Today, I continued a think on the subject of reconnecting with old high school classmates and what I was learning from the experience. I try to learn from things, I helps in not making the same mistakes again and again.
Actually, I was working up a blog post, this one in fact. To anyone following me, they probably assume I’m talking to a midget or on a cell phone. I talk out loud and I can be animated. I was maybe 2/3 of the way in when the Eureka moment occurred. That is when I stop dancing around a subject and figure out the “angle.”
The angle is the reason for the post, it’s theme if you will. I had thought it might be about how we probably choose our “friends” in high school by rather limited and stupid means, and we miss the true gems who are there because they don’t somehow fit the mold of the proper “classmate/friend.” No doubt that is true, but it’s really not the point.
Okay, tired of being in suspense? What do you mean when you say that you know someone? It can mean an awful lot of things can’t it? It can mean you’ve met the person, at the minimum. It can mean you know the insides of this person, how they think, at the maximum.
But I’m talking about the in between assumptions we make about those we claim to know. Case in point. I grew up in a school district that was decidedly working class. Moreover, it was fairly small by most people’s standards. I would hazard that nearly half of the kids I started kindergarten with, I ended up graduating high school with. We had a graduating class of 103 as I recall, not big at all. So for thirteen years, I spend nine months of each, and then some summer with these folks.
You’d say I knew them. I’d say I knew them. And I guess I did. I knew how they dressed, how relatively smart they were, who they palled around with, how good they were or not at sports, how comfortable they were in front of the class. A whole plethora of pieces of information that added up to “knowing” a human being on planet earth as opposed to someone I passed by in the street whom I could make but the most superficial judgments about.
I knew some of them well enough to make a few “educated” guesses about what they might do in the future. I might guess that J would marry L, or that P might become a music teacher. I might be right or wrong, but my guess was based on some “experience” with the person that gave me a better chance of prediction that a stranger would have.
Flash forward from graduation night to forty plus years later. Discover one of your “classmates,” one that you knew in this fashion, but never were “friends” with in the “hanging out” kinda way.
Ask them the simple question, what have you been up to? Tell me your life’s story in 100 words or less. I guarantee you will hear things that you would NEVER have imagined in a million years. And that won’t be the exception, it will be the rule.
Yet to each of those surprising-you people, their lives unfolded in ways that seemed, at least at the time, to flow rather obviously and logically from point to point. It fit their personality, their talents, their weaknesses rather well. But it shocked the bejesus out of you, because, well, . . . you didn’t really KNOW them at all.
And that’s both sad and exciting at the same time. Sad that we can spend so much time with people over so many years and yet barely know who they are. Exciting because we realize that every single person has a fascinating and totally unique story to tell, their own way of living out their humanity, often so very different from our own.
Take it down a notch. Fifty-nine years ago, give or take a month here and there, a bunch of babies mewled and sucked on bottles, oohed and ahhed over by family and friends. The world in all its splendor, spread before them. They were all in the same relative economic situation, most with both parents, all living in the same kind of houses, and later taught by the same teachers. Yet look at what happened to them?
Life happened, with its unbelievable array of choice and forks in the road. And the most unlikely people became this and the most unlikely of people became that. And the road they traveled resembles those cartoons where there is the kid who travels his neighborhood, up and over fences, down the sidewalk, in the front, out the back, and so on. That is us, all of us seemingly moving along routes that seemed oh so normal and usual for us at the time.
I’m not sure what the point of this is, but it suggests to me that there is a gold mine out there in missed opportunities. In our wildly different ways of working out life’s challenges, we can find answers and we can find the place of relating. We find our sameness in our very different ways of expressing this opportunity of being human.