(Originally written in 2011)
20 years (and now a few months, since I took this post out of the draft back burner). That's how long it's been since I graduated high school. Reunion pictures circulating on Facebook, from the two high schools I went to, prove it. Yet when the grocery shopping, bill paying and preteen raising duties are not weighing on me--like when I'm in my car with the sunroof open and the music cranked, or on a date with my husband (who I met in high school)--I still feel the girl from back then peeking through (the young part, not the awkward part). Sometimes so much so, I feel like I'm just playing house and pretending to be an adult. Sometimes it only feels like a few years have passed...but I've got to say, when I look at some of those pictures of my classmates, I can see those 20 years, and then some (yes, that sounds awful, I realize). Some of yesterday's popular girls have held onto the same bangs that made them "hot" in the late 80's/early 90's...yeah, it doesn't work so much anymore. Nor does the "party hearty" stuff I'm still seeing in picture captions and written all over the faces of the once-elite.
Whoever would've thought all those adults who told me that the golden children of my high school wouldn't be so golden in a decade or so would be right? I was growing up the sensitive fat girl (or the goth girl, or the girl who got picked last in PE, or the girl with the unrequited crushes). Back then, I just wanted the popular kids to stop their superior bullshit and leave me alone as I walked the quad or sat in Spanish class. I wanted to write my tortured soul out on paper and have it noticed, be told the angst it dripped with made it amazing and that I was well on my way to being the next Plath (minus the death and all that). I wanted to catch the eye of the guy with the eyeliner and the classic truck with the bondo all over it, and I wanted him to be overcome with the urge to kiss me and ask me out, and I wanted to be seen in that Ford monster. And none of those things ever happened...back then.
But who'd have thought the swaggering jock who flipped carrots at me would end up squishy, bald and divorced? Or that the cheerleader in the perfect clothes and make-up, with a poison pen for mean-girl notes, would have wrinkles, polyester pants and a job she hates?
Because the geeks, the freaks, the quiet kids, and the don't belongs...well, we end up with the long end of the stick, if we're patient, because we don't wear that stick out early on, I guess. I've seen my fellow high school misfits get the educations, the money, the careers, the looks, the notoriety, the over-all happiness...most of all, I've seen them keep their empathy, humility, and senses of humor. And since none of their success was handed to them, they develop an appreciation of it all. 20 years looks good on them. Hell, it looks great on them, figuratively and more-often-than-not, literally. (And they don't have to keep the same bangs or beer bong to prove themselves.)
Yep, it's true. It does get better. Much, much better.