Monday, March 3, 2008

...who we will eventually become.

There was a time (and not so long ago) when just the thought of a high school reunion made me break out in a cold sweat. I suppose I'm not unique. Throw a bunch of adolescents into a big pot and stir over medium heat and someone is bound to get hurt. My best friend was recently informed of an incident more than two decades old in which she deeply hurt someone she thought was really cool. She has no memory of the incident and, moreover, what this person remembers doesn't even sound like something she would have said! But for the recipient of the remark, the wound was deep enough to last twenty years. I'm left wondering how many people I inadvertently offended in my formative years.

They were, of course, "formative." As in: I was still being formed.

As the earliest murmurings of a reunion turned into an actual planned event with actual dates, I had to seriously confront my childhood angst. I mean, it had been my best friend's idea that we try to pull this reunion together in the first place. I certainly couldn't back out on her when it became clear it was actually going to happen.

As usual, God helped with my attitude adjustment. A high school acquaintance checked out my website and found my personal story of depression, "Full Circle." She emailed me with her reactions, and ended with: "I know this is a lot in one email from someone you haven't seen in almost 20 years and probably thought you'd never see again--but after reading your essay, I have a clearer understanding of who you are and what I was interpreting back in 1988."”

It occurred to me that none of us, in high school, is who we will eventually become.

And it's a good thing, too. Because I was a disaster in high school. Painfully insecure and socially inept, I fell back on intellect to create my identity and wound up a jumble of glaring contradictions: the arrogant wallflower, the naïve know-it-all, the show-off completely unaware of how idiotic she looked to her fellows. Well, I can't say completely unaware. Therein lay the humiliations of having my insufficiencies pointed out by my peers. Directly or indirectly, hurtfully or helpfully, I got the message that I wasn't okay just the way I was.

Can I safely assume we all got the same message? I’m sure I gave it to others. I know for a fact, now, that my best friend gave it to our mutual acquaintance and yet she has absolutely no recollection of giving it!

It is only in the last few years that I have learned to have grace for myself--even the teenaged me, clumsily stumbling my way through high school's often confusing maze. And if I have developed grace for myself, I can also have grace for all those who stumbled alongside me, however mal- or well-adjusted each of them may have appeared at the time.

None of us, in high school, is who we will eventually become. This coming July, I'm actually looking forward to seeing who everyone is.

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