Interestingly, I recently stumbled across some old high school friends on-line. It was gratifying how pleased they were to find me again (see previous posting re how unlovable I was convinced I was in high school), and I was thrilled to link up with them also. However, I was puzzled at their reactions after my sending a first quick update of my life to them: they went utterly silent. No reply, not a peep. It was someone else from high school who inadvertently gave me a possible explanation of their apparent discomfort.
This guy was a nice guy back then, whom we all expected would marry the nice girl we all knew was dating him then. Sure enough, when he and I recently swapped short updates on our lives, I discovered their story was much as expected, and rather sweet: he and she were still together, and their kids were either in or just starting college. It was one of his comments which gave me a potential heads-up on why my old friends were so (nervously?) silent. He wrote: “You were more of a free thinker that didn’t fall into the traditional Texas, bible belt stereotype all the rest of us were a part of.” He also mentioned being a band nerd, and having unrealistic beliefs in high school, like everyone else. He seemed amused by this, however, and quite happy with his present day life, rather than concentrating on the past.
So was that it? Is it that unusual to be more excited about one’s future, rather than always enthusing about one’s past? Further, is it being the center of attention in high school — a jock, a popular girl — which causes one to focus obsessively on that past? In such a situation it’s no surprise one’s present is invariably unsatisfactory. It’s sad, though, that the media assumes we’re all supposed to be experiencing this peculiar obsession with a time when only a tiny percentage of us were treated like pampered, spoiled children.
Even sadder is the apparent mental state of that tiny percentage of people — the popular kids. Why does our society treat them so? Why aren’t the poor things given a bit of real-life perspective, an ability to look forward with pleasure and anticipation as they continue the great adventure of life? I can’t help but wonder if some of this, at least, is based in our culture’s fixation with linearity. There used to be a better understanding of life as a cycle, a series of ups and downs: we might be unwise but we were young and pretty, and a time would come when we were no longer young but by then we’d have had a chance to gain the wisdom to recognize true beauty. Further, we might be rich and immensely popular now, but a time would doubtless come when that was reversed — and, just like the seasons, eventually we would cycle through those tough times and be happy once more.
Now, however, I see a curious societal fixation on absolute and constant success — which is in reality a truly unnatural and impossible state. “Successful” companies and stocks are expected to always be on the rise, to never pause in their constant growth or to go down whatsoever in price — no matter the cost in human lives. Sports figures are either winners due to putting everyone else down — or losers that no one wishes to associate with. Entertainers struggle constantly to produce something new and more titillating every year, desperately battling being a pathetic “has been.” It must be utterly exhausting to live like that!
I prefer the more natural cyclical state. When I’m down I can look forward to, and struggle to reach, the up state again; when I’m up it is very sweet and I appreciate it more deeply. My past is there to learn from so I can make my life better — not to obsess over at the expense of my future. How do you feel about this?
These are the days, my friend!
For though someday they’ll end,
We’ll sing and dance whenever we can play!
We know despite life’s trials,
There’s sweetness found in smiles,
For we are wiser now, and know our way!