I am wiping down the counters after lunch in California.
16,000 kilometers away, at this very minute, someone is wiping down the counters after my 20th high school reunion in Pretoria, South Africa.
I wish I could have been there.
I have spent much of today reading posts on a Facebook by names long-since filed in my 1993-folder. I’ve skipped around their profiles: beautiful, accomplished, smiling women. Women with children. Women with careers. Women with stories.
I feel a great many things as I reminisce, but perhaps the greatest of these is a feeling of longing. My 16-year old self so badly wanted to belong. I longed to “be”: to be accepted, to be loved, to be known, to make a difference.
I never really felt I did belong at high school. I wrote yesterday that “we feel we belong not when our very best self is accepted by others, but when we know our worst self, our failed self, our real-me-self is accepted by others.” As I reflect back on high school, though. I realize that perhaps the reason I didn’t feel I belonged was not because my real-self wasn’t accepted, but because I was so sure that it wouldn’t be that I never showed it.
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’m wondering whether that might not be true of belonging too.
I felt out, so I concluded I was out. I saw people I judged to be cooler than me, and so I concluded that they thought me less cool than they. I saw people I admired making friends with each other, and assumed that they wouldn’t want to make friends with me.
And because I longed to “be”, to belong, but couldn’t… Instead I spent my time at high school trying to “do”. Not seeing many opportunities for friendship, I pursued activities. I belonged to clubs more than I did to people.
I wanted to go to my high school reunion because there are so many people I wanted to say this to: “hi, I always thought you were great. You were kind and clever and you made me laugh. I would have loved to be your friend but I was too scared to say so. I hope it’s not too late to say so today.”
And then we could raise our glasses and remember the beauty of irises, the shortness of green dresses, the sternness of Mrs van Zyl and the strangeness of wearing name badges. Twenty years later, I’m finally ready to belong.
Happy reunion, girls.
This post is day 12 of 31 days of belonging. For a complete list of posts, click here.
Photo credit: Bronwyn R-J via Facebook