Friday, January 23, 2009

Facebook - Or Confronting My Past

I know that many people, myself included, are on Facebook. I hadn't even heard of it until last summer, and didn't sign up until late last fall. I don't even remember why I decided to sign up. But it looked like it was relatively harmless, and didn't give me the heebies like MySpace, and there were ways of avoiding becoming "friends" with people that I wasn't that close with, or people that I had no interest in reconnecting with, so I went ahead and signed up.

I quickly became "friends" with approximately 100 people. And started telling people about the little silly details of my day, and reading about theirs. Again, pretty harmless, but I kept wondering "Do people really care that I just baked cookies or that I have had bangs all of my life?"

Mr. Simple joined around the same time, and initially became friends with about the same number of people, but then he started to reconnect with people that he went to elementary school, high school, college, etc. I noticed that many of my Facebook friends were doing similar things. And I think that using Facebook is a good way to be able to connect with people that you haven't had contact with in awhile, or people that you are geographically far away from, or both. My problem is that my friends are people that a) I have regular contact with and we live in the same area, and have "in real life" conversations with a very regular basis or b) are people that I don't live close to, but I have regular e-mail/electronic communication with on a very regular basis. Out of my 100 "friends", only one is someone that I hadn't spoken with in a few years, and even with him, I think I've posted two comments to him since I joined.

But I look at other people's pages, and I see all the pictures from their past, and all the activities that they did, and all the people that they hung out with, and it just makes it so glaring that their childhood/teenhood/young adulthood was typical, and mine was not. And it makes me sad to see all the opportunities and possibilities that people have during those years, and that I didn't try any of them. So I started to wonder "Why am I on Facebook?" And I started to think about my past.

It started off during my childhood - I was liked at school, I suppose, but just had one or two good friends. I always did well in school, and loved it until sixth grade. It was in sixth grade that it all really started. I moved across town. I went to a school that my best friend, who went to my church, attended. I started hanging out with her, and her friends. It was great. I was part of a group, and we were popular. There were six girls and five boys. By that spring, we were together constantly, and we started to only hang out with each other. My parents thought that it was phase, and that it would pass. Sigh.

By 7th grade, we all moved over to the junior high. We were still very chummy, but it was seventh grade, and everything else was new and different, and so it was comforting to be in a group of kids that you knew so well. By eighth grade, one of the boys decided that he was going to become our group "leader". It was up to him to decide what was cool and what was not, what was allowed and what was not. It was also when people in the group started pairing off. I still didn't really like boys, so I avoided any activities with the group when they were going to be doing anything that might include hand-holding or kissing. By 9th grade, my best friend decided that she no longer wanted to be restricted by the group, and she left. We still saw each other at church and in the halls, but that was it. I was so sad when she left, but I didn't have much time to worry about it because the group had gotten even more restrictive. It wasn't "cool" to be involved in sports, except for football, and there was only one boy out of the group who would be big enough to play all four years. Basically, any extracurricular activities were strongly discouraged. I had always wanted to be involved in music and theater, maybe debate or student government, or swimming. I tried out for none of them. (Although I did rebel and do track!) I just did things with the group. I only saw people from the group. We only wore grey hooded sweatshirts and jeans. We only talked to each other, about each other, and there were "punishments" for doing things that were not allowed. There were other weird things going on too, but I didn't know who to tell. Certainly not my parents, or teachers, and I didn't have any friends outside of the group. I went to a large school, and I "knew" other people, but yet, I might has well have gone to a school with 9 other people. The only thing that helped was that I had a boyfriend from outside the group, but he was also a year older than me, and didn't go to my school, and I didn't see him that often. And he broke up with me over the summer too.

By the middle of tenth grade, things had gotten to a breaking point. I had just gone out with and broken up with the "leader" and it had not been a good situation, to put it mildly. And finally, the group did break apart. Three boys and one girl left, including the boy who had been the "leader". And although I had wanted to get out of the group for years, I found myself lost and sad when it did break up. And now that I "could" do activities at school, I was too nervous, or I felt like it was too late. Everybody at our school was already labelled as being a "criminal", a "princess", a "brain", an "athlete" or a "basketcase" (a little homage there to Hollywood's version of high school, The Breakfast Club) and I was labelled as "one of the girls from that weird group." I did reconnect with my boyfriend and that helped, but mostly, I just bided my time until I could go to college. Despite the fact that I hadn't enjoyed school for years, I was a very good student. I looked forward to the fact that I could reinvent myself at college.

After my junior and senior year of high school were finally over, I got accepted to my first choice for college. My best friend, from way back, was also going to the same school. We would be able to reconnect, and we could do all those fun, stereotypical college things. My boyfriend was going to the same school. It was going to be perfect.

Except that she fell in love with a guy during the first week of classes, and was married by the following summer. I hardly saw her. My boyfriend died in a bicycle/car accident the first month of school. I discovered that college was not the time to be trying things just to try them. If you were doing things, even extracurricular things, in college, it was because you were good at them. I hadn't had/taken the chance in high school to find out if I was good at anything, and didn't even really know what I was interested in. I had 5 roommates (in a 3 bedroom/kitchen/bathroom suite sort of thing), and 4 of the 5 had all gone to school together. And then we met five guys during that first month that we hung out with all year. It was like being in the group all over again. By the end of the year, I had to leave.

And I left. And wandered. I spent a year at a junior college, not because my grades were bad, but because it sounded interesting. It wasn't. I went back to my original college, and dropped all my classes. Did the same thing the next semester. And then I dropped out of college by 21 and worked full-time for the next four years as a police dispatcher. I did go back and finish my degree, in a different state, different school after that, but as I sat in classes as a 25 year junior, it was just more of the feeling like I had missed my chance AGAIN.

So if you have made it through this epic tale, what I was trying to say is that Facebook is really making me look at those old days, and the old me. Not surprisingly, not one of my Facebook "friends" are one of my "friends" from the group. I have contact with my best friend from those days, and I exchange Christmas cards with another girl. The rest of them I don't have any contact, don't know where they live, or anything about their life since we graduated in May 1984. I don't have any contact with any of my roommates over the years, with the exception of my grad school roommates. 95% of the people that I have contact with on Facebook, I have known for less than 10 years. And I'm friends with most of them because they have a life similar to mine - a busy mom, wife, and usually someone is working, either in or outside of the home, full-time or part-time.

Do any of these people care that I was in some weird group in high school, and that I never tried out for a play, never had a boyfriend at my own school, that I was 27 when I graduated with my bachelor's, that I don't have scrapbooks full of pictures of me from all those wacky things that kids were doing in the 80s? I'm very sure that they don't. They are friends with me because of the things that we have done or said or shared in the last 10 years.

Do I care? Hmm. Complicated question. Care, well, probably not. Things happen, it is what it is, what are you going to do about it now, sort of thing. And I don't sit around thinking "Wow, if I'd only been on the debate team in 1982, my life would be SO different." But would my life had been different if I hadn't been in that group? I think yes. Would I have been a different person now if I hadn't been that group? I think yes. But who is to say that my different life/different person would have been "better?" Hmmm.


AFarCryFromNormal said...

Well since I knew most of what you were speaking of, it is interesting because between your post and your hubby's, I find myself looking back alot too. I have a different past but yet so similar. I often think back to if I had done this or that. I too wanted to do more in drama but definantly not debate! LOL I never thought I was smart enough for that. I look back and think would things be different if I had seperated from my group that in some ways was very similar in alot of ways. Yes, things would have been different but I also think how those experiences have also taught me too. Things that make you go hmmmmmmmmmmm.

It is funny to see all the "friends" I have on facebook. Some I am flattered that they went "searching" for me but then I do have some that like your hubby's post said, "Would they bring me chicken noodle soup if I was sick?!" LOL

For the most part I have fun with it!

It would be interesting sometime for us to chat really really about back in those days. Not to hash old painful memories but I think we had more similar experiences than we even realize. It would just be interesting.

Stacey said...

I love blogs! I learn so much about people!! It is crazy to think about the circumstances in life that have gotten us where we are. My high school was so small, I don't know how it could have been much different although I wish I would have joined more stuff and reached out to others more. We all wonder. Great post-I loved reading it.

Mary said...

This was so interesting! I loved reading about it. It is funny because I also have regrets about high school. I wish I would have tried out for the plays, etc. but I was so unsure of myself. And I am glad I am not in high school anymore.