Exit 234. No good for an old memory to mean so much today.

The title comes from this popular song from my childhood.

My other blog (on which I use a pen name, in case any of you check it out and are confused by what my name actually is) is an episodic continuing story currently set in 1994 (about a decade later than the song I just quoted, so the song isn’t connected to this story except for the enduring relevance of that quote).  The main character in that story, currently an 18-year-old in his first term away from home at a large university, recently looked up something in a yearbook from high school and noticed some things that people wrote to him inside.  For the purposes of making the story authentic, I used actual words that people wrote in my 11th and 12th grade yearbooks for the yearbook signatures in the story.

When I was in school, the day that the yearbooks were distributed, and the following days when classmates and friends would sign the blank pages in the front and back, were always one of the major highlights of the year for me.  I’ve always struggled with feelings of being an outcast, feeling like no one likes me. And, not to sound like an attention whore, but yearbook-signing time is a way to get it in writing that people really have nice things to say about me.  And now, as a middle-aged teacher, I feel the same way about yearbooks.  I always enjoy and look forward to getting to read students’ wishes for me to have a great summer, and to wish the same to them.

As an example, one of the actual quotes I used in the story came from someone who I had just met during senior year.  A class I was in and a class she was in did a project together, with a few students from each class randomly assigned to work together.  I hadn’t thought of her in years, and I mostly only remember two things about her: that project, and the fact that she wrote something really nice and thoughtful in my yearbook at the end of that year.  It was the kind of message I might expect to read from someone I’ve been friends with a long time, not from an acquaintance two grades younger than me whom I had just met six months earlier.

I didn’t stay in touch with most of my high school friends.  The majority of people who sent me their best wishes for the future, told me how I would go far in life, and encouraged me to be confident and smile more, did not speak to me in my college years.  I tried to stay in touch with some of them, at least, but only a few responded, and after a couple years I didn’t hear from them anymore either.  For years, that left me wondering… did people really mean all the nice things they would write to me in the yearbook? Or did they just write nice things because that’s what you were supposed to do, and they were all empty words?

I don’t know.  Honestly, it was probably a combination of both, depending on the person.  And to be fair to my friends who didn’t stay in touch, it was a lot harder to stay in touch in 1994 than it is now.   There was no social media, no texting, and email was a new (or at least newly mainstream) technology that my friends weren’t using often, if at all.  Although I did try to stay in touch with some people, I didn’t try to stay in touch with everyone. I was even more socially awkward back then. It also felt a little inappropriate to me to make an effort to stay in touch specifically with cute girls who had boyfriends, unless I had been close friends with them for a long time (the girl I mentioned above whom I knew from the class project was in this category).  And I was pretty terrified of using the phone.  I should point out for any of my long-time friends who ever got a phone call from me in the 20th century that I probably sat there for at least 20 minutes agonizing over whether or not I should really call you, and wondering if you really wanted to talk to me, or if your parents answered and things got awkward if they knew who I was, crazy stuff like that.

I’ve lived a lot of life since 1994, and I’ve made and lost a lot of friends.  I have come to realize that, yes, there are a lot of people who will be nice to me to my face but not care about me once my back is turned, or once it takes effort from them to stay in my life, or once they have gotten what they need from me.  But I have also come to realize that sometimes people just lose touch from natural causes. Life is busy and hectic and chaotic and unpredictable. Yes, it is easier to stay in touch with people in the social media era.  And I’m back in contact with quite a few of my high school friends thanks to Facebook and Instagram, and Myspace before that.  But that takes time too, and there is only so much time to go around, especially now that my classmates and I are in our early 40s with careers and responsibilities and (many of them, but not me) children to raise.  There are plenty of good intentions to go around, but not plenty of time.

I like closure.  When someone disappears from my life, I like to know why, so I can learn from the experience if necessary.  But that doesn’t always happen, and that’s ok. I shouldn’t be dwelling on it.  It’s in the past.  Time to move on and focus on the present.

2 comments

  1. I can see the appeal with year books, seeing nice things that have been said and looking back over those memories. I do think you have to take people with a pinch of salt sometimes, they can be fickle creatures. The majority, I’d like to hope, are honest and kind and mean what they say, but some can be bitter, spiteful or just gossipy when your back is turned, as you mentioned. Closure is good, though we don’t always get it. You’re right about how people sometimes just veer away in different directions and lose touch, it’s not always because anything has happened or changed or that two people no longer like each other, but more of a natural progression. x

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