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No Thank You for the Memories

I'm the moderator of the Yearbook Club this year. Let me translate that for you: I'm making this year's yearbook. I have a couple of student volunteers but they do very little besides gaze at photos of their classmates and themselves (to find fault only). So, I'm compiling the book myself. It's fine. I'm learning a lot.

In high school, I was a yearbook editor. At my school, seniors' photos were in color and that was the only way you could differentiate them from the underclassmen. In the yearbook I'm currently creating, seniors write and submit their own "memories" (and "thank yous" and a "quote"). I limited them to 100 words this year. Mostly, they're indecipherable inside jokes that, 20 years from now, students will not remember. I hate them. They look like this:

MIIA B Conference Championship, beating Bullis, Senior Night basketball game, soccer camp, baseball bus rides, baseball championship, the trenches, thunder buddy, Ferda Boys, Soo Woo, Clemson-Louisville game, Dayton trips, Dayton-St, Bonaventure game, Maryland games, trap van, El Rancho’s, latigo, birthday at latigo, Wizards Games, Nationals game, Fruit Punch, Cigarette Outlet, Homecoming Court, “that wasn’t me”, 5 & 10, Beach Boys, July 3rd, Crab Island, Steelers Game, Levade, Beachs, Dawg, Hash, Shrimp, Skinny, Naugh, Big Head, Sexy Jeff, Whackett, ASAP, Ry Guy

That's an actual Senior Memory. Like, what? It's a mess. I already have plans to eliminate this from next year's book. Fight me, seniors. Those things are a terrible mess.

In making this yearbook, I've been looking back at my own high school yearbook. It is kind of a nightmare. High school was not a great moment in time for me. It probably wasn't as bad as I feel it was from this vantage point, but it wasn't great. I was not as smart as most of my friends. I was not cool. I was not athletic. My parents were pretty strict about where I was allowed to go, so I wasn't attending any wild parties. I was angry for most of my time in high school. Angry because I felt lost in some strange limbo: I wanted to be on my own but didn't know how. I was also depressed (big surprise) because I hated the way I looked. I saw myself as fat and gross. I didn't have the confidence to assert myself with boys. I felt slighted and hurt easily. I was a mess. I don't really want to remember those years. I've kept my yearbook, but I can't imagine why. (BTW, that's my senior photo scanned directly from the yearbook above).

I look at the kids I work with every day and I wonder if they feel as lost and confused as I felt then. They can't possibly! They're all so lovely and smart and funny. I was thinking about this last week and feeling like I must have missed out on something. My fear of fun existed even then. But, what if I wasn't so awful in high school? What if I was kinda lovely and smart and funny? What if we just can't appreciate (or, at least some of us) how good things are in the moment? Maybe I looked more like that photo portrays (I can certainly recognize that my senior portrait looks pretty good). Maybe I wasn't so gross and nerdy and repellent. And, if I wasn't, then what do I do about those terrible old memories?

My brother still lives in our hometown. It's a small place. He deals with the same people we dealt with growing up. It's not easy. I'm not there, though. I can enjoy being far away. I can choose to remember what makes me happy and forget or ignore the memories that used to make me so unhappy. Maybe that's the best I can hope for for myself. Enjoy what I have going forward and stop dwelling on the bad hair and Gap sweaters of the past.

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