Like many others I’ve joined that social network Facebook. It has been quite fun and interesting to reconnect with classmates from the early 1970s. Observing how they (still) view me has been quite a lesson in “expectations.” I mean I was seventeen years old when I left home. I haven’t seen or talked to ninety-nine percent of the kids I went to school with since 1972!
I’ve always viewed myself as the Class Clown. In fact in the seventh grade I was voted “Wittiest” in the scho0l Who’s Who contest. Of course I now realize that the “Wittiest” is just really another way of saying that I was just the bigest smart-ass of the entire Junior High! Mom really was proud of me.
I never studied in school. Never, ever. Consequently my grades reflected the lack of seriousness with which I took my education. I quit school after my sophomore year in high school. At the age of seventeen I joined the US Navy and went out into the world to make a man of myself. I left my mother, my father, brother and four sisters behind and off I went.
I played a little baseball but really excelled at track and football. Those were the areas where I felt best. After all there is no feeling quite like crossing that goal line or that finish line!
Looking back at my youth I have come to understand that my shenanigans in school were just an attempt for a boy to get attention. Any attention. Heck getting called down to Coach Neblitts office and “getting licks” was better than being ignored. However, being yelled at by Mrs. Massey during seventh grade math class one day was painful attention that I could have done without. As a matter of fact that was in 1967 (I think) and I can still see (in my mind’s eye) me sitting in that front row desk with Mrs. Massey yelling at me, “Mike S0-&-So you just keep making jokes. You’ll find out the seventh grade is a lot easier the second year!” I wish teachers and coaches were as educated (back then) as today’s educators seem to be with regards to children’s reasons for cutting up and stuff. I will say though, Mrs. Massey was right… the seventh grade was easier the second time around. 😦
The reactions of my “friends” on Facebook has been, for the most part, pretty positive. I do think that some of them sort of expected me to either be dead or in prison by now. Although I never was into drugs or stuff like that. One guy though kind of bothered me. He sent me a friend request with a message, something like, “Hey, I remember you being so accident prone. You nearly cut your finger off in shop class and had all those football injuries!” I found that very odd. I mean I did get three stitches in my finger from a cut on the band saw in eighth grade. I did break my wrist playing JV football and I did have a couple of other minor injuries playing football but I never viewed myself as accident prone. Maybe I was.
Now as I sit here at this keyboard at the ripe age of fifty-four I have come to realize that people with whom you have had no contact with (for more than three decades) expect you to be the same as you were as a young teenager. They, of course, have grown and changed but that’s different. They were the smart ones. They were the talented musicians. They didn’t have the challenging issues at home as (perhaps) others did. Heck I even had one classmate that “unfriended” me because I questioned some of his political and social views. He said he had spent all his life arguing and explaining to people and he just wasn’t willing to do that anymore. Especialy to a high school drop out with a GED and various college credits. I didn’t realize, at first, why that bothered me so but then I eventually came to understand the reasoning. As a young boy I gave just about every adult I came into contact with a reason to give up on me. With rare exception they did. Even my football coach grabbed me by the scruff of the collar one night after a tough loss and kicked me off the team (coach Foste, I felt bad too! All that cutting up on the bus was just my stupid way of me trying not to feel like I let everyone down…again). I remember that night like I remember Mrs. Massey’s math class. I must have walked up and down that dark street kicking a can with my football cleats on for three or four hours. Then to add insult to injury he later decided to let the team vote to determine if they wanted me back on the team (Coward! YOU were the one who kicked me off coach Foster!) Only three guys voted for me to come back onto the team (thank you Jim Phillips, Jimmy Pope and Mike Stewart).
Any way back to how I finally realized why it was that my classmate’s Facebook “unfriending” bothered me so much. As an adult, I don’t recall the last time I was out and out, point blank rejected by someone I knew. Granted I don’t really know Stu but… I wonder who that says more about Stu or me?
The more things change, the more they stay t he same.
Any way if you are reading this and we went to high school together don’t worry. I’m not stalking any of the adults I’ve mentioned here. In fact I have also come to understand that they too were doing the best they knew to do at the time. I have, on occassion, even come before the Lord on their behalf in the past.
So, in closing… you know that little kid who is always cutting up in class? Don’t out-and-out reject him/her. They need you more than you may ever know.