4.25.2012

Sins Of The Past (Or, "Those Dicks From High School That Friend You On Facebook")

You know the drill:

  1. Spend your childhood and teenage years in relative isolation, liking things no one understands and taking heaps of shit for it from most, if not all, of the school
  2. Leave school, experience the world, grow as a person, perhaps follow your dreams and do great things you dreamed of doing during those lonely years
  3. Join Facebook
  4. Get "friend" requests from people you remember very clearly not wanting to be your friend back then
  5. Stare at the screen.
  6. Bite lip.
  7. Growl.

8. And then you

Some people begrudgingly "friend" the person, trying to be the bigger person. Some people deny the request with an earnest "fuck you" and a celebratory shot of whatever beverage is right in front of them (if you're reading my writing, it's likely caffeinated and has a name like JOLT or BAWLS or RED BULL because I tend to cater to people just like me, and that's the kind of stuff I drink. All. Day. Long.) .

This isn't really about the choice you make. It's an exploration about that moment right before you make the choice.

Here's the thing: kids are terrible little organisms. They're awful to each other. But they're kids. I'll admit, It's really, really hard sometimes to see a face from high school on Facebook and not go "You know, fuck you, you were AWFUL to me and the only reason you didn't bully my friends is because you knew I'd bash you. You don't know me anymore. Go change oil or mow lawns or whatever it is you do now and fuck off."

But there's the rub: they don't know me (well, outside of the stuff I put out there for people to read and watch and such), but I don't know them, either. If they're anything like me at all, they've changed, too. I've grown to the point where I have the courage to try new things and put my projects out in the world, despite hearing my entire life that they're pipe dreams (at best -- sometimes, I heard that they were stupid ideas that would never work). I grew strong. I didn't let what I heard all day long define me. How do I know they haven't grown in similar ways?

That's not to say that I have to give every single person who laughed at me in school a chance to make recompense. The truth is, I don't want to. The memories were hard enough to get past, I don't feel like I owe anyone the pain it causes to go digging them back up by involving myself with them. But more times than not,  they're just as resentful of how they were -- if they're actually grown up. And it's really unfair to castigate them for being immature when they were, in fact, immature.

That's what immature means. We weren't mature. We were kids and teenagers. We behaved accordingly.

It's charming to cast ourselves as the heroes in our tales and feel like we were all mature beyond our years, which would make acting like children a choice instead of a behavior innate in the process of growing up. But it's bullshit. You were awkward. They were awkward. Youth is awkward for all of us, and when you shove us all into the same building, pecking orders are going to form. Groups are going to coalesce. Divisions will take place.

We're humans. It's what we do.

That doesn't make it okay, it just explains what happened. Still, with today's advancements in technology and their rapid expansion into the lives of everyone (not just us weirdos, who used to own the internet exclusively), it's something we're going to have to face down. Because here they are, everyone we thought we left behind. They've found us. So we get the chance to stare at our past and decide if we're going to let it define us, whether we like it or not.

How your choice determines if your past controls you is an individual thing. Some people were horrifically treated in school and the decline and blocking of everyone they used to know is absolutely a fine way to treat it. Some folks weren't horrifically treated, but they certainly weren't popular, liked, understood or accepted. And now, they're living their adult lives in relative peace and the last thing they really want is to go back to that time and have to relive, however briefly, the feelings of being alone and isolated and told they don't belong.

I certainly belong to the second group. And the way I've chosen to deal with it is to just allow anyone who reaches out to reach out, because slapping their hands away is engaging in exactly the same behavior they engaged in when I reached out to them all those years ago. And while I'm not better than anyone, I'm certainly better than that.

Still, there's no fucking way you'll get me to go to a reunion.