most of us were expected to go to college, or at least a two-year school, after high school. Not only was our high school academically challenging, there were excellent sports teams, music, and art programs.
The time period in which I grew up (early 70’s) was not conducive to girls being recognized for much of anything beyond good looks. And heaven help you if you came from a home life that featured a single parent, unless the one parent was widowed. I heard lies for years about my mom being a single parent: she was rumored to have loud parties, entertain many boyfriends, and feed us a steady diet of hot dogs. The truth is: my brother was very musically inclined and played his stereo loud when my mother wasn’t home, my mother’s “boyfriend” was her brother who often stopped by to help us out or share a meal, and we would have loved to have been served hot dogs. My mother was an excellent cook and made us very balanced and wholesome meals. And yes, she went to night school two nights a week (the neighborhood women said she was going to bars) in order to obtain her Master’s degree to keep a roof over our heads. But my brother was a good cook and we sat down at the dinner table on the nights she was at school.
So much more could be told. Why wasn’t my father around? He had a drinking problem and caused verbal and physical abuse. That situation isn’t conducive to providing one with a great deal of confidence.
I liked school. It was a safe place for me. I didn’t have to anticipate putting myself in between my father and another family member in order to protect them. There was no hollering like my father did. It was calm and predictable. And I was a naturally curious kid who liked learning. My main issue was paying attention. My mind wandered more than Johnny Appleseed travelled throughout the United States. It was hard to concentrate and focus. I learned through attrition. I listened, even when my mind was elsewhere. And I read voraciously. For some reason my mind doesn’t wander when I’m reading. But my lack of focus made studying a huge chore. I was a good student but I didn’t test well. So be it. I ended up with a B.A., M.A., 30+ hours beyond my Master’s, and one year of MBA school.
My salvation in school, other than reading, was sports. I was confident in those abilities. I knew I would not fail. I had no musical talent, no artistic talent, no confidence in my writing skills. I had matured early, was not petite and felt so out of place. I did not know how to play the boy/girl game. And I was stupid enough to think that if I was at a party and a boy showed some interest, it was okay to go make out in the car. My Catholic guilt did not permit me to go further than that. But I was astonished when I saw the boy in school the next Monday and he paid not one bit of attention to me. He was a cocky kid, full of his athletic prowess and intellect in those days. It’s interesting to see, via the Zoom calls, his personality hasn’t changed much. I find it amusing. I’m sure he doesn’t even remember.
I was never brave enough to try stuff that I wanted to do. I wanted to take photography class but didn’t have a camera and couldn’t afford to buy one. Never would I have tried out for the Senior Play because I thought of myself as a big oaf who had no talent in anything except in making people laugh. I couldn’t sing but I could have danced or hammered nails into scenery. I was too afraid to try. I could hit balls, dribble balls, serve balls, catch balls, and throw balls. That’s what I did. Though I never played softball which was probably my best sport. Softball was conducted at the same time as tennis. I was expected to play tennis. I played tennis. I wanted to play softball.
It’s time. I’ve had enough. I will never be what I once was. But I am who I am now. I’m pretty satisfied with that. I’ve discovered writing as an adult and I love to write. I’m in the process of finishing a non-fiction project and then will turn my sights to finishing a mystery novel I began writing long ago. There’s still stuff I want to do. There is always hope for the future.
As a student and lover of language and literature, and occasional poet, I will leave you with some words from Bob Dylan. These describe my future:
“I see my light come shinin’
From the west down to the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released”
I Shall Be Released by Bob Dylan