I’d actually intended to write this tomorrow, on my “rest day” from Stories Told and Hideaway (which was great, BTW) and Not Together (yep, that’s a thing again)…but then tonight happened and I decided I had to tackle this while it was fresh. See, tonight was my high school reunion. Actually, it was more like an alumni homecoming. I went because Aldrin, Staple and Perk‘s owner, Hideaway‘s benefactor, invited me (incidentally yes, Aldrin is one of the few people I can actually have a conversation with who come from my high school, but more on that later). Since the event was being held in S&P, I figured, why not?
Actually, that’s not true: I wanted to go. As much as I’ve played it off as just going to support Aldrin, I really, really wanted to go. To see everyone. To…well…
I’ll get into that in a bit. For now, this is The Friday, Currently, Issue 008, and I am
C U R R E N T L Y…
R E A D I N G The Red Leather Diary, by Lily Koppel. It’s a re-read for me, and nonfiction–a memoir reconstructed from entries in a five-year diary, reflecting life in 1930s New York from the perspective of an ambitious, culture-hungry, cosmopolitan young woman. I confess I have a voyeuristic fascination for diaries, especially those of people who aren’t necessarily extraordinary, but occupy that middle ground between the blurred, gray masses and the glittering luminaries. Or maybe that middle ground is an illusion, really, and everyone has a rich inner life that we don’t always get to see.
Maybe. Something about tonight has me thinking about that. But more on it later.
W R I T I N G a short story, or attempting to. Currently, it’s falling a little flat, but I’ll keep trying to press on to at least some semblance of an ending. Am I still a writer, even? The most I can churn out are these regular blogs and journal entries.
…and songs, of course.
I’m pondering the merits of taking a writing workshop or a *shocked gasp* poetry course. I think my passion needs some disciplining.
L I S T E N I N G a ton of acoustic-rock and guitar-based stuff. No solid artist this week–I’ve been flipping desultorily through Spotify recommendations and playlists. The last thing I listed to was the Spotify Acoustic Covers playlist, on which I heard a fantastic rendition of Stevie Nicks’ Edge of Seventeen that I am begging my band to do a cover of.
Also, thanks to Hideaway, I managed to pick up my ukulele again and do a cover, which you can view below:
W A T C H I N G …nothing much? However, my senior, Rashmi, did give me a new series to look at called The Whispers. Hoping this makes a better impression on me than Wayward Pines, which everyone keeps saying is good (I get a Twin Peaks-y vibe, to be fair.), but I haven’t really managed to get hooked on. I watched the trailer, and there’s something about aliens…so not sure how much I’m going to like it, but I’ll give it a shot.
F E E L I N G wound up from tonight. Part of it I’m chalking up to the stress of being an introvert in a not-that-large room crammed full of people. Part of it is…well…
S M E L L I N G the Oishi Calbee Potato Chips I’m binging on due to stress. #ThisIsWhyImFat.
W E A R I N G my pajamas. The thing I like about my high school reunions is that they end quite early, by young adult standards: 10 pm.
L O V I N G the fact that tomorrow is a rest day. Going to the Zig pen meet at Shang, and maybe hang out with Marvs if the Zig event doesn’t end too late.
W A N T I N G a little breathing room. A little clarity. Some form of peace. I think that’s why I pushed writing this blog–getting my words on paper (or, well, on the screen) has always managed to give me a degree of insight. I guess it’s the whole “brain on paper” syndrome.
N E E D I N G to lose some weight, maybe work out…but then chips exist for turbulent times like this.
W I S H I N G, or rather hoping, I’ll make sense.
T H I N K I N G about why I went to my high school reunion tonight.
The on paper reason, really, was that Aldrin asked me to go. I went as a favor to a friend, an act of support for someone who has been supporting me and my efforts. But if that was the case–if it was a cursory appearance–then I wouldn’t have found myself caring so much, would I? I’ll be frank: I sat in that party perfectly convinced that I’d unlocked the secret of why the accepted fiction regarding high school reunions is that they are horrible/horribly boring, drawn-out affairs. I felt frustrated, bored out of my mind…stuck in a bubble where everyone around me seemed to be having conversations and genuinely enjoying themselves, while I was…
Just typing that word makes my eyes feel like oceans that have the tide rolling in: the rush and pressure of water. I hate crying. But I hate that word–“lost”–even more. Alone I can handle. “Alone” is a friendly word, a peaceful word, a peanut butter sandwich at my desk, reading a book while my officemates chatter loudly outside word. I like “alone,” because alone I regroup. I do calligraphy. I journal. I write blogs like this one. “Alone,” I’ve learned over the years, doesn’t bother me, and neither does having to be alone in the middle of a chattering sea.
Theoretically, this reunion should have been no different. I had Teddy (my ukulele) with me, and could have–should have–been able to go on happily strumming it the whole night, regardless if anyone spoke to me or not. And people did try to speak to me, only…only a part of me felt guarded, somehow. Walls up. Sensed that those people weren’t truly interested in conversation and that small talk was as far as we would get.
I hate small talk. It makes me feel lonely. When I met C, my bandmate Marvs, my best friend Esther, I skipped small talk entirely and dove straight into conversation, ideas, connection. Contrary to popular belief, as much as I like talking I like listening to people talk–people share ideas–more. It makes me feel less lonely, learning from people like this. It makes me feel connected to them somehow, which isn’t an unusual trait for an introvert I hear. This is not a particularly special urge.
…just a very strong one.
As I sat there, in my high school reunion, surrounded by people I felt I couldn’t approach, I wondered why I’d even come. Why bother, when I was so sure that all of these people hated me (a gross exaggeration, in hindsight, but I was getting wound up by the silence and small talk and noise and loneliness; the feeling of being adrift in a turbulent sea of socialization without a raft to hang on to)?
I ended up snapping at my seatmates, accusing them of only ever talking about gossip when we could be talking about things that mattered. The expressions on their faces wasn’t hurt, like I’d expected. Instead, there was a curious sort of frustrated resignation, a confusion as to what they were doing wrong. I realized then that they were trying–this was the best way they knew how to socialize, talk, catch up, and connect. And it’s reasonable to talk of people at a gathering whose entire purpose is meeting people from your past. Everyone has shared memories to revisit. Shared stories to rehash.
….Except for me.
Full disclosure: I have no high school friends. All of my friends from the grade school/high school period of my life either transferred out (and I never really saw them again) or were from another school (and eventually drifted away). I’d transferred to my school in Grade 1, into a batch that had known each other since Pre-K. It was an awkward fit, at best, and even as the years passed and other new students came there was a perpetual sense that I was an outsider, somehow, in but never of. I watched, occasionally participated, but I was never “one of them” for one reason or another. And, to be very very honest, that sense of not belonging broke me in places that I thought were healed byt are apparently still open fault-lines.
High school was more of the same. I struggled to carve out a niche for myself. Writing helped–no one in the class wrote with as much fervor, and being forced to spend breaks mostly by myself cultivated that passion–but it wasn’t enough. I desperately wanted to belong, to forge connections and form bonds. Sometimes, it felt like I’d come close–I had classmates over to my house once, and another time I slept over because of a science project. But once the sleepiness and euphoria had subsided they would drift back into their original cliques and I would go back to eating in the fifth floor back stairwell again.
I guess it was as difficult for them as it was for me. Time and my years as a Dragon might have tamed my mercurial nature, but I’m still an odd duck. The fact that I’m so comfortable spilling this psychoanalysis speaks of a personality that treasures solitude and secrets but has no problem baring introspection. I’ve mentioned how I hate small talk and like meaty conversations, right off the bat. I overthink (though I’m working on it), tend to feel acutely, and definitely am so opinionated that I can err on the side of judgmental (though that, I find, is largely a defense mechanism). I’m sure you get the sense that I am 1) emotionally, still maturing, and 2) not exactly a person who would easily get on with everyone (mostly a result of number one). I was this way, but worse, in high school.
…But that’s the point, really. I was worse in high school. I know I’m better now, and people who have been privileged to see me at the height of my madness (i.e. freshman year college) have agreed. I’m not the same Frankie I was in high school, the one that people found it hard to understand and, by extension, like.
So why can’t you like me now?
The realization hit me, as I was on my way home ranting away at how I’d wasted my night, that the reason I was so upset and disappointed (and downright cynical, my anger leaking even into my tone with my well-meaning byt still very much perplexed batchmates) was because I’d expected things to be different instead of more of the same. I’d expected them to like me, to befriend me, to want to have those deep, intimate conversations with me now…or at least start something that would lead there.
I used to dwell lovingly on the fact that I’d been bullied in high school–called names and ostracized and generally made to feel unwelcome. But I’m not angry anymore, since I understand now that I gave as much as I got and my HS life was very far from the nightmare I’d originally reconstructed it as being. I remember being happy, sometimes. I remember feeling fulfilled, sometimes. But I don’t remember ever having friends. A part of me felt–no, feels–I missed out by never fitting in, by not belonging. And I guess I expected that having come into my own in college, I would finally find the place in their ranks that I’d so longed for. I would finally make them like me. I’d finally connect, and by doing so prove that I was well and truly okay. I wasn’t damaged or weird or strange. I would be normal.
My batchmates are trying. I can see that. Maybe not in the sense of exerting actual effort, but they’re attempting to reach out at least. But small talk is what they know, and I’ve never been one for small talk. I judged them, right off the bat, for even offering it, thinking it meant that they were still holding me at arms length despite the fact that I’d changed. I’d taken it personally, as an offense, and that’s why I was mad, ignoring the logical conclusion that was staring me in the face: it’s not that they didn’t want me around. It’s not like I didn’t belong.
…It’s that I couldn’t.
As a marketer, I’ve had ingrained in my system that few products possess a truly universal appeal. There is always a target market, always a specific psychographic with whom your product will “click.” With people, it’s a truth encapsulated in the adage, “You can’t please everyone.” Sure, you can make sure they don’t hate you, but liking is a subjective thing. It’s personal. It requires a fit. My expectation was that coming into my own would make me a better “fit” with my batchmates, somehow redeem those lost high school years and earn me a degree of normalcy.
The reality was that coming into my own meant becoming me…and “me” doesn’t necessarily fit with the “we” of my high school batchmates. Not for lack of trying on their part; just from a lack of acceptance on mine that this is as far as we currently go, and that is not an indictment on my normalcy or their ability to be “good people.” It’s as simple as “Water seeks its own level.” Like attracts like. Birds of the same Day-Glo feather flock together.
Everyone I’ve found a connection with shares the same sort of off-kilter aura as I have, an internal strangeness that manifests in varying degrees but allows them to tolerate, even welcome, external expressions in other people. With some it’s intensity, others it’s zaniness, still others a sort of benevolent arrogance mixed with unapologetic nerdiness (*coughJiancough*). Whatever it is, the people I attract are ever so slightly cray, in pointedly obvious ways. It doesn’t make us better than people who are more able to “pass” as normals (for no one is ever completely sane)–and in fact some of the people I know definitely can pass–it just makes us better suited to being with each other, because we give each other exactly what the other needs.
Am I going off tangent? I’m going off tangent.
The point is this: maybe my batchmates and I can’t be best buddies like I’d expected. Most likely I’ll never get back what I missed in high school–the high school barkada, the share stories. Maybe all that’s possible–until I’m much older–is a sort of polite acquaintance. Maybe I will never enjoy a high school reunion because I just…don’t fit.
And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean anyone is wrong or right, just that I fit better elsewhere. At least for now. It doesn’t mean I’m not welcome, just that I might not have as much fun as, say, someone who managed to find their groove with this group.
I went to this reunion to prove something to myself, which was that I’d finally become a “good enough” person to be friends with the people who couldn’t understand me in high school. I went because I wanted to be “normal,” to prove that I was fine. I left it, on the other hand, realizing that “belonging” isn’t a measure of worth–it’s a result of any number of factors, some beyond my control. Maybe I don’t belong now. Maybe I never will. Or, conversely, maybe one day I will finally be comfortable enough to small talk and package myself in a way that isn’t as confusing or crazy. Maybe time will mellow us all.
What matters is this: I realized it isn’t abnormal not to be able to befriend your high school classmates. The world is a big place: there is bound to be another community you can fit in with. That’s simply the nature of humanity, and in being subject to that…I guess I’m actually pretty normal.
(At least in this case.)
All right, enough tl;dr. Next week, I hope to have another short one for you. Until then, this has been issue 008 of The Friday, Currently, and I remain, yours very sincerely…