I Hope People from High School are as Happy as they Look on Facebook

I saw this guy I went to elementary school and high school with the other day. We passed each other on the sidewalk and when he saw me, recognized me, he quickly looked away. He is someone I share history with: we sat beside each other in science class, we played tag at recess, we hung out at each other’s houses, we went to see an Alicia Silverstone movie as more than friends. More than friends! Doesn’t that mean anything anymore!? 

It was unsettling being so purposefully avoided because THAT’S MY MOVE! I do that! I see a lovely person from my past on the subway and find myself shuffling with my head down to the opposite end of the car. I wanted to run back down the street and tell him this, grab him by the shoulder and let him know that I’m pretending not to see him, not the other way around.

I found myself thinking about my old friend after this non-exchange, wondering how he is. We didn’t keep in touch so I don’t know if his MASH game predictions came true. He used to live in a mansion of sorts. I don’t know if he lives in a smaller house now or an apartment. I don’t know if he still gets the same toppings on his pizza or if Boston cream is still his favourite kind of donut. We are not Facebook friends so I don’t know if he has one child or quintuplets and what any of them dress up as for Halloween. I don’t read my high school’s alumni newsletters so I don’t know if he is a painter or the head of Nasa. I don’t know if he’s happy and that’s what I found myself thinking about the most: did things turn out okay for him? I really hope they did.

I could have just asked him, I suppose. I could have taken the moment to stop and exchange a few words with him and all the other old acquaintances I avoid but, despite my curiosity, I never do. I want to see these people in theory, hear how they are doing and wish them all the best. I just don’t want to answer any of the follow up questions. I don’t want to tell them how I am doing. I don’t want to look these people in the eye because I fear then they will know the truth: I am floundering. I am slightly taller now, my hair a little more tamed but I feel just as lost and confused as I did all those years ago when these people and I chased each other up and down the school yard. I still don’t know if I want popcorn or Junior Mints at the movies. I still feel clueless.

I feel like I should be further ahead by now, like I should have more things figured out. Everyone else seems to and I thought I would be one of them but instead I’m left wondering how they all seem so certain in their career choices. How did they all know they wanted to be doctors? How did they all know they wanted to be parents? How did they know what to dress their children up as for Halloween? We all came from similar places. We sat beside each other in classes, studied the same things and did the same book reports. We all watched Chuck Norris in Delta Force every year in the last class before winter break. So where did I go wrong? What information did they get that I didn’t?

Something will remind me of an old friend, a song will come on the radio or their birthday will pass, and I will think of them. More than wondering though what they are doing or who they are with, I am always hoping they are happy. (Except for one of them. One old friend has achieved an incredulous amount of success that I just can’t get behind because I am not a big enough person. I’m just not, okay!? I’m sorry!) When I find out that the girl who told me on the first day of kindergarten that she wanted to be a dentist has become a pediatric one, I feel my heart swell with her accomplishment. Even though I feel my achievements might pale in comparison, maybe I can take this joy in her successes and use it to offset the disappointments in my own. And maybe, until I achieve something I am really proud of, I can borrow other people’s view of me in the meantime. Because I like to think that when people I grew up with hear I am trying to be a writer, they would think I’m doing exactly what I should be. Just as I am happy for my old friends I like to think they would be happy for me too. Why wouldn’t we be? We share a past that got us to where we are. From now on, I want to give up my signature avoidance move. I don’t want the past to pass me on the sidewalk because I’m worried he will wonder what happened to a girl who showed so much potential. I am trying to achieve the potential I want to achieve.  

Maybe I will never make it as a writer. Maybe writing will force me to have to sell my house and move into a shack, but I don’t think people are actually rooting for me to fail. I feel this when I run into someone at the movies and she tells me she reads my work. I feel it when she tells me she is a teacher and I think how very lucky her students are to have her. I want to cheer for all these people I used to know. I want them to be my doctors and dentists. I want to hang their artwork in my home so when people visit and ask how things are going I can point at that painting up on my wall and say, “Can you believe I went to high school with him!? He tried to touch my boob during Jurassic Park 2!”