I think more clearly at night, unencumbered by the sense that daylight brings, the misgivings that too much clarity of thought illuminates like red-herring road signs on a superhighway: “Gas, Food, Regret – 20 miles.” So it was at 3:27 this morning as I lay awake, toddler daughter using me as a leg rest while she drifted on the tide of innocent slumber. My left kidney protested at the weight of the tiny leg that saddled it, and I duly ignored it while contemplating things that my daytime hours had left me no time to fully consider.
First was how to keep our cat off the new couch. He prefers to sit in the most inconvenient of places, so naturally he has taken to this piece of furniture like dad to his La-Z-Boy. He knows he’s not supposed to sit there, as evidenced by his clumsy efforts to not get caught doing so. When he hears footsteps he jumps up, but is then stranded standing very chalantly in the middle of the room, trying to look natural. He reminds me of the last kid to notice the parent’s entrance to the unsanctioned party at their house. Spotlight on him, needle scratching across the record, cold busted. But what do you say to a cat? “Stay off the couch!” He already knows, and there’s nothing to ground him from, nowhere to send him to timeout. So I’ll be vacuuming the couch a lot.
Second – there’s a 25-year reunion this weekend for my high school. I almost attended the bar portion of the 20th, but was put off too mightily by the ridiculous line of people awaiting entrance to Corby’s and instead just kept driving. My wife and I ended up hanging out with an old friend of mine who was similarly disinclined to stand about in a crowded bar for any length of time – a mini-reunion of sorts. I should have gone anyway, suffered through the discomfort and inconvenience in order to catch up with some of these folks, but I didn’t. Another regret, but in a life where age, mistakes and the resulting wisdom have led to fewer and fewer. Still hardly a day goes by that I don’t mull over something I said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do, and resolve to change my behavior the next time the world offers me the opportunity.
And so it is that I decided to attend at least some of the 25th reunion festivities – as many as I can swing considering that my little girl is attached to me at the hip. So I lay there thinking of the fact that I really don’t keep in touch with folks from high school, and that the Facebook connections I have made are mostly with people who I was not friends with (not NOT friends with either, mind you) in school. More regrets. I missed out on a lot of things in high school as I sat there counting the minutes until the final bell. Was it a bell? I don’t really recall. More of buzzer maybe. At any rate, there were many people I didn’t associate with, mostly because I was so drastically unsure of myself. Every morning I would wake up dreading the awkwardness of the coming day, trying to sleep in so late that my parents would just let me stay in bed. Ha! That NEVER WORKED. I was tall, and skinny, and felt gangly and uncomfortable. I didn’t like my hair, or my clothes, or my nose, or really anything much about my looks. Everyone else seemed so comfortable in their skin, though I know now that many dreaded the experience as much as I did. I overcompensated, acting jaded and aloof. Rather than that helping it just made me feel more isolated from people who I could have called friend.
It’s all so ridiculous to me now, but lying there in the dark those feelings started trying to edge back into my semi-consciousness. Despite the fact that I have grown into my skin, and my nose, and my clothes, I started getting nervous that people might not accept me. What would it mean to me if no one talked to me, if people sat judging me from afar – for whatever reason? Would I care? I’m not sure, but I’m going to find out. I think it is fairly universal for all but the most carefree and well-adjusted among us to worry about our kids and how they will handle the pressures and stresses of school. We tell them to just be themselves, and that people will like them for them. We tell them that if people don’t like them for who they are that those are not the type of people they want for friends anyway, and it’s true. Not everybody will like who you are, but what is most important is that YOU like who you are. When that happens, all the rest takes care of itself.
So, see you at the reunion, fellow alums. I’m looking forward to it.