You Can't Go Back
Some light reading on my day off this week got me thinking. Fifteen years ago, I was waiting to leave for college, caught in between "Dude, I can't wait to go to college" and "I don't want to leave." Not wanting to leave was starting to lose out, as everybody was heading for school by now, and I had another month. Devin was still around, as was Joe (though I hadn't started hanging out with Joe yet; that wouldn't happen for another couple of weeks).
I wasn't one who hated high school; I was bored most of the time, but I didn't hate it. Sometimes I even liked learning. I truly enjoyed German class, and some of my English classes weren't so bad, and I was good at most classes without even trying. What made school worthwhile, however, was the relationships. What I never realized until after I'd graduated from college was that out of school, it's next to impossible to make the kind of friends that I had in school. Even if we weren't in class together, as long as we had lunch together, we were cool. I still remember where we all sat senior year. I was in the middle seat, Richard and Christian were next to me, Merideth was at the end of the table, and on the other side were John, David, and Tony. When I was dating Julie, she took the seat next to me and Richard moved to the end. I miss all of those friends (though I still talk to John, David, and Tony on occasion), though I don't miss some of the situations (such as, knowing what I do now, I don't think I would have dated Julie. Come to think of it, I don't think I could have dated any teenage girls if I knew then what I do now...).
I wasn't naive enough to think that the school revolved around me and my group of friends; in fact, I would have laughed at that notion (especially because I knew who the school revolved around). Aside from the lunch group (and the breakfast group, who sat together at breakfast and finished up our homework and read the Wall Street Journal while we were in economics class) and the soccer team, I always felt peripheral. What I didn't realize was how many people included me as belonging to their group of friends. I guess I've always prized authenticity over popularity, and that always carried a lot of weight.
However, I did overestimate my importance. It's strange to see everything moving on without you. When I went back to visit my former teachers, the halls seemed smaller, the teachers less intimidating, the students less intriguing. When I came back 10 years later, it was a shock to see the little son of my German teacher as a teenage high school student. But where the importance was most visible is on the soccer field. For quite a while, I was the soccer player in Kokomo. Now I'm an answer to a trivia question: who was the first varsity soccer captain at KHS? When I came back for the first couple of years (especially when the coach let me volunteer with the team) the kids all knew and respected me. Now, were I to stop back by, not one of them would even know my name. Most of them weren't even born when I was having my hayday in Kokomo sports.
I couldn't go back. It doesn't work. I won't even hope Jonathan follows my path. He'll probably leave me in the dust.